Sunday, April 14, 2013

More than 11 MInute Mile Pokey People

Wow! I had no idea what head games I would have to deal with in a simple 5K run. It was my first, and being a virgin, I was truly naive. I thought we would all line up in our proper places and pleasantly run at the pace we had accustomed ourselves to, enjoying the scenery and urging each other along.

What I was not prepared for was the onslaught of verbal abuse that would plague me the entire race from begining to end. There was name calling, bereting language, and put downs. Any support and urging given was all from a negative point of view (ie: Is that the best you can do?) I was truly not aware of what to expect. And the most surprising part of it all was that it all came from within.

The whistle blew, gun shot, or someone yelled. I still am not sure how we knew to start, I just moved with the crowd. Two minutes into it, I was out of breath. I was unintentionally running with a 10 minute miler friend. I did not mean too, but I was standing beside her chatting when everyone surged forward. And when that happens you move together like cattle on a stampede. That is when I understood the purpose of the 11 mile sign lady standing on the side of the road. I thought she was just standing there to watch the show, and would later drive over to mark the eleventh mile. But what the sign really meant was that the people standing in that area can all run a mile in under 11 minutes. Hence, the gun goes off, they move together -- no problem. Except, I was right in the middle of the pack. And that is exactly when the yelling began: What in the world were you thinking? You are a 16 minute miler. Slow down you idiot, or you will not make it to the first mile. 11 Mile Marker, huh? THIS IS A 5K AND 10K RACE! THERE ARE ONLY 6 MILES IN IT!

I had to slow up, but how to do it was another issue. There were people shoulder to shoulder, and to do so would have tripped someone else up. (Or maybe me, again.--see last blog.) Soon, the pack began to thin out after we reached the open road, and I was able to slow down to my normal pace... just in time before  passing out from over-exertion.

After I caught my breath and found my pace, I could finally relax and enjoy the scenery. And what did I see?Dog walker/runners passing me. People with strollers passing me. Little children passing me. My old students passing me. Why, even slightly obese people were passing me. Wow! I thought I was prepared. Well, obviously not, the little voice snipped.

But I kept chugging along.

Watching a dog runner/walker made me feel guilty.  I was thinking I should have brought my own Daisy, except I knew she would have pooped at least three times; that is exactly when their dog stopped to poop. Hah! I made the right choice I thought as I ran pass them. I guess the joke was on me though, because each time their dog stopped... and they stopped, they still caught up and passed me, eventually disappearing up ahead.

I was watching yet another stroller person bombard and run through us "slower than 11 mile a minute pokey people" like we were an obstacle course.  I soon realized that I should not have been upset with the stroller runner people for passing me because most of them were young stay-at-home moms who have nothing better to do than run every morning to bring back their youthful figures (that were not gone away to begin with.) They were forced by the rules to start in the back of the pack, but must of them (and some were men) belonged up with the sprinting "less than 10 mile a minute" runners.

Up ahead, my old favorite student who had sprinted passed me ealier had slowed to a walk. Yeah! I thought, I can run to catch up and say hello. Wrong! I was able to catch up just before she took off again, but was too tired to do more than squeak out a breathy, "Good..gasp gasp... to see...gasp... you. I... gasp...would hug you,... gasp, gasp... but it would... take...gasp... too... much...gasp... energy." I then mustered enough energy to run on a bit, so I could hide in a small pack to catch my breath out of her sight.

Are you crazy? Please don't do that again! You know that you cannot run and talk at the same time! And you had the nerve to run ahead like Flo-Jo to save face? Puh-leeze!

It was about that time that I had passed the first mile marker and was feeling pretty good about myself -- until I looked over my shoulder and became painfully aware of how many... or should I say few, people were behind me. The name calling began again. Is this the best you can do? You have old people passing you. I looked back again and saw about thirty  stragglers. I looked ahead and saw small children. I was in the back of the pack. Eighty percent of the runners were ahead. What was I doing wrong?

That is when I began to notice the helpers in their bright orange vests would always call out to me to "hang in there." You must look like the walking dead for every one of them to single you out for support, she said. Leave me alone, I screamed back -- in my head. But was this truly the best I could do? I had been practicing for a couple of weeks. Surely my pace was not this slow. I then remembered something my track coach used to yell thirty-something years ago (when I last ran for a real meet). "Open your legs!" Yes, I know that is normally not what you want to yell to a lady, but keeping them closed was exactly my problem. My 5'7" frame had the stride of a 4 year old. My husband would be proud to hear the women inside my head screaming, Open your legs! Quit being such a stingy strider! Wider,wider!  So I did.

Suddenly, I began passing others. I kept my same slow pace and passed my student, again. I then passed the two cheerleader mean girls who I saw making fun of my favorite student behind her back (the teacher in me wanted to chastise them, but the jogger me did not have the strength to do it properly).

I passed a few of the elderly and overweight folk who had passed me earlier. They were all walking now. I had a childish urge to tease "Naa, naa, na-naa, naa!" but didn't. Instead, I had an epiphany, they did not have a pace, they ran fast short distances and then would stop and walk long ways. I was doing it the right way.

As I neared the end of the race, we came upon a huge hill. Well, more like a slight upward grade that you would not normally notice if walking, but one that would seem like Mount Everest at the end of a run. I saw people falling by the wayside as I ran passed them and started feeling real good about myself. Yes! All that running on a hill in my neighborhood was paying off. Oh, don't you get too cocky missy, she reared her ugly head again, if that were the case, you would not be breathing like someone having an asthma attack. 

She was right. By the time I got to the top, I was panting hard and the finish line seem to be moving backwards as I moved forward. The orange vest people were really pouring it on thick now. You must look like you are going to die. The balloons that framed the finish line beckoned and teased. A lady beside me kept saying come on Mom you can do it! You must look so tired and ragged that people are referring to you as an old mother dragging down the home stretch. Yeah, she was not talking to me. Her mother was literally right behind me. Up ahead, even at fifty yards away, I could spot my 6'4" husband above the crowd.

Yes, you are fiinihing but what a sight you are going to be crawling across that line. 

NO! I will not! I can do this and I will do it in style.

No, you can't!


I suddenly felt a strength from deep down inside rise up and take over. I felt my legs lift higher. My body went upright. My back straightened and my legs kept lifting higher and higher. I could not believe it. Even the voice inside my head quieted. I felt her attitude change.

I began to sprint! The voice inside began to cheer!

You can do it! Faster, faster!

I sprinted the last 40 yards to cross the finish line in front of my proud, beaming husband and son.

And my time? I came in at 36 minutes and 34 seconds. I was not a 16 minute a mile runner afterall. I was now a 12 minute a mile runner.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

First Things First

It was a day of "firsts." I completed my first 45 minute run. As I rounded the bend I was especially happy to see my husband had come outside to watch me, and my son had run to the end of the driveway to join me on the last three minutes. He was so excited about running with me that he got too close, whereby I proceeded to trip myself up and "first" fall. Embarrassed at my lack of coordination in front of my cheering audience, I did what any wannabe athelete would do, I jumped up and yelled, "I am okay!" And, just like the Olympians who continue on after a big spill when they know they have lost, I checked my timer to see how much time I had and continued on as if all was well -- while silently grimacing at my sore hip and scrapped palms, and simultaneously planning a long hot bubble bath, glass of wine, and Naproxen.