". . and let us run with patience that race that is set before us."
It was my first 10K. My first race ever. I had decided to run the Cooper River Bridge race in Charleston, SC because my mom and I love Charleston. Apparently I wasn't the only one. Turns out the Cooper River Bridge Run is one of the biggest 10K races in the country. So I show up in my nifty new socks to a crowd of about 20,000. Playing eager beaver, I jump to the front, right behind the Kenyan track team, ready-ish for what was coming. The gun sounded and we were off. Well everyone else was off, I was mostly being passed. Again. And again. It was depressing. In my struggle to keep up and save face I ended up running almost the entire thing. My nifty new socks were too thick and burned my feet. But, I finished a 10K and felt like the queen of the world. Until the next day when my lower body revolted and should I have been privy to any national secrets, anyone could have broken me by making me sit down and stand up twice within an hour.
I kept racing. And I've gotten faster, stronger, but most importantly---smarter. I've learned about training, tempo runs, ice packs, and carb-loading. And I've learned one very important thing about races: A little thing called pacing. Remember those Kenyans? Right behind them were the "amateurs" aiming for about a 5-6 min. mile pace. My pace at that point was probably about 12 minutes. I cringe to think how annoyed all those seasoned runners must have been, dodging the pudgy beginner who didn't know about lining up according to your pace. I've learned a lot since that first race about pacing. . . and only a little of it is about running.
I don't run with music. I run with my thoughts. I run with my problems. I find my rhythm and then I drum along, sorting through the puzzles in my brain. I don't run to win or even compete. I have never won any type of anything in any race I've ever run. And I doubt I ever will, unless I organize my own race and throw away any registrations in my age group. All my medals say "finisher" and I doubt they'll ever say anything else. But, yet I keep running. Running is my race and when I do it my way, I am better.
I trained for all of one week for my last half marathon. I was a bandit, asked by my friend to run for her because she hadn't trained at all. My running had been spotty at best, not having run more than 3 miles in several months at least. But, my curiosity got me. Could I do it? Had I gotten to a point where I could run a half marathon with a week of training? I decided to go for it. Still, I had learned a thing or two about my body; specifically about the knee part of my body, and I knew that if I pounded out 13 miles with no training, I would shatter my knees and set my running back for weeks. I humbly accepted that a run/walk plan would be the way to do it. I made my plan: 3 minutes run/1 minute walk. . . repeat. I knew that this would be very hard for me to do. I am obstinate about pain--somehow thinking I am a less of a person without it. And I hate, really hate, walking if anyone around me is running. But, I also wanted to do a half marathon and knew that this was the only way I was going to do it. So, I set my timer, took some advil, and ate some pasta.
It was a beautiful race day, and I was eager to see what my body could do. I told myself I could run the first 10 minutes, but after that I would enforce the 3:1 plan. It was hard. I got passed, and I got passed by a pregnant woman. But, cuing my inner monologue, I reminded myself that I had no idea how much she had trained, that the only body I knew was my own, and if I wanted to finish, I had to do it my way. And I did finish. I felt great. My legs felt sore, but strong, and my knees were very very proud of me. I had run my race, my way, at my pace.
If only I could live my life the way I ran that race. I would take it in chunks, recognizing that the only life I know and can control (kind of) is my own. We each have our own race to run, our own children to raise, our own goals to reach. I don't run to perform, but how often do I let my "performance" dictate what I do? I want to be a fun, kind, patient, creative mother. But, do I want that because I believe that will help my children now, or because that is how I want them to remember me? At times I am driven by what others will think of what I do/think/read/eat/say rather than just being. I lose trust in my own pace. I am faster today than I was when I first started running. And I plan on getting faster. But I am not getting faster to beat anyone. I am getting faster because I like getting faster. My pace is my own. If I throw out expectations, real and assumed, trusting that I am a good enough person to do things my own way, even if I never get another compliment, then I think I can find a peaceful rhythm that will get me to the end strong, maybe a little sore, but very very proud.