March 17, 2012
I was the first to arrive. 8782 participants plus volunteers and staff. I was the first one there.
I parked in a lot near the starting line. “Event Parking-$5″ but no attendant yet. I guess I was a little eager that morning.
It had been 5 weeks from getting challenged to do a 5K at Weight Watchers. I had purchased my first pair of running shoes 30 days ago.
And, for those 30 days…I found a new level of hurt.
The day after making my purchase, I strapped them on…along with my fancy new socks. I had purchased running shirt and shorts (no cotton, this fancy running gear stuff wicks moisture away from your body and prevents chafing…that must be a good thing right?). I went out the front door and started to run. Made it all the way to my mailbox. 180 ft. Couldn’t breath. Yep, this was gonna suck. I had forgotten my albuterol inhaler. Driveway seemed long walking back to the house. Took a couple of drags and lungs opened up again. Almost called it a day. First workout…180 ft. Wife looked up at me…”Back so soon?”. Sigh…let’s try this again. Made it to the neighbors driveway before slowing to a walk…feet were already hurting…
I had done a loop around the neighborhood. Walked more then run. Exhusted. Feet screaming. “How far did you go?” I had no idea. So, I hopped into the car, reset the trip odometer and drove my path around the neighborhood. 2.85 miles. Close to a 5k, but not quite. Maybe I’ll try this again tomorrow…
I tried it again. A little farther. A little less hurt. A little faster. Made it twice around the neighborhood, then 3 times. I was still walking, but less often.
I might be able to do this after all.
Time to sign up for a race.
I did find quite a few. I had already been bitten by the bug. I wanted bling. I wanted swag. I found the Get Lucky. Stain Glass medal. Hooded sweatshirt. Score! But, I would have to run 7K instead of 5. I could do it. I was officially registered. No turning back.
Day before the race, I had to go down to the expo to get my “packet”. I guess this is runners lingo for your bib and timing chip. It was a zoo. Get down there and wait in a long line to get the stuff. Then stand in another line to check my chip to make sure it works. Then stand in another line to get my sweatshirt. I tried it on right away to make sure it fit. I suddenly felt like I belonged…a little. The whole “deer in headlights” thing kept happening…but I was starting to get used to it. If things weren’t weird, then I probably wasn’t at the right place…
Went back home, and laid out my gear. It was unseasonably warm for mid-March in MN. High was gonna be close to 80 degrees. Shirt, shorts, socks, shoes, bib, safely pins, timing chip. I was ready to go. Got zero sleep that night. Nada. Afraid I would sleep through the alarm. Got up early, coffee, bagel, checked my gear (again) and went out the front door…
Attendant was knocking on my car window. “You’re here early! You must be pretty eager for this race! That’ll be $5 please” I paid the man and walked a block to the race village (really, they make villages for these things?) Surprise…first one there. There was a long row of porta-poties. Every last one of them was still locked. Still the only one there. Eager was an overly polite term I think…
Horizon was starting to get the first hints of daylight, and finally there were signs of activity. Village coming to life. Other athletes were showing up. Nerves and adrenaline boiled over. What was I doing here?
Took me 15 minutes trying to figure out how to attach my timing chip to my shoe. Didn’t know where to put my bib (I quickly learned that the right answer was “anywhere”). Lines were forming at the port-potties. Overhead announcements were starting to come. The corals were set up and ready to go. I wasn’t exactly sure where to line up. I figured that it was best to line up towards the back. I started at the 11 min/mile. Then dropped back to 12 min/mile. The din quieted briefly for the national anthem. It was go time.
They started us in wave. We would move closer to the starting line. Then stop. Start again, then stop. Finally, it was my turn. Everyone around me started jogging slowly towards the starting line. Just as I crossed it, everyone around me decided to start walking.
Huh? The walkers coral was 2 corals further back. But this wasn’t a temporary event…nobody looked like they had any desire to move faster exempt me.
I started jogging, and swerving around folks who were literally standing still.
Passed another, and another, and another. The sun was out, it was a beautiful day, and I was actually passing people! This was so cool!
I crest a hill, and saw something that has stayed with me to this day. I saw the road filled with green shirted runners as far as the eye could see. There was this organic ripple to the mass. It was hypnotic. It was beautiful.
I knew this would not be my only race.
My legs were tiring out before the halfway mark. But they stuck with it. So did I.
By the 6 km marker, I noticed my breathing was tightening up. Asthma attack. Great. 1 km to go. I pulled out my inhaler.
Note to self, don’t try using an inhaler while running. It doesn’t work. Much better staining still. My legs were toast, but I had less then a half km to go. My breathing was easing, and I went back to work. Wasn’t to much later, I spotted to finish line. Like an oasis coming into view. I had a little left and kicked in a little speed burst. Passed someone just as I crossed the finish line. She was throwing up. Not me. I was on top of the world. I few steps later, someone draped a lovely stained glass medal around my neck. Few steps later, I was handed a banana, chips, salted nut roll, and some water.
I found a place to sit down and had a little something to eat. I couldn’t take my eyes off this medal. I had earned that. I had done something I never thought I could have done. I was a runner. A “real” runner.
I looked up my stats when I got home.
Overall place 2918/8786
I had passed 1895 other runners
Not bad for a lifelong couch potato.
Leading up to the race, I had started running quite a bit further then 7K. I had toyed with the option of upgrading my race to the Half-Marathon. But, self doubt kicked in. I was not ready for that. Not ready at all.
The day after the 7K, I decided to go for a long run. I ran 13.1 miles without stopping. I didn’t take any walk breaks either.
I could have done the half marathon the day before, only if my doubts and insecurity didn’t stop me. Well, those days were behind me. “Can’t” and “Impossible” were no longer statements of fact, but challenges to overcome.
I had already registered for a 10K the next month. The same event had a half-marathon option. I went into the house, logged in, and upgraded to the half…