12 May 2007

How old am I, really? And a story of a 10K.

Some days I feel old, wise beyond my years (granted, most of these days are few and far between). These days I feel like I have things together where I know what I am doing and why I am doing it.

Most days though, I feel like I'm not the age I should be. Today for example, I really felt like I was just out of college – young, confused and sad. This morning I ran my first 10K. I'm still learning to be a runner, granted, but God I felt pretty pathetic.

The morning started out okay. I got up early, took a shower to warm up my legs and maybe loosen my muscles a bit with the moist heat :) and be able to pull my hair back without worry. I got dressed, checked the weather, and stretched a bit. On the way to the start of the race I tried an orange flavored GU for the first time. Truly that was pretty nasty but supposedly these are important for runners. The directions said to have one 15 minutes before exercising with 3-4 oz of water and then hydrate along the way.

So that was my plan. I had the GU, had to park 8 blocks away, and brought my water with me. This race was huge. I've never seen so many people (I can only imagine what TC will be like). Of course this was walkers and runners (both 5K and 10K) so there were a lot more and since it was to raise money for breast cancer research, it drew a lot of people – survivors, those walking/running in memory or honor of someone, and then just the weirdos like me running to see if I could.

The race for 5K and 10K started at the same time. I took my place toward the end of the pack (I figured I'd be there anyway so why have the dejection and humiliation of all those people passing me) and prepared to run. I still had my water bottle in hand, figuring I'd need it and should use it while I ran. The starter man yelled “Go” and off we went (well, about a minute later since I was at the end of the pack).

The beginning of the race started okay...it was nice out – not too hot and not too cool at all. It was great. I felt really good to start. I didn't have any music (can't run with it at TC so why run with it here) so I just tried to concentrate on my breathing and the feel of the road beneath me. It was not only my first 10K but also my first solo race and my first race with my new Brooks shoes (which I'm really growing to love).

But slowly I lost my footing and lost my pattern and soon lost my breathing...and had to walk. I so wish I could just run without needing to walk. How can I get over this?

Anyway, I fell back in the pack, passed one last person (who also was walking) and stayed in that place the rest of the way. It's more than a little humiliating to meet the pack on their way back and you haven't even made it to the turn-around point. It's not so bad if you have someone with you, but when you're running all alone it makes me feel pathetic. A few of the forerunners shouted encouragements. One cute man yelled out, “You're doing great! See you at the end!” That helped...I felt a burst of energy for a brief moment and was able to keep going for a little ways further.

Toward the end of the race as I was on the return, all the 'helpers' along the way kept saying, “you're almost there!” Liars, all of them. I think that makes it worse when they say that. I wish they'd just tell you you're doing great and to keep it up. But no, they taunt you with the whole, “You're almost there!” and “It's just about over!” whatever. Knowing where I was (having run that stretch before) I knew it not to be true so it just hurt more than ever. At one point, I think I was at mile 4, I broke down crying while running...I felt so pathetic and like such a loser. And really I just felt alone. So very alone. I was at least a mile in front of the other 2 or 3 at the end, and at least another mile from those in front of me. I should have been happy. I should have felt great, running and overcoming odds and obstacles many people don't even attempt, but I didn't. I felt awful, a loser, and wondering what in the sam hell would have triggered my stupid decision to sign up for TC a week ago. It didn't help when I had ¾ of a mile left and two of the 'helpers' on the side said they were going to run the rest of the race with me and finish it up. I said, “That's great, but there are still people behind me.” They were shocked. Apparently people don't take over an hour to finish a 10K in this town. Sheee-it.

The end of the race was okay...I finished out (alone) and ran through the checkpoint for the time chip (alone) and one of the 'helpers' took my chip and band off for me and another gentleman handed me a water. I walked back to my car (alone) and drove home (alone). I felt very alone. (I bet you couldn't figure that out, huh?)

It wasn't that I wasn't proud of what I did. I finished 6.2 miles in 72 minutes and 47 seconds, a pace of 11:43. Not bad for a first time 10K pace and if I did that for TC I'd finish in about 5 hours and 15 minutes which would be fine since I just want to finish TC, preferably no more than 5:30. But to not have anyone to share it with just sucked.

Of course that said, I suppose I should tell people what I'm doing, especially my family. I did tell my brother and swore him to secrecy. But it's not like he can be at all my races, nor will he be at TC. I did tell my mom I was running today but she didn't come down. She had thought about walking it, and had suggested once that I should walk with her but I get shin splints when I walk in races (I walk too hard and fast, especially when I walk with her).

In some ways I feel like Kathrine Switzer – she didn't tell hardly anyone about the first time she ran Boston for a multitude of reasons. One of my biggest is that I don't want people bugging me about my training or looking at what I eat sometimes and then scoff at me or what if something happens and I can't run it or I can't finish – then what will I look like? A fool? A failure? Yes. And I hate to fail. Though for some reason it seems I do fail a lot in life.

I just want to be able to run without having to stop and walk all the time. I want to be able to breathe without feeling like I can't fill up my lungs or stomach with air. I want to feel like I can accomplish this goal I've set, and right now I'm not feeling like I can. Which is scary because I have only 4.5 months to train. That scares me.

Lord knows I've never been a runner. In high school I struggled to get up and down the basketball court. Volleyball was a better sport for me...you stayed on one side of the net. So why...why do I feel like this is something I can do? I'm insane.

But back to my original point of feeling like I'm just out of college – here I am, new to a city (even though I grew up near here – I've been gone a long time), new to a real job (not school related in any way, shape or form), and new to an apartment. Yes, I'm closer to my family which is great, but I have few friends, few options and it's just a little stifling.

Maybe I'm just sad because I didn't make it back to the cities last month. Maybe I'm sad because it seemed like even if I didn't go out all the time when I lived in the cities at least I had more options. But I feel like I'm 24 or 25...my friends have all graduated and moved on to their careers. I've done the same. We're spread over the country and see each other on rare occasions. I don't know. It's weird.

Besides who at age 32 decides to change their life and start running on a regular basis – and not because their doctor said they should. Only someone who is insane and probably doesn't quite know what they are or who they are would. Yep, I think that's me.

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