The big day is here. Our coaches tell us that we are exceptionally well trained for this race. We’ve got our bib numbers pinned on, we’ve found our wave. The pink sky of dawn seems painted just to celebrate race day with us. It’s chilly, but we’re buzzing with excitement. I’m actually jumping up and down I’m so excited. So is the girl behind me. We run into each other, so then Dexter takes our picture.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I find myself wondering how we got here.
Well, yes, we drove. But BEFORE that.
How did Dexter and I become part of this amazing group of people?
It’s a Whole New World
A quick check in the rear view mirror is kind of astonishing. Back in May of this year, we started “30/30” training. It was at that point that we went from being walkers to joggers, able to jog for 30 minutes at a stretch. We continued to work on maintaining that 30 minutes of jogging a couple times or more a week. All of this was in preparation to run something on Marathon Day.
Then in September, we started with the training team. The strides made were pretty amazing. In a bare eight weeks, I went from an “easy” pace being around 4.2 miles per hour to settling in pretty comfortably at 5 MPH with an ability to put on some occasional bursts of speed.
Weight Watchers classifies 5MPH as running. Not jogging. Running.
Hey, Dexter… we’re officially RUNNERS!!
Just for visual effect, here’s my training log. Sorry the time for the first mile isn’t completed – frankly, that may have been our fastest because SeabiscuitDexter was in full force and ready to pass everyone in sight!
Pre-Race Prep Talk
One of the smartest things we did during the whole training series was to take advantage of Coach Dan’s “What to Expect on Race Day” seminar. Some pointers that served us particularly well on the big day included:
1. Lay Out All Your Gear the Night Before – Getting ready for a race requires assembling a whole different set of stuff than what you normally use every day. I can’t tell you how many trips I made up and down the stairs the night before to be certain I had everything I needed. Layers, ID, a little money, keys, race bib, my Garmin and my new snazzy headband. And I was STILL running late the next morning! But, I did have all my stuff laid out, and I arrived with everything I intended.
2. Have Your Parking Plan Worked Out – We ended up parking close to the starting line and getting picked up at the finish line. Navigating street closures was still a bit of a trick even with our super early start. Having a plan for transportation is absolutely crucial to removing stress from the race day.
3. Let the Crowd Thin Out – It’s pretty easy to get excited at the beginning of a race and try to “Seabiscuit” around fellow racers, weaving in and out to find a running lane. It’s also pretty easy to get tired out quickly by doing this, and you’re running further than the race distance to do it! Instead, Coach Dan counseled patience. Allow the crowd to thin out, then find your lane and your happy pace. Sage advice, indeed!
4. If You See A Camera, Smile – Professional photographers are everywhere the day of a race. Be ready to smile for your close up!
5. Keep Moving at the Finish Line – The temptation is there to just stop at the finish line and claim victory – especially if Coach Dan is there ready to take your picture! For your own safety, though, keep moving. Otherwise, you will get run over!!
And We Begin
After this chilly start, the sun began to shine a little brighter, our wave was soon shuffling forward then we were crossing the starting line. As predicted, it took a little while to find a happy pace in the crowd. As we did so, we got to hang out with Awesome Sauce Coach Mandy for a bit on the course, chatting while we ran (I cannot tell you how shocked I still am at this whole conversation while running thing).
Just as fantastic were all of the people who came out to cheer on the runners. I wasn’t able to get a lot of pictures, but we were incredibly appreciative of these folks, especially as we were making our way down those first couple of miles of Broad Street to the turn. It was a thrill to hear their words of encouragement, and it definitely spurred us on.
The first mile seemed to go pretty quickly as we were mostly focused on finding a running lane and a comfortable pace. We still managed to spend a lot of energy on that process, doing a bit more weaving and bobbing than we probably should have.
That meant we had some “active recovery” work to do in the second mile. Slowing our pace a bit, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, we settled in for the most part, but we were awfully happy to see that turn at two-point-something miles.
That’s when I learned about the monotony of straight route runs. Turns and good scenery definitely help keep it interesting.
Our turn took us one block over to West Grace Street where pavement eventually gave way to cobblestone. This change of surface made it interesting as I found myself “stepping lightly” to avoid tripping on these nifty bricks. It was starting to get warmer on this beautiful fall day, so my scarf went from around my neck to around my waist. We continued to move steadily forward as business buildings gave way to wonderful row houses in the neighborhood, then eased back into offices retro-fitted into older Deco buildings.
It’s a pretty run. But soon, we started moving into mile five, and we were digging a bit. I even tried to entice Dexter into an argument to get some adrenaline going, but he wouldn’t bite. Focus and fortitude would have to carry us through.
Also greeting us at the finish line on beautiful Brown’s Island were my wonderful husband and son who brought us coffee and super yummy sesame seed bagels (with real cream cheese!) as a post run snack. Then it was time for more photos.
We started heading back toward the car but continued to cheer on our fellow racers. We had started with this team of walkers in our wave at the start and were thrilled to be able to cheer them on to the finish line!
Why I Run
One of the great things Coach Dan blithely mentioned at our “Prep Talk” was that many of us “run for medals.” No doubt, this is a prized possession and I will never forget this day because it was such a high.
But when my beautiful Zumba instructor, Marcela, asked in her melodious way (and with a somewhat chica loco expression), “Do you like to run?” I had to say no, I don’t particularly love the activity of running.
But here’s what I do love about running:
It’s the only activity I know that proves to me that I can. So every time I think I can’t in another situation, I have this lesson literally drummed into my cellular structure that, actually, I CAN.
It’s the only activity I know that proves the slog is worth the victory. We all have to struggle through a lot of un-fun steps in the process of achieving our goals. Running reminds me that even when the doing of it isn’t fun, the completing of it is totally worth it.
I will never be fast enough to “win” one of these races, but I’ve already won an awful lot by getting here. I’ve won confidence, dedication, flexibility to roll with changes, appreciation for good planning and a sense of humor when everything goes sideways. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet an awful lot of truly special people.
And I get it when I see bumper stickers like these.
You may rest assured that there will be more running adventures ahead.
Wishing you a most awesomelicious race day in the future near you!