Running is Cheaper Than Therapy: An Addict in the Making
|Number 87. That would be my first bib ever. Having two young kids, I thought a bib was something used to catch falling food, not something to be pinned to a shirt. I had no idea I’d get to slap a fancy schmancy number across my belly. I felt like I belonged in the Olympics. And I got a free T-shirt too! I hadn’t worn a T-shirt since my senior year in high school, but for some reason, I was excited about THIS T-shirt. THIS shirt would tell the world that I ran a whole 5k!
As I readied myself for my first race, I nervously pinned my “bib” to the new running tank I bought in my attempt to look like a “real runner”. I was also sporting a new pair of shorts and actual running sneakers, not those cross trainers I had been wearing. Yep. This should fool everyone. I looked like a real runner now. Thank Goodness for Kohls and that 30% off coupon I got in the mail.
I ate a whole-wheat English muffin, with peanut butter and banana exactly 2 hours before the run. Odd. I never gave any thought to my meals before heading out for any other run…but this one was different. This run was official. I would be running with the pros. What if I came in last? Or worse, what if I couldn’t finish?
I arrived at the race alone, an hour and half early since that’s what they recommended in the confirmation email I had read 1000 times. The whole scene was buzzing with energy. There was music playing over the loud speaker and an announcer giving instructions and motivating the runners. All around me people were talking and stretching, stretching and talking. I felt like the new girl in school walking into the crowded cafeteria, hoping, praying, somebody would flag me over and let me join them. I felt awkward. Like I didn’t belong there. That familiar lonesome feeling I’d been trying to run away from for so long crept back in. I thought seriously about turning and leaving, but I’d already posted on Facebook an hour ago that I was running my first race, so I couldn’t back out. Dammit, why didn’t’ I bribe one of my friends with a cocktail afterwards to come cheer me on? I had no idea a race would be so….social.
Though I hadn’t stretched since my Jr. High days of Gymnastics and the occasional Pilates class, I decided when in Rome. I found an unoccupied spot near the porta potties, grabbed one ankle and pulled. It turned out the bathrooms were a good place to station myself. As I busied myself stretching, trying to look like a real runner, a girl I had gone to a mom’s group with waved me over to long line she was stuck in. So very excited to have somebody to talk to, I raced over to say hello. We exchanged some small talk about our kids and she asked how long I’ve been running. I told her this was my first race and shared how nervous I was. She assured me that I would be fine and asked if I’d like to start with her. I hesitated, telling her that I was slow and didn’t want to hold her back. She agreed that she was slow too and convinced me to stand at the starting line with her. Umm, Ok! Phew…
Relieved beyond belief, I followed her back to her posse. I reacquainted with her husband who I had met a few times and she introduced me to her friends. I felt like I had been accepted by one of the popular girls in the cafeteria! I chatted with her friends for the next 30 minutes until it was time to line up. This was it. I was so nervous I thought I might throw up.
We were all corralled at the start line. My newly found friend and I started near the back.” What if I get lost? What happens if I can’t finish? Will somebody come look for me”? She assured me I’d be fine and wished me luck. When the gun sounded for the start, the line moved slowly. I was so anxious I just wanted to push to front. When I get anxious, I just need to run. That’s what got me here in the first place. I knew if I could just get running, my anxiety would be cured. Eventually the crowd started moving faster and I could pick up speed. I had never run with other people before. This was fantastic! I had so much energy but I was afraid of going too fast so I held back. I held back until I reached the half-way point and realized that I wasn’t tired yet. I looked behind me and my new friend was nowhere to be found. Oops. Oh well, might as well just keep going, right?
|Realizing I was more than half way done, I picked up speed. I began passing people. Is that bad etiquette? I had no idea, I just know I felt unstoppable. I had planned for the worst and was surprised by how good I felt. Was I actually going to be able to finish the whole race? I knew I must be getting close to the finish line because spectators were lined up and cheering. I had no idea there would be spectators! And they were cheering for me! They didn’t even know me, but yet they looked as excited as I felt. I saw kids holding up signs cheering on their moms or dads, and other fans had bells and noisemakers. Oh, how I wish my kids could see me now! I longed to see a familiar face cheering me on, but since the crowd didn’t seem to care if they knew me, then why should I?|
When I spotted the words “FINISH”, I ran as fast as I could to the end. I seriously felt like Superwoman. There was so much energy from the other runners, from the crowd, and from the adrenaline flowing through my veins. It was awesome! And I was surprised by the free water a stranger handed at the end. Free water! As I sucked down some hydration, I stood near the finish line and watched my new friend finish a couple minutes after me. “I thought you said you were slow? I couldn’t keep up with you!” she said as she caught her breath. “I felt better than I expected to I guess” I replied, feeling a little guilty. She asked about my time. Time? “What time”? “How fast did you finish”? I had no idea. I didn’t know I was being timed. I thought the goal was just to finish.
She showed me where the results were posted and how to read them. I had run my first 5k in 27.11, and placed 6 out 18 in my age group! I didn’t know much about much but I knew that was pretty good. I was happy to just finish my first race, but I was ecstatic to finish in the top third of my age group! Maybe I was better at this running thing than I gave myself credit for. Or maybe it was a fluke. All I knew is that I couldn’t wait to sign up for my next race.