Saturday, March 13, 2010

And I even found my parking spot.

I wanted to stay home this morning; I wanted to put myself last again. But my son would not allow it. Despite his health issues last night, he insisted on me leaving and running my race. I stayed home as long as I could, just to make certain he was okay, but at the last minute I headed out the door.

After backing into my parents car, sitting in a jam across the bridge, missing the first exit off the bridge, and then realizing all streets in the entire downtown of the city were closed, I managed to somehow end up on a street leading me back toward the bridge... only this time crossing over to home. There were no places to park and no where else to go. I decided to just go home. The clock showed 9 am, the start time of the race, and there was no magic left to get me to the race line. I thought about my son, though, and how excited he was to send me out the door to run 5 miles. So I turned right, one last time, to see if maybe I could park in an alley. Lucky me, I headed straight for a parking garage of a major hotel. I pulled in, parked as quickly as possible, and headed to the ground floor. At 9:06 am, my feet finally touched the street. Unfortunately, I was nearly a mile from the start line. As I took off running toward the race route, I remembered to look up to know where I had parked and tried to pay attention as I ran toward the sea of green shirts.

Exactly 9:13 a.m. and I could see the start line... thousands of runners had already passed me as they began the route. I was still running the wrong way trying to get to the start! I managed to cross the time chip system start line with about 500 people still behind the line. I officially started the race at 9:15.

And by this time, I really had to pee.. yep, pee.

I was a chaotic mess, trying to run and set my Garmin timer and get my music going. Luckily, .5 miles into the race there were port-a-potties set up for the parade.. A quick stop in and I was on my way.

I held a steady 10:30 pace for the first mile and a half, at least until I hit the hill. I was enjoying the run so far... the mass of people ahead of me, and the satisfaction of passing hundreds while keeping my pace. As I climbed the hill, I realized I would have to slow down or not finish. As each person passed me, I felt a little more disenchanted, a little less empowered. But I didn't give up, I didn't even walk. I just let up my pace and remembered to run my race, no one else's.

As I hit the third mile marker, I began to tire a bit, thinking about my morning and the stress of things lately. I began to lose focus on my race, my run. And if you mentally can't focus, you physically can't preform. I changed my music, switched sides of the road, and talked myself into focusing on the freedom of the race. I choose to be there, to put myself away from everyone and everything that requires my attention. I was free of all my obligations, and I was free to run the race on my own terms. And off I went for another mile much more focused.

At mile four, my side began to cramp. I had run fairly quickly through the last mile and had not contemplated the final stretch. I seriously considered walking it. Taking the safe route and simply walking the end, avoiding injury or pain, and finishing.Instead, I thought of Jackson, just one week ago, finishing strong at his first race. I thought of him fighting hard last night, after the fifth attempt at getting his blood sugars read. And I thought of my inability to finish what I start, to do things on my own and complete them. I needed to do this.

I pushed through the hill of the last mile. I refused to go easy, and forced a strong finish. As I stopped my own timer, I realized I had ran the five miles in 58 minutes giving me a little less than a 12 minute mile pace. And I realized that I ran the entire five miles. This shouldn't have been such a shock to me, as I have been adding miles and picking up speed for the past few weeks. But it suddenly hit me that I had made it... I didn't turn around and go home when I was late. I didn't cheat the start when everyone started before me. I didn't walk when I hit the hills. I didn't walk when I hit the wall. I didn't let the chaos of my life ruin my run. I didn't put myself last.

I did run this race, for the first time in nine years, and I did it on my own terms. And I smiled from the strength it gave me.

In happiness,

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