This is the one race I would feel incomplete without running each year. Of course, that means it is also the one with the most logistical trouble, which is especially ironic because it’s only 30 miles or so away from our house. Each year, I hope we will make it to the race site with plenty of time to warm up and breathe before the race start. Maybe next year…
I wrote two days ago that I was feeling quite nervous about this race. My knee was hurting, though it usually doesn’t. I feared I wouldn’t be able to keep a steady pace. My jitters were evident to all as we (parents, Adonis, and Lil One) drove to the race site. 2 minutes after we left the house, Lil One realized she forgot her race bib so we had to go back, and it was the closest I’ve been thus far to saying a cross word to her. I was thankful that Mom thanked her for remembering when we weren’t far from the house because I was too caught up in my own emotions to respond properly.
We made it in just enough time to park, walk, and find a place for Daddy to sit and cheer. This year was going to be very different than last – I was tapering for my half-ironman vs this being my longest race so far this year. I had committed to allowing myself to walk, as that is how I’ve been doing my long runs (with intervals), but I didn’t really want to. I set my watch to do 4/2 and the goal was to finish in 1:16 or less – 12 minute miles. I was prepared with my 76 minute long playlist.
The horn sounded. As I crossed the timing mat, I started my watch and my music. “American Woman” was how I decided to start my race. Almost immediately, I felt the incomparable runner’s high that I crave, which, of course, concerned me. “Gah! How fast am I going? I don’t want to burn out before mile 1!” I checked my watch and it turned out my pace was a cool 11:30. Sweet. I smiled as we turned right and I started to make my way through the pack. I am not exactly sure why, but I love turning. I think it is because it is a very tangible reminder that the finish is that much closer.
I started to think about what I was doing. Tee hee, know what I mean? Of course, as I was running I was thinking about what I was doing, in terms of monitoring my heart rate, pace, and breathing. Then I started to think about what I was doing. What an incredible blessing it is to be able to run. I felt very connected to the hundreds of strangers around me, striving for whatever was most important to them that day. I prayed for them. I prayed for my family as they ran. I felt a tap on my hand. Lil One and her handsome father had caught up to me. I grinned as we ran together for about a quarter mile. I must be honest – I would have been bitter if they had kept up for too long – I’ve been training and they have not, hah! I resisted the temptation to run faster. They slowed for a walk break, and I smiled again.
Though my watch had been going off to remind me to walk, I chose not to. I felt surprisingly okay maintaining a 12 minute pace and decided to go with it. I only walked when I stopped for water. I noticed a woman beside me soon after mile 1 and it seemed we were going the same pace. I wondered if she would be my buddy. As I came to the second water stop, I was walking a bit when she said, “Let’s go! We’re running together!” Buddy = confirmed. We ran together without saying anything else, but I was thankful for her presence. I’d always heard of God sending people into our lives for reasons, seasons, and lifetimes, and I am now convinced sometimes He sends us people for an hour and change.
I reflected upon my desire to progress. Running is a way for me to set goals and meet them and feel great. I thought it strange that I could be happy with setting a goal that was 10 minutes slower than I was able to do a year ago. I suppose that depending on where we are in our lives, success can take on different definitions. As tempting as it is to think of that as a copout, it really is not. I am very slowly coming to terms with the fact that life does not progress in a linear manner, as much as I would like it to do so.
All this thinking got me to mile 5. It was here where my self-talk started to drift from holy to heathen. I’ve noticed the direct correlation between my HR being above 180 and my use of expletives. I knew I could not slow down if I wanted to meet my goal; plus, I had my Buddy! I lingered on the thought of my Aunt, who not only would be appalled by my language but who persevered until God finally called her to stop fighting against ovarian cancer. I had to keep going.
We were on the last straightaway and could see the final turn toward the finish. Then these VOLUNTEERS (I am writing volunteers but I was definitely thinking less kind words at the time) tell us to run a bit past the last turn and make a circle around a cone before turning. That bloody .2, man. Thanks for bringing me that much closer to vomiting, USATF. I heard Adonis and Lil One cheering for me as Buddy and I crossed the finish line together. We exchanged a high five as Lil One ran to give me a hug and Mom took a picture.
I really like this picture. It’s not particularly flattering. I think I look as exhausted as I felt. My fantastic stepdaughter-to-be was supporting me. It’s a picture of how human I am. I cannot be close to God unless I am dealing with my humanity – my brokenness as a runner, daughter, and future wife and mother. It is only in Him that I am strong and have the hope of being stronger.
1:13:36. Praise God. I would like to come back next year and do it in under an hour. Here’s to not busting my face or losing track of what is most important in the process.