Editor’s note: I haven’t written a story in a while for the blog, but I hope to have a few out soon. I did manage a small coup and got one of my best friends and an awesome writer to author a guest post (with hopefully more to come!) about her first racing experience this last weekend.
Thank you Meghan!
This is a guest post written by Meghan Ewald
The race started fine. Good spirits and good weather made for a great first 5 miles. I smiled at others, chatted, even shared a bit of toilet paper I had carried with me with a woman standing at a port-a-potty (ah, race bonding moments). Police officers trundled back and forth along side the runners, and AED operators rode their bikes back and forth. The wind would gust and die periodically, but that first 5 miles was a beaut.
Just after mile 7, I turned the corner of NASA Road 1 and Space Center Blvd. I realized there was nothing to cut the wind. I was drenched with sweat and wearing a thin long sleeved shirt as wet as I was. The wind turned the shirt to ice. At first, that wasn’t so bad. I was running at a pretty good clip and the cold shirt cooled me down. That wind though… I wasn’t expecting that.
I developed a stitch in my side and slowed to a walk. Then I started getting cold. The wind blowing through my shirt and shorts caused actual pain when the material snapped against me. I started running between miles 7 and 9 only to be derailed by the stitch in my side. As I tried to walk off the cramp, a constant litany marched time with me through my head, “you have to finish, you have to finish.” Besides… the food was only 3 miles ahead and 7 miles if I turned back.
I tried to catch a few of the walkers in front of me, but I was wiped out. I was hungry enough to be shaky, I had a stitch in my side that I couldn’t shake, and my legs felt like Jello. I turned the corner just before mile 9 and walked through the water station, grabbing a cup of water. The volunteers shouted encouragements, “you can do it”, “you’re almost there”, “just a little further.” I don’t think I even smiled. Just walked with my head down.
Another runner, clearly done with the race, was walking in the opposite direction and took one look at my face. She just held up her hand for an encouraging high-five. I slapped her hand, and she kept going. She didn’t say anything, just smiled at me. She could probably tell just by the miserable look on my face that I had almost given up. That one smile from a perfect stranger was all I needed. After the mile 9 water station, I started to run.
There were markers along the last mile for those like me needing just a touch more encouragement. My favorites were those that just said “RUN” and an arrow pointing forward. Really that’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it? An arrow pointing in a given direction and a simple directive: “RUN”.
So I did.
After 2 hours and 21 minutes discouraged, hungry and wet, I finished 825th place, dead last in my age group. But, by God, I finished.
I continued beating myself up for a few days, completely discounting the first good 7 miles I put in, and only giving myself mild reprieve for running that last mile. I could only focus on the 2 bad miles I spent on Space Center Blvd wishing like hell a police officer would take pity on me and throw me over the back of their motorcycle instead of suffering one more minute.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to race again. Run yes, I told myself. Race, no. Although, now, I recognize that saying I wasn’t going to race was the equivalent of quitting running, too. Because once you start quitting on things, it gets easier and easier to do. I was tempted these last few days to cry off the Aramco Half Marathon in January. Clearly I wasn’t meant to race, what the hell was I thinking? My Easy run on Tuesday turned into a very long, very brutal Tempo run as I continued beating myself up. Consequently, my Speed workout on Thursday turned into an Easy run. I felt better after both, but not like I’d exercised the demon of my first USA 10-miler.
Then this morning, I found myself in a conversation about running. One co-worker said, with all the authority of a non-believer, “Running has to have a purpose. If you’re not chasing a ball, there’s no purpose.” I wasn’t thinking of the race, the race didn’t even cross my mind until later. I was comparing his statement to every good run I’ve ever had. The runs that make you feel powerful, as though you could go forever in any direction under just the power of your own two feet. Thinking of that, I responded, “Running is the purpose.” He scoffed, rolled his eyes, and gave me the “oh, you’re one of those…” looks.
And just like that, my faith was restored. I was a believer again.
Can I get a hallelujah.