Saturday, February 2, 2013

Finding joy in racing

When Trainer Chris dared me to run a 10k, I really didn’t think much about the whole “race” element. I was more concerned about the, “Will I finish this?” question, along with the very real worry about coming in dead last.

The Sporting Life 10k had more than 10,000 people in it. I knew the chances of my coming in last were pretty slim, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t worry about coming in last obsessively. I didn’t think of myself as an athlete. Even now, I hesitate to use my name in the same sentence as the “A” word…and that’s with a training regime of about 10 hours a week. If I have a hard time calling myself an athlete now – imagine what it was like when I’d only been running for a few months – and was getting ready for my first race.

I was terrified.

When race day came, you bet your sweet life I was nervous. I was also very lucky. Two of my brothers had agreed to come up to do the race with me. One used to be an athlete in school, but life and family had kept him from keeping up his fitness over the years. He decided to become fit about a month after I did (the fact I beat him at a push-up contest at Christmas may have had something to do with it). So the 10k was his first race since high school.

My other brother has always been an athlete. He does triathlons, running races – and even ran the Windsor-Detroit Marathon. Even without a lot of time to train, he is crazy fast.

So they came up to race with me, and my parents, my brother’s girlfriend, and my other brother’s family came to watch. It was a true family affair - on Mother’s Day.

I would’ve been more nervous except both my one brother and my parents were staying with me, so I didn’t have time to worry. Until the morning of, that is. When my parents drove my brother and I up to the race site, I was definitely anxious. I had no idea just how many people would be there! There were thousands and thousands.
Picture 1: My brother and I near the start
If I’d been on my own, I probably would have holed up somewhere and waited for the start. Fortunately, I wasn’t. My brother ran me through a good warm up – making sure I got some jogging in, some stretching, and generally got some of the nervous energy out of my system. He also made me feel a lot less scared. Just around the time we were ready to head to the corral (We were all starting together, despite my brothers being faster than me), we ran into my other brother. That was awesome because we got to start together.

Crossing the start line (several minutes after the start…we were in the second corral back if I recall correctly) was like taking an energy shot. I knew this was it – the beginning of my race. My chance to prove that the months of training was worth it. I was a bit afraid because my trainer had guessed my finish time as 50 – 55 minutes and, after a knee injury I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to do. I just hoped that I’d come in under 1 hour. I figured that would be pretty good for a first race.

My triathlete brother took off right after we crossed the start line. Told you he was fast! My other brother stuck with me (or I stuck with him) for about five minutes, before he got ahead of me. I didn’t see them again until the finish line.

That wasn’t a bad thing because it let me bask in the moment. In the whole energy of running with thousands of other people – and yet feeling like I was alone. It became just me and the race…me and proving myself. I remember passing Davisville (the race is right down Yonge Street in Toronto) and thinking, “Wow. I can’t believe I am here.” I think I was smiling and crying at the same time.  I was kind of glad no one I knew could see me.

Looking forward, there were thousands of people…but looking back, there were even more. It was kind of amazing and astounding at the same time. All of these people bound by one goal: to finish a race. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt such community before, not in all the time I lived in Toronto.

It was a little slippery around the aid stations. I am sure I spilled more water than I drank from the little paper cup I took at one of the water stations. I only paused once – about 7k if I remember correctly.

I was starting to get tired around the 9k mark, when I came across my parents, my brother’s girlfriend, and my other brother’s family. Now that was well timed – right when I needed a dose of energy.  I picked up steam and made it right to the end…which felt like the longest km ever!
Picture 2: Running by my parents (I was trying not to laugh)

At the end, I got a medal. I have to admit, I LOVED that about the race. Everyone who finishes is a winner. It was kind of awesome. I was just so happy with myself for finishing, and only 2 minutes behind one of my brothers.
I was beaming the rest of the day. Tired, but beaming.

Picture 3: We did it!

And that was it. Once I finished that race, I was a goner. I knew I wanted to do more races. There just is no feeling like crossing a finish line, the feeling that you did something amazing. I’ve done more running races and other races since then, but I can still remember the feeling of accomplishment I had when I crossed the finish at my first race ever. It was a moment I will never forget.

I’ve found a special joy in running – just me on a road going wherever the road leads. But there is also a special joy in racing that nothing else can compare to. I don’t know if it’s the energy. The people joined in common cause. The results which show I’m actually a decent runner.

Maybe it’s just the fact that each race is real proof that I can now do something I never thought I could. And every time I cross a finish line in the future, I hope I will remember that. Because it’s that knowledge that will keep me reaching to do more once impossible things.

No comments:

Post a Comment