Saturday, March 17, 2007

Following the Crowd

First things first--Happy St. Patrick's Day. Those of you who know me know that this is my most favorite holiday in the world (primarily due to the lack of family obligation attatched, secondarily the volume of drinking one gets to do... and oh yeah the being Irish). So, I hope you enjoy yours as much as I'v enjoyed mine thus far.

In celebration of my holiday and as a kind of motivation to work out, back in January I signed up to run the 5 mile St. Patrick's Day race in downtown St. Louis. I can't really think of anything less Irish...I can find no evidence that St. Patrick or anyone else was doing much running around the Emerald Isle. But what could be better than getting some exercise and burning a few calories before the festivities begin? I'm always one to try to take others down with me, so I convinced a friend to join me. And away we went.

The training didn't go so well. I printed off a training guide from the internet telling me how many miles to run on which days in the six weeks leading up to the race. But in the midwest, it's been bloody cold for the past couple of months, and after a few miles, there's something about a treadmill that makes me feel very much like a lab rat. Only I think good little lab rats get treats for their labors (there's an idea that could revolutionize gym-going, but that's another blog).

Race morning arrived, and I drug myself out of bed at 6:30 am, which to my knowledge has NEVER happened on a Saturday before (nor probably will since). It was painfully cold outside, and for a moment I considered going back upstairs and pretending that my alarm had never gone off. I could blame the cat for unplugging it. But I didn't. I headed downtown where there were HOARDS of people waiting to do this thing.

I safety-pinned my number to my electric blue fleece and danced around half in anticipation, and half because in the cold I could no longer feel my thighs. When the shot went off, it took a good two minutes before we could even start running because of the huge crowd. I nodded good luck to my friend, who runs MUCH faster and better than I do, strapped on my Nano and joined the fray.

There were hills that seemed like they'd never crest. There were unexpected potholes and runners who would rather run into you than around you. There were moments when I considered cutting out of line, walking over to the finish line a couple of blocks away and ordering a beer while I waited for my friends.

But the adrenaline of the crowd was contagious. At any given time, looking out in front and behind, there were thousands of heads (9,000 to be exact) bobbing up and down around me. I liked that I was solidly in the middle of the pack...I had nightmares about being the very last person to cross the finish line. There were people along the route, waiting for the parade, who cheered us on, and one little boy even ran out to give some of us high-fives. An old friend decked out in his kilt shouted out encouragment that there would be a drink in it for me at the end. There was a group of people around the four mile mark sitting in lawnchairs with signs that read "I finished already" and "I see slow people." Slow, my ass, I thought as I stepped it up a notch. Starting out, I told myself that it would be okay if I had to walk a couple of miles of it, seeing as I had never run more than three miles in preparation. But something kept one running shoe falling in front of the other. Somehow I just kept going, as if the crowd was pulling me along with them.

The race coordinators had politely stationed the finish line at the bottom of a small incline, and when I saw the banner a little ways off, I broke into a what I like to imagine was a true sprint. My finishing time was 61 minutes and 12 seconds. Not as fast as I would have liked, but not bad for a road race virgin.

Even though my right knee was swelling, screaming for ice, even though tomorrow I may not be able to get out of bed, I felt a little bit invincible just then. I ran twice as far as I thought I could, in a better time than I had imagined (the parade was NOT waiting on me so it could start). In short, I want to do that again! Not today or in the next week, but soon. There's a 5K before the St. Louis Marathon, if anyone is interested in joining me. My ultimate goal would be a 10K...Beyond that, I think I'll leave the half and full marathons to my girl J!

1 comment:

  1. I am very proud of you! That takes some real determination- so WAY TO GO!! Give yourself a pat on the back and drink a cold one for me!