We each had a great morning, performed at our best and came away in tenth place among the 25 relay teams. We were pretty tickled with that given that none of us is particularly speedy and three of us are knocking on the door of fifty. High fives and fist bumps all the way around.
The four legs to the race were of different lengths and one, the longest at nearly four miles, contained all of the hills. We rolled dice earlier in the week to see who was going to run that leg, and I was the unlucky winner. I hadn't really been running hills because I was afraid to stress my ankle or roll it before the race, so I wasn't really looking forward to running that rolling section of the race, but I decided that if I wasn't going to do the whole half marathon I at least needed the challenge of the worst leg, so I sucked it up and gave it my best.
When M. finished the first leg and hit the first relay station where I was waiting for her, she came barreling at me at breakneck speed with the timing belt in her hand. I said to myself, "S****! The pressure is on to finish strong." My teammate, P., hollered, "You got this!" and in my head, I said, heck yeah, I got this. I took off and immediately hit the first hill, a low rise that stretched for a half block then turned into a slight dip and then the first big hill. I figured instead of dreading each one, I would count them off as I came to them and attack each one. That worked pretty well until about the twelfth hill. By that point, I was grunting, groaning and wishing for a Coke Zero and a nap. I kept plugging away and found some renewed energy when I saw Hubby in exactly the spot I had asked him to stand. Pretty soon, I hit the last hill at the bottom of High Street. It's named High Street for a reason. I struggled up it in a race walk and as I neared the top I could hear cheering off in the distance at the next relay station. It wasn't terribly far away, and something just clicked in my head. I said, "Self, you got this. Leave everything on the street and finish strong." And I did. I found steam I didn't know I had and kicked into high gear. I was giving it all I had when I hit the relay station. B. took the third leg and P. finished up on the fourth leg. We met her a couple of blocks from the finish line and ran in with her. It was just a great morning to celebrate our efforts to keep pushing ourselves forward and keep pushing old age back.
And that's why I like this particular race. Even though many men run it, it has the feel of a celebration of women trying to do something to better their health or accomplish a goal. And that's why I run. To stay healthy and accomplish new goals. A runner was quoted in the local newspaper recently as saying there are two kinds of runners, those who compete and those who complete. I complete. Some runs are good. Some stink, but every time I meet a goal, no matter how humble it is compared to really good runners, I feel good about myself and I learn something about myself. About my physical strength, my mental strength and my stamina. I will never be a champion, but that doesn't really matter. I will never run even an eight minute mile, but that doesn't matter. I'm working to beat my goals, and that's good enough for me.
The running community is so supportive. One of the things about being toward the back of the pack is that you witness so many people who are struggling to finish their first race or struggling to overcome a disability. So many people are trying to complete their first race after taking up running to lose weight. They may be shuffling down the street at a snail's pace, but they are proving something to themselves. That's so inspiring to me. And even the fast folks are supportive of the slugs like me. So many times I've been encouraged by a really good runner who took a moment to cheer me on or to treat me as if I belong out there just as much as the five minute miler. And the onlookers are great, too. During the race Saturday, several people came outside and sat in front of their homes to cheer us on, hand out water they brought out there or orange slices. In the subdivision where I ran a great deal of my leg, people had written messages on the street in sidewalk chalk near some of the steeper hills. Things like, "left foot" followed closely by "right foot" and then a little later, "breathe". My favorite message? "We are all Kenyans." That one made me smile and actually pick up my speed a tad. I can't tell you how encouraging it is for me when a stranger hollers at me to "Go!" A friend of mine who ran a different leg of the race was trotting down the street and came by a decidedly unfit woman who was standing in her robe with family in front of their house cheering for everyone who ran by. When J. jokingly hollered out, "Run with me!" She did. For one whole block in her robe. How cool is that? And when I finished, Hubby and Teen Angel were there with their "Go Mom" sign and a big hug. God bless them, they're dedicated. They have to wait a long time for this slow old woman to cross the line, but they're always there, cheering me on as if I were Usain Bolt.
I sometimes wonder how much better the world would be if we could all be that encouraging to each other at all times. People who don't run often wonder why runners do what they do, especially the ultra runners. It's to be better. And those who run best pull along those of us who drag up the rear. They pull us along with a kind word, some encouragement and sometimes a good kick in the pants when we're being lazy. It's a crazy sport, but it teaches you a lot about yourself and a lot about other people. And while I have a bit of a love hate relationship with it, I hope to do it for a long time. And the day that I have to quit is the day that I will stand by the street in my robe and holler at those racing by me. Saturday was a great day with friends. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.