Running sometimes is difficult and painful. I can question why I choose to run quite a few times when I’m deep into a long run. Sometimes there is a payoff of feeling great afterward, diminishing stress, and even meeting a goal or personal best.
This past Monday was Memorial Day. There was a new one mile race called the Memorial Mile in my city. I signed up for it and worked it into my speed work when I could. I wanted to run an 8:30 mile just for me. I wanted to say that I could do it and have it be “official.” It’s been awhile since I’ve run a mile that fast. Most of the time, my speed comes in short bursts and rarely, if ever, does a mile come in at less than 9 minutes for me. I’ve accepted that my focus is more on distance than speed and I’ve improved a lot in speed since I’ve started.
Monday morning came early. I got up at 6 am to be at the race at 6:45 for my 7:20 am heat of the race. I left my house around 6:30 am and had no traffic to deal with, but the signal lights in this town are enough to make it take awhile to get anywhere. I got to the park where I’d thought the finish line was to be, parked my car, and saw nobody around except a few fisherman at the nearby lake. I hopped out and went to my pocket to grab my phone and look up the map so I could get to the start. My phone wasn’t in my pocket. It also wasn’t in the cup holder, the center console, the trunk, under the seat, or between the seat and the console. I forgot it at home. I started to walk around and the only evidence of a race I found were the Course Marshall garb of vests and traffic signs in a box near the door of the building I’d parked beside.
It was 6:42 am. I didn’t have time to go home and get my phone. I hopped back into my car and I drove around finally seeing the inflatable finish line I’ve become familiar with now. I asked the people at the finish if they could point me in the direction of the start. One man said, “Half mile down Allin,” so I looked ahead and saw parking. I pulled over one more time to yell “hello” to some people I knew and double check the location I was about to go to. I parked in a space, hopped out of the car, and took off on a little jog toward the street I needed to get to. I ran my warm up to the start line and worked out the sleepiness from my calves and my shoulders. It was humid and I was actually sweaty by the time I reached the start line. There was a group lined up and I looked down at my watch. It was less than a minute before 7 am and the group was the first heat of the race, which was not my group.
I socialized for the time before the race. I took a space in the very front thinking I could pace someone fast and get the time I was shooting for if I could just run my butt off for a whole mile. The horn sounded and we took off. I was not far behind the front of the pack until we surmounted the first hill, which was really not a steep incline. One person started to pass me and said “I’m already tired.” I agreed and told her we should just stop running and go get drinks. We kept running and she widened the gap between us. I worried as I looked ahead and then down at my watch. I was holding my pace around 8:15 at the time was pushing as hard as I could. When we were right about at .75 mile, there was a hill and my pace slowed to where I couldn’t rebound. I pushed as hard as I could and got a cramp in my side that I was convinced I’d need to stop for. I started breathing dramatically and forcing myself to move forward and when I saw the timer at the finish line, it wasn’t far past 9 minutes, but I was already disappointed I hadn’t gotten less than 9 minutes. I still pushed and I started hearing clapping and cheering and my name and I forgot about my side and my stomach growling. I ran through the finish. After waiting a brief moment for a friend, we went to get our post race water and snacks.
We walked back to the finish for the “elite” heat and they all crossed the finish line before 7 minutes passed. I don’t think any of them looked as exasperated as I thought I was. Then, a couple of people I knew asked me whether I’d seen the results of my heat as they stood in front of the paper that posted them. I walked over and looked at the paper and there I saw my name as 1st place in my age group. I didn’t have my phone to take a picture of it. I didn’t have my phone to post it on social media. It was strange to feel bummed that I couldn’t immediately share it with everyone.
I was presented with a medal. This was the first time I’ve gotten a medal for running and I was so happy about it. I still kicked myself little over how I ‘could have gone faster’, but I’d still have been in the same place. I have a medal that isn’t for participation, but is for winning my age group!
Of course this makes me power hungry. Now I want to place in my age group in a 5k race this weekend in Missouri. I’m already hoping these sore legs cooperate and that the weather does, too. Not only do I want it more than I did before, I have the confidence that perhaps I can do it. So look out! Here I come! Dressed as a Superhero (because that’s the theme of the race, guys)!