Today was a special day. It was my first official road race, the Duxbury Half Marathon. Running this distance requires physical and mental strength, determination and confidence, all of which I had been struggling with for many months until recently. I attribute being able to overcome this low period with obtaining a new job with constant opportunities for learning and growth, friendly co-workers as well as a supportive and encouraging manager. But enough about that, this article is about how I made some boys without manners eat my dust.
The day started out at 5:40AM. I quick change into my running gear and a triple check that I had everything I needed for the race and Nana and I were on the road at 6AM. Even though I had already triple checked my bag to make sure I had everything, I had the impulse to make sure I had my GPS running watch just before we approached the highway. Nana, so generous, offered her wrist watch to me and told me not to worry about having my watch. We both had a good laugh when I showed her my watch, which tracks speed and mileage. After we arrived at the parking area for the race, I reminded Nana to be careful walking as we crossed the street. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I ended up tripping on a tree branch. That would be my luck, weeks and weeks of training with no injuries and then, minutes before the race, a twig destroys me. Luckily, it was just a stumble and some slight embarrassment. With no other troubles, we made it to the waiting area inside the Senior Center, which was hosting the event, and met up with my parents. It seemed like all the other runners were doing body bending stretches and intense warm up exercises. It was a bit intimidating because I never do much stretching or warming up before a run, so I felt out of my league knowing that many of these runners were probably professionals and using this race as practice for the Boston Marathon. Sick of feeling like I was in a Planet Fitness commercial, I decided to wait outside and take some pre-race photos, which helped clear my mind. Then, the line up began and it was time to experience an extraordinary day.
I crossed the starting mat, waved to Mom, Dad and Nana, and headed off with the pack. At first it was discouraging because it seemed like every single runner was passing by me. I thought I was keeping a good steady pace, but then feared I would wind up the very last runner. As the miles went along and the pack spaced out more and more, I found myself passing others that must have started out too fast. The first highlight of the run was around Mile 3 when I saw another male runner jog out from the woods along the side of the road. I suspected nature must have called and after hearing him tell another runner he felt like a free man, my suspicions were confirmed. Shortly after Mile 3, I found myself in a pack of five or six other young male runners who took great satisfaction in hocking loogies and competing to see who could burp the loudest. I was stuck with them for about 2 miles until we hit a hilly patch and I was able to dust them off. However, there was still one other male runner that stayed on my tail. He wasn’t shooting things out of his mouth or nose like the others, but he was an extremely loud breather. Every few minutes I would pass him and think that was the end of hearing him, but sure enough the deep breathing got louder and louder as he approached me again and eventually passed me. It wasn’t until the middle of Mile 8, when I took advantage of a steep hill, that I shook him for good. I must say though, he was great motivation to stay on pace and also helped keep my mind off any tiredness I was feeling in my legs.
When I got to mile 10, I felt great and pretty confident that I was going to finish and finish in under two hours. I knew I only had 3 miles left and could start picking up the pace to get a better finishing time. At around this time, I also witnessed my favorite part of the race. At this distance, there was a Gatorade station; all the previous stations had just offered water. There was an older man running ahead of me and reached for a cup, but dropped it and apparently did not want to stop. Shortly after this, I heard a lot of grunting and heavy footsteps. The volunteer who had tried to give the cup to the runner was running as fast as he could to catch up to the older man who needed the Gatorade. With a lot of determination, the volunteer caught up to the runner and handed him the cup successfully this time. I saw the runner’s face at that moment and could tell he greatly appreciated the effort and drank the Gatorade gratefully. I don’t know if it was the fact that I just witnessed this great moment or the fact that I was just about running on empty at this point, but I started thinking about my late grandfather, Papa. I know if he were alive, he would have been proud of me for challenging myself to complete this race. I couldn’t continue thinking about him for very long because I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the race if I did. I felt guilty at the time that I blocked him out, but I’m making up for it now as I’m writing this and getting another wave of emotion about him.
The last few miles were a blur; I increased my speed because I knew I only had about 15 minutes to go until the finish line. I remember giving a high five to a toddler and passing an older woman that screamed when I passed her, thinking she was going to swear at me. It turns out she had a side stitch and apparently wanted to announce it at the top of her lungs, which probably wasn’t making her side stitch any better. Finally, I saw the finish line, but then a bunch of slow onlookers had to cross the street and thought it would be okay to block the way and stare at the runners coming in. I almost wanted to yell, “Get the bleep out of my way,” but I just kept running faster towards them and eventually they must have figured out a stampede was coming. The last stretch was a circle around the parking lot. I ran as fast as my legs would move and could hear a few people behind me trying to catch up. I had them until the very last turn and then the two guys behind me sped past me at the last second. I was aggravated that I couldn’t take them the whole way, but I guess I’ll just have to get them next year.
After I crossed the finish line, I was overcome with dizziness and very disoriented, but I still was with it enough to make sure someone gave me my medal. It felt great to know that I gave it my all, even through the very end, and that my parents and Nana were there to cheer me along and experience the day with me. The last step of the day was to take a look at my stats. As a person who loves numbers, it was interesting to see all the breakdowns, 100th overall of 375 runners, 43rd female finisher overall and 19th female in the 20-29 age range. We also saw a couple charts that looked real nifty, but had no idea what they meant. While we were at the computer, Mr. Heavy Breather came in, saw me and conceded his defeat and joked about how we were neck and neck for a while. A few stretches later and we were on the road back home, back to a refreshing shower and a great big bowl of Cheerios.