My First Half-Marathon (or Hanging Out With Wild Woman)

By Kristy McCaffrey

“Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back. Through night dreams, through events half understood and half remembered…”
~ Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
                                                by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés


There is a girl, and she’s curious. She likes to explore and wander, outside as well as inside herself. Maybe you’ve met her. Maybe you spend a lot of time with her, or maybe you cross paths with her only occasionally. She is Wild Woman; she is you. 


The only antidote for fear is Wild Woman.She will look beyond any smallness and strive toward a connection of empowerment. I found her recently, again, while reaching for the goal of completing my first half-marathon. I’d never run this far before, I never imagined I could run this far. Although I’ve jogged off and on most of my life, I would be hard-pressed to ever admit that I’m a runner. I shuffle along at a very slow pace, one that had me, many years ago, accompanied by a police officer riding the end-of-the-race motorcycle for a 5K competition. I was mortified. I continued to participate in 5K’s, but they frequently left me dejected and depressed. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d somehow failed because I wasn’t fast. Wild Woman was nowhere to be found.


But growing older has brought new priorities, as well as a low tolerance for belief systems that drain rather than enhance life. Wild Woman whispered in my ear, enticing me with places like the Himalaya, Mongolia, and Alaska. Don’t you want to hike the Camino de Santiago in Spain or summit Mt. Kilimanjaro? she asked. Yes, to all of the above. Knowing that I needed a strong baseline of fitness to accomplish these journeys, I decided to train for a half-marathon. This motivation was far better than worrying if I would be fast enough not to embarrass myself.
The pain of Mile 12.


The lesson is this—sometimes you just don’t know yourself.


On race day, I ran the first mile in 9 minutes. This was way too fast for me since I had trained at 12-minute miles. But it felt surprisingly good, so off I went. I kept a pace of 9- to 11-minute miles for seven miles. Wow. I was stunned. But Wild Woman wasn’t; she was simply giddy with joy. She didn’t care about pace, she ran because the rhythm felt right. She mentally embraced every woman she passed, or who passed her, because nothing is grander than others pushing and reaching past their own limits, whatever those limits might be. 


It was a great day. And although the end wasn’t pretty (big deeds are not achieved without discipline and maybe just a dash of agony), I crossed the finish line immensely proud of my accomplishment. I ran faster than I ever imagined, and while I still came in well in the back of the pack, it mattered little to me. I’d spent the day with Wild Woman. I highly recommend it.


Leave a Comment:

MK McClintock says December 3, 2013

Impressive, Kristy! I'd walk/hike 12 or 20 miles, but I'm definitely not a marathon runner. I'm always impressed with those who go and accomplish it. You look like you had fun.

Kristy McCaffrey says December 3, 2013

Thanks MK! I like to hike too. The running has definitely helped increase my stamina.