After a much longer than anticipated hiatus, I am finally running again. I only started about a year ago, but the constant exercise has made such a positive difference in my life, physically and emotionally, that I continued after accomplishing my goal of running a 5k. Being a competitive person, I thrive having races to look forward to, even if I am just competing with my own personal record.
Sarah, a close friend (actually my best friend in 6th grade) that suddenly moved to Long Island last year, just picked up running again earlier this summer. Her vacation in Mount Vernon over July 4th allowed time for us to run together. I’ll openly admit, that as her visit grew nearer, I became less and less excited about our upcoming race (sorry, Sarah). I had been lazy, hardly getting out there or even trying for that matter, and she had been working, and going at it hard, for about 5 weeks. I felt slow, lazy, and anticipated the embarrassment that was bound to happen. I should have been training. Our race was a 5 miler and even on my best day I’d never run more than 4.
I started running again only a couple of weeks before she arrived. Unfortunately, I was still maxing out at about 2.75 miles. I was supposed to run twice that in just a couple of days. Not a chance. Sarah had arrived, I’d given her my word, now I just had to suck it up and do the best that I could – race day was fast approaching!
We decided to get a few miles in a couple of days before the race. We met super early and agreed that 3 miles should be enough. As we started running, I realized that we are well matched in pace. I don’t often run with other people, I actually prefer my alone time, but when I do we never stay together very long. One always significantly faster. We held pace together for the entire 3 miles. AND we knocked out 3 miles! We ran as the sun rose and although we were too winded to carry on any kind of conversation, I cherished that morning run with Sarah. I felt more invigorated than usual that morning.
As the race approached, my nerves got the best of me again. I made a mental pact with myself, just run 3 miles since I know that I can do it and then walk the remaining 2. I reaffirmed this pact numerous times in my thoughts, trying to be my own constant comfort. During our early morning drive to Granville, I finally told Sarah my plan. She just kind of nodded, neither agreeing or disagreeing, but it didn’t matter, I was convinced of my strategy. During that drive was also when I found out that this is Sarah’s first race. I instantly felt the mom in me kick in and I couldn’t wait to guide her through the process and show her the ropes.
Registration was uneventful. The course was out and back for the first 4 miles with an additional mile bringing you into the heart of the town where the festivities were taking place. As with our morning run, Sarah and I paced each other for about a mile. I still felt very protective of her, remembering my nervousness during my first race, but as we passed the first water station and she grabbed a cup of water, shot it in a heartbeat, and tossed the cup off to the side like she’d been doing it for years, I knew that she was just fine. Heck, she was acting like a pro – she’s got this. I always get emotional at least once during a race and within the first mile I looked at Sarah running beside me and thought about how far we’ve both come in the last year and couldn’t help tearing up.
The first couple miles we ran quite a bit uphill. Sarah had to take a moment to walk, so after about 1.5 miles we separated. I passed her on my way back and she was still going strong, right behind me. After about 3 miles I realized that 1 – the 4th mile was mostly downhill and 2 – I felt like I could just keep running, so I did. After mile 4 I convinced myself that I could do just 1 more mile, so I kept running.
This is the part of the race that I definitely needed the most help. I started having God sightings. Nothing major, just moments that I would find myself alone on the course and pass a beautiful section of nature and feel that God had given me this moment as respite. Taking those few seconds of listening to the creek and smelling the crispness in the air kept me grounded and moving forward. Then I started pacing another runner. We went about 1/2 mile and I began to wonder if she even knew that I was back there. Then as we approached the finish, she turned slightly and said, “Let’s go! We’re going to punch it in from here” and we took off running. Another gift from God, motivation to finish strong. It’s those moments of accomplishment with total strangers that make me want to keep signing up for races.
I crossed the finish, still amazed that I had run the entire thing, grabbed a cup of water, and backtracked to find Sarah. She was a rockstar. I just started walking and there she was. I couldn’t believe how awesome she did. Not only was her first race 5 miles (most people do a 5k which is about 3 miles), she only started running about 5 weeks ago, and she ran the entire thing. We were both glowing!
*I don’t really think that “All I do is win”, but that’s the song that motivated Sarah to finish the race 🙂