Back in June, several members of my team from work participated in the Carrerathon 5k event, and we had a great time. When one of my coworkers suggested doing the 18k in the same series (on the same course!), I decided, why not? An 11 mile run will probably be on my schedule that weekend anyway as I train for Longhorn. I also took it as an opportunity to egg on some friendly competition between two of my coworkers.
As I ran along the Leon Creek Greenway today, it came to mind that there were all kinds of stories going on out there. Since this is my blog, I'll start with mine.
I had a workout plan to run 11 miles today - 6 miles easy and 5 miles strong. Aixa signed up for the 18k as well, and she agreed to follow this same plan. In matchy matchy Lululemon (of course), we started the race from OP Schnabel park and settled into a comfortable pace (I'm not going to say easy because it was slightly faster than easy). We chatted with each other and the runners around us (shout out to the guy who called us "Iron Maidens," how clever is that?!). After the turnaround, we saw Brian, who was out for his own run, and he commented that he'd pace us back to the finish line. "How fast do you want me to go?" he asked. I told him anything under 9 minute miles would be fine.
Brian took off, Aixa followed, and they started to leave me behind. This was to be expected - Aixa and Brian are faster runners than me and my goal was just to keep Aixa in sight, stay within myself, and not blow up on the strong part of my run. After a couple of miles of hanging behind them, I realized that I was coming up on their heels. "Run faster!" I told Brian. So he did, and we followed. During this time, I realized how much fun I was having. I was running fast in the right heart rate zone, practicing passing people decisively and leaving them behind. And, when one of these people refused to allow it (my new friend Monica, we had chatted for a while on the way out), I didn't get discouraged, but just continued to chase her. It was fun to be racing! My toes started to hurt and my Achilles started to cramp, and I thought of a quote that Runner's World magazine had posted on Facebook just this morning - "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." I didn't even consider suffering. I was making a game of sticking to my plan and playing at racing with the competitors around me.
I was proud that I wasn't letting Aixa leave me in the dust, too. But as I caught her one more time with about a mile to go, I discovered that I wasn't killing it - she was just having a bad day (I found out later that she had also been stung by a bee!). Aixa complained that she was bonking, described a ridiculously high heart rate, and dropped back, urging me to keep going.
This doesn't happen. Aixa usually runs much faster than me. So it was uncomfortable for me to be in front of her. I know that sounds ridiculous, but there's a way that things usually go, and when things don't go the way they're supposed to, it's weird. I thought to myself that she was probably going to rally, so I hustled toward the finish line, which is up a big hill. I saw another girl running ahead of me and thought, I wonder if I can catch her? On a day that things were happening that weren't supposed to, I decided to try. One more time, with thoughts of Rinny and Leanda Cave in my head, I again did the thing where you run up on someone, pass them, and press on with a strong burst so that they can't stay with you. It felt awesome to practice and execute that.
So that's the story of my racing. But there's tons more, and they're all so inspiring!
Orissa! She ran the 10k today. Orissa has been spending the summer getting faster. Over the years that we've trained together, she and I have both gone through the same progression from participant to competitor. But she hasn't had the benefit of the camp experience to help her through this, she's done it all by herself, and that makes me so impressed and so proud of her. Today she won second place in her age group and employed all the same skills that I practiced - pacing and picking off the competition, and it totally paid off and she came in fifth overall with a killer time. She knew that she had the possibility of winning the race and she went for it. As the saying goes, she shot for the moon and landed among the stars! Once you've been in that position, I don't think you can ever go back to "just participating" or "just racing against yourself."
But, if you're just getting started, "just participating" is beyond awesome. I spent miles today being completely inspired by my coworker, Vincent, who ran the 18k today as his second-ever race - his first was the 5k back in June. As a new runner, he agreed to run today to race against another coworker (Mike, who has been running for years), but it's clear that along the way Vincent has discovered a love of running. When he talks about it, I remember how it felt as a beginner, when every run is your longest run ever, to be just totally amazed by what your own body can do.
He's been diligently training, and he ran 10 miles on Monday after work just to see if he could. That's the furthest he's ever run until this morning. When I saw him on the out-and-back course, he was smiling and running and looking so happy, and I took such inspiration from that. I'd been egging him on to beat Mike at the race, and he didn't. But when he crossed the finish line maybe 5 or 10 minutes behind Mike, he looked so happy that you might think he'd won the whole race. It was awesome.
|Vincent (kneeling) and Mike (standing) are the two guys on the right. This was taken at the 5k in June.|
How about the comeback story - a former coworker, Stephanie, is training for the marathon, and I was happy to see her out there at the race today. Stephanie has crushed races, including marathons, in the past, but she's been busy for the past year with her new baby girl, who is now one year old. I'm inspired to see Stephanie picking up where she left off - training for another marathon, getting back into it, and even trying triathlons for a new challenge.
So many of us found something new in ourselves and celebrated being alive by running today. I'm so grateful to be feeling this, and so proud of all my friends (including the new ones!) for participating, racing, surviving, persevering, competing, inspiring - being the stars of their own racing stories.