I think it’s pretty official now that I am a runner.
On Saturday, a couple of major things occurred that exemplify my official status as a runner. Whereas I once thought that the accumulation of miles and having a mild obsession with sneaker shopping was sufficient, this weekend’s experiences taught me that there is so much more to running than long distances and aesthetics.
My alarm went off at 5:45 am on the first morning of the weekend. Even before it forced me out of bed, I knew what I was waking up to as it had kept me up part of the night: rain. When I undid the sheets and layered on my clothes, I could hear the drizzle of the raindrops outside my window. As I left shortly after 6 am, I walked to the bus stop with an umbrella. Out of fear of becoming too wet and too cold prior to the start, that umbrella stayed with me until the official race clock started. But it didn’t really matter staying dry; I was soaked before I saw the first mile marker.
Call me very fortunate, but this was the first race I have done in less than ideal conditions. Even with the 5k, 10k snow race two weeks ago, that race felt like a piece of cake compared to the water logged miles from Saturday’s Rock N’Roll half marathon. With my MCM jacket keeping me warm and my phone covered in a plastic bag to keep it dry, I thought I was ready for the precipitation. I was not.
Going into the race I had already prepared myself not to PR and to just enjoy the race for the experience. Unfortunately, I found that extremely difficult to do when the conditions were so miserable. Mentally, I let my head, instead of my legs, dictate the run. I looked for friends who had said they would come out to cheer, but there were no sights of familiar faces. I don’t blame them; if I hadn’t been running, I certainly would not have ventured outside in the rain, never mind to watch a bunch of soaking wet, indistinguishable folks speed by in a blur. Bless those supporters who did came out on the course; speaking for all those who ran on Saturday, their presence was encouraging.
In terms of pace and comfort level, I felt pretty good in the first half of the race. Albeit more thirsty than normal, I powered through the first five averaging under 8:30 mins/mile, and then pushed myself up the Calvert Hill to reach the 10k mark. At this point, the hardest was done, so I thought, and so my pace quickened to just above 8 min/miles. But then something happened that had never happened before: I had to go to the bathroom. Whereas at first I thought the feeling would pass, I quickly realized that there was no way I was going to actually make it to the finish line without a pit stop. So in urgency to find a porta-potty, my pace kept its quickened rate. Shortly after mile 8, I found recluse and took a speedy pit stop before resuming entry on the course.
But that’s when another first happened: my body decided it wasn’t feeling it.
My parents always like to joke that I’m only 110 pounds when soaking wet, and on Saturday, that extra weight from the rain physically and mentally weighed me down. My body felt heavy and fatigued, as if it was working overtime to combat the conditions. And then there were my legs. I partly to blame it on the stopping, but after mile 8, my legs, specifically my shins, felt like they had enough. I did what I felt I needed to do: I stopped and walked for bit.
I cannot say that I hit the wall, per se, yet there was definitely something in me that told me that the best thing to do was to pause and walk. So I did. And looking back, I don’t regret it. The choice came down to pushing through pain en route to an injury or taking my time to get to the finish line, I chose the latter, and somehow, in spite of the walk breaks, I still finished in 2:01.
It was far, far from a PR, but considering the tenderness and limping that I felt yesterday morning in my legs and the 8:05 min/mile pace that I still managed to do in the final mile, I am so grateful for the experience. It reminded me of my days in the classroom, when after studying hard for a test, you receive it back from the teacher with a grade indicating a less than stellar performance. That’s how I felt on Saturday.
So while yes there was a brief moment of disappointment, particularly because I felt I had prepared well, I didn’t let that negativity consume me. This race represents the hardships, challenges and defeats of being a runner. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and yet even in the face of the pain, or the rain, there is no quitting.
After the race, I replaced my wet and baggy attire with a pair of fresh clothes and joined the warm company of some of my closest friends. I made it to the finish. I still earned my medal, and even after I changed clothes, that medal remained hanging from my neck as a reminder not to those around me, but specifically to myself, of my morning’s achievement.