Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Run for your life

Our city has an annual race every June.  I first became aware of it twelve years ago when I was planning our wedding. In short, the weekend we wanted to have our wedding was the same weekend of the race and therefore we were unable to.
That was the first time I cursed this race.
We ended up getting married the following weekend. I had blocked the race out of my mind.  Until we got our first house.  On our first weekend in June I discovered early one Saturday morning that we were prisoners in our own home because this race ran right by our house. As early as 7 in the morning I could hear cheering. This was before children, when 7 a.m. was considered early.
That was the second time I cursed this damn race.
The following year I had a 3 month old and since we weren't sleeping in, we sat outside and watched as the runners went by. I ate my husband's famous french toast and watched as insanely fit people ran by our house.  I looked down at my puffy jelly donut belly and for the third time I cursed this stupid race.
I watched this event 3 more times and finally 12 years from learning about it, I decided to participate.

I had seen an advertisement in January about it and decided that 6 months was enough time for me to train for it.  I mentioned it to Don.                          I added this big long space to represent what he said (nothing). After carefully choosing his words, he said, "but you hate to run, and come to think of it, you hate that race".  Not exactly the support I was looking for, but I took it as a challenge and began training the next day.  By the following week I had quit.  My husband is right.  I loath running. I think it has to do with years of playing soccer.  When we had to run, it was at practice, and it was usually because a teammate (not me of course) running her sassy mouth to the coach.  It was punishment and so began my hatred or better yet, fear of running.

I still vowed to do it and focused my daily workouts on anything but running.  I can't even look a treadmill in the eye without getting ill.
I asked myself why I wanted to do this if it was causing me such anxiety? I talked to anyone and everyone about it, and frankly, I think my friends and family were tired of hearing about it.   I had their support and if anyone knows me, they know that once I commit to something , there is no stopping me.  I told my oldest son.
"Do you win anything?"
"No, well the winner does."
"Are you going to win?"
He gave me a look of "then why run it?" and moved on.
Again, why do I want run it? I learned it was because I knew it was a big challenge for me.  Deep down I wanted to discover a love of running, although that may be a bit lofty.  I didn't think I could give birth, but I did that. I need goals and I need to push myself in order to make my life worth living. I find that every day I do the same thing, I leave my house at the same time, drive to the same places and have the exact same conversations along the way. Before I know it, days become years and I realize that another year has passed of the exact same thing. This was a new focus and a very big step out of my comfort zone. It made my life a bit more exciting.
The day finally came. The race started at 7:15 and I arrived about an hour early. I had made a new playlist filled with motivational songs, like Marlyn Manson, Rage against the machine, Cake and last but not least, System of a Down, just your typical pick me up music.
Since the race runs through my neighborhood, (they switched the route away from our house a few years ago) They said they got some angry letters from a resident. (totally kidding.)  But the route takes us to the street behind our house.
It was a very cold morning. I had my number pinned to my shirt and found comfort in a local cafe which also happens to specialize in chocolate.   I didn't know where else to go so I gravitated to my comfort zone, chocolate. I could see the runners getting ready. You could tell which race one was doing by the color of the number pinned on their shirt.  5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon and marathon.  The thought crept into my mind "what if I go the wrong way and end up with the marathoners?" I decided to walk off my nervous energy. I went to the hallway and paced, then decided to return to the cafe.  I was watching a group of 1/2 marathons doing high knees in the parking lot and failed to watch where I was going and walked face first into the glass door. I felt the glass cool on my face. I glanced around, stunned hoping nobody saw it, but the loud bang of my knee hitting the glass drew a crowd.  I. Was. Humiliated.  I made some joke about needing coffee and decided it was a good time to go outside. I could hear the people letting out their laughter when they thought I was out of ear shot. Very polite of them,  but if I had been in their shoes I don't know if I could have contained my gut wrenching laughter.
I searched for a familiar face.  I can't go anywhere in this town without seeing someone I know, but apparently everyone I know doesn't run races.  Finally I saw a friend and stood with her until we were called to the start line. I tried to tell her that I suck at running but she stopped me in my verbal assault of myself and told me I was going to do fine.
I lined myself up in the middle of the crowd, listened to a horrific version of the National Anthem, the kind that gets all flashy in the middle. I took that as a sign to turn on my iPod.  The heavy beat of Maryln Manson violated my ears " The beautiful people, the beautiful people, The beautiful people, the beautiful people" And then the crowd started moving.  I had made a decision to go at my own pace, not push it, so that I need to walk, but to get into a nice stride.  I found my pace and stuck to it. I was getting passed by kids, fat people, old people and an amputee, but it didn't stop me, I just kept going.  At one point in the race, I was at the top of a hill, running down. It looked like a sea of heads making waves. It was beautiful. It was such a sight that it gave me goosebumps and I got a little teary eyed, that I was really doing it.  And I was fine. I guess all the exercising and soccer I have been doing, actually prepared me and I was surprised that I didn't hurt.  Towards the middle of the race there is a steep hill.  I watched as one of the over zealous fat women who had passed me earlier was vomiting on the side of the road.  The old people were walking and the amputee, well, she was still way way way ahead of me.  At the top of the hill is my neighborhood. I knew that my husband and four sons would be waiting on the corner, possibly holding a sign that would read " Go Mommy!" at the top so I kept going. I was worried that I would cry at the sight of it, so I tried to hold back my tears and focus on getting up the hill.  I approached our corner, and I could see, nobody, No husband, no kids and no sign.   I wondered if they were further down the street and kept going. Nope they weren't.
Apparently my husband timed it in thinking that I would be running a 20 minute mile.  Um.  In other words, they missed me by about 20 minutes. I discovered that I didn't need their or anyone else's
validation. This was completely all about me. When was the last time I could say that? I don't even remember it has been so long.
As I finished mile two and started the final mile I felt a high. A high that consisted of complete self love  for pushing myself and for knowing that I was going to finish without problem.  The race finished at the 50 yard line of the Notre Dame football stadium.  I saw walkers deciding to push themselves just to finish strong as we approached the tunnel.  My iPod started playing Moby, we are all made of stars, and I patted myself for timing it just right.  I easily glided across. the finish line.
I returned home to a 4 year old who was very worried that they missed me and that I had died.  But thankfully I hadn't. Don was upset he missed me and usually I would have been upset too, but I didn't run it so that people could see me, or to get a great time or place in the top, 2000. I ran just to prove to myself that I am just at the start of my life race, and no where near the end.

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