Last night I had a nightmare that I kept running and running but couldn’t find the finish line. I was completely lost so I started following this other girl who had a number on and we ended up running through some buildings with classrooms and things inside. We ran until it was dark and when we finally found the finish line there were only a few people left but I couldn’t see who they were because it was too dark. I asked them for my time but they just laughed at me and said that the race had finished hours ago. The man in charge said, “Why did you think you could do this?”
This morning I still had that thought running through my mind. It’s been years since I’ve run a race…or even gone running, for that matter, aside from the handful of times I’ve gone since we’ve moved here. But when the alarm clock went off this morning I dragged myself and Andrew and two little girls out of bed, anyway, and got ready to run.
Registration began at 7 AM. We never leave the house before 7 AM but we did this morning. And it was cold! I just can’t believe how cold it is already—I dressed the girls in long sleeves and pants and brought blankets for them to cuddle up with. It was that cold.
I originally was going to wear sweatpants but Andrew convinced me to change into shorts before the race. He wanted to take a picture of me in my “running pose.” I look much less apprehensive than I felt, especially after seeing dozens of runners suited up with their hydration packs and official-looking outfits. I’m quite sure I was the only one wearing their younger sister’s (or brother’s) gym shorts from junior high.
When the time came I went to the starting line with the other runners while Andrew and the girls settled in to watch. I thought about pushing the stroller but only for like a minute—I walked home from the library with the girls the other day. It took about an hour to cover 3.5 miles and was exhausting so I didn’t feel like doing it all over again just a few days later.
There were about 200 participants this year so it was rather crowded at the starting line. Andrew said that he didn’t care how fast I ran as long as I beat “Dwight.” That’s the nickname we gave to the lurpy teenager we saw “warming up” by playing air guitar and punching the air while listening to his iPod.
As soon as we were given the go, this kid took off like a rocket, weaving his way through the crowd and moaning along with his iPod (I’d say singing but that would be too generous).
After the crowd thinned and well before mile marker 1 I passed Dwight, who was still moan-singing.
I then used Amy’s motivating story of Blue Shorts to pick my next target. I passed that person and another and another. It continued in this fashion until I picked a target that I couldn’t pass—a team of runners who I would later find out were in the 15-18 age division, a boy and a girl. You can see them here at the starting line—the boy (in navy blue) and girl (in royal blue) in the bottom left-hand corner.
I would pass them and then a while later they’d pass me and then I’d pass them and then they’d pass me and it was getting a little ridiculous so I said to myself, “Don’t let those two out of your sight unless they’re behind you.” I quite officially passed them sometime after mile marker 2 and thought all was well until we were coming up on the final stretch and they came sprinting up from behind me.
I started running so fast that I was literally about to vomit from the exertion. And they still beat the pants off me, at least by a few seconds.
I ended up placing third in my age division with a time of 24:42—I came in about five minutes after the overall winner and about three minutes after the first woman to cross the finish line.
Andrew said I did so well we might have to go out and get a pair of real running shorts so that I can intimidate people at future races with my own official athletically-tailored garb. And so that I don’t have to have “junior high” emblazoned on my thigh while I’m nursing a baby post-race. That sends mixed messages.