Thursday, December 2, 2010

The race

We got up at 4:45. We left for the city at 5:15.

There were thousands of people milling around, waiting for the bathrooms, pinning numbers to their chests, warming up, chatting. It was exciting. I was nervous til I got there. Then, I just wanted to run.

The weather was perfect. The morning was perfect. Gorgeous. Perfect.

We were led to the start line in waves, according to our predicted finish times. I was in the purple group. And then we started running.

It took about 10 steps for me to fall in love. I felt great and the atmosphere was exciting. There were thousands of runners and even more spectators. The sun was rising, and around mile 1, I realized it was Sunday. And yes, there was more than a little Shabbat Shalom coursing through my veins.

Miles 1, 2, 3, and 4 just fell away. I felt mile 5, like I thought I would. There were a few ups and downs in mile 6, and at the water stop in mile 7, I asked what mile we were on. Seven was where I thought I was, and it was just about right. Mile 8 was as hard as I thought it would be, and there was a "Holy hell, who the heck put this here" hill in mile 9 that most people walked up. I muttered "Not walking a step of this" in my head and plugged my way up. The leg stretch, relief and exhilaration of the downhill on the other side made it totally worth it. I'd earned that downhill float. I almost cried when I passed the 10 mile mark. I'd never been farther than that before, and the satisfaction there went so deep. The realization that there was only a 5k left made me almost drunk through mile 11. Mile 12 hit like a train. The road curved back and forth, and the side-to-side grade made first my right leg and then my left leg burn. The sun was in my eyes and I got grumpy, wanting only to sit down for a damn minute. But there was that low steady voice in my head saying, "You've got this. You're strong enough. You've got 10 minutes of this left. Easy." So I put my head down, listened to what I knew was true, put one foot in front of the other and then the mile 13 sign was visible, the road curved up and to the right, and I started to hear the announcer at the finish line, the roar of a crowd and I ran. And I was in love again. Before the finish line even passed below my feet, I was in love. I was stunned at the finish line. It was one of the sweetest things ever.

I ran the whole dang way. All 13.1 miles. It was worth it every mile, even the ones that burned, the ones that ached, and the ones that about knocked me on my butt. I think the hardest ones were the ones I loved the most.

I am alive and it's a really good thing.

One thing that was amazing was that our bibs had not only our numbers on them, but our names. The race route was almost entirely lined with spectators, and so many of them cheered for you by name. There's nothing like hearing someone belt out, "You've got it! Good job!" at about the moment I was wishing I had one of my buddies running by me. We can stand in for each other sometimes and it counts. It counts more than I could have imagined.

I don't think about my own name much. But you know how it is. Or is there anything more encouraging than the sound of your own name shouted when you're about to drop over? Is there anything more comforting than the sound of your own name spoken by a person who loves you?

It was a great race.

Oh. Finish times. I went into it with a 3-tier goal. Anything under 2:05 would have left me delighted. Anything under 2:10 would have been satisfying. Anything over 2:17 would have been disappointing. I finished in 2:04:57. :)

Without a doubt, one of the very best things I've ever done.