Race day was Saturday in Winona Lake, IN. This time it was the Spring Run For Fun. A day full of firsts for myself, my mother and best friend. My mother signed up for her first Five K Walk; a huge step for her physically due to some health problems involving heel spurs. Ben registered for his first half marathon while continuing to battle a knee injury. And well, as for me, this was to be my first solo Five K Run.
This race was rather personal for me. I came to the starting line with something to prove- to myself that is. Having already run 3.1 miles before I knew the mileage wasn’t the obstacle. My own mind was. My will. The largest muscle to train by far.
Most runners have a buddy come race day. Five K’s are more fun than competitive (though there is plenty of room for both aspects). Solo runners usually bring some sort of Mp3 player to keep their mind focused during the 3.1 miles. I seriously contemplated this knowing I would be distracted by my own thoughts otherwise. Friday night I decided that if I was going to run solo then I was going to run SOLO. No music, no pacer, no nothing. I had something to prove to myself. That I, could in fact run 3.1 miles on my own. In my own strength. With nothing but my own mind for company.
Once the starting gun fired we were off. Unlike my last race, I found myself at the start of the pack. A quarter mile in, as the runners settled into their pace, I ended up smack dab in the middle. Not quite fast. Not quite slow. Somewhere in runner’s limbo.
I was running alone. The fastest runners within eye sight. The slower group growing in distance behind. My mind took over. Distracted by the humidly cold weather attacking my lungs threatening an asthma attack. Six months ago I stopped treating my asthma with prescription drugs; opting for a more natural approach. This race day was supposed to be sunny, clear and warm. Instead it was cloudy, wet and cold. An asthmatic’s worst nightmare. I knew that if I was going to finish the race controlling my breath was going to be my biggest battle. Controlling my breath meant focusing my mind.
The first thing that came to mind was the alphabet. Silently reciting my ABC’S has gotten me through a lot of difficult times. A silly little song that everyone knows. Takes under thirty seconds to remember. That’s just enough time for some refocusing. In that moment I decided to use the alphabet as the outline for my race. Starting with A, I thought of every person I knew whose name began with that letter. Amy, Amara, Andria, Aimee….each person that had contributed in some way to the person I am today. I thought of former friends and acquaintances, family members, strangers, role models, lovers. Ben, Bethany, Brian, Brandon, Chad, Camren, Colby, Drew, Emily… Relationships of great growth and horrific heartache. Monumental moments. Milestones. People and places. I stayed on each letter until at least one person came to mind. Even if that meant having to think of a fictional character from a book or movie that I loved. Geico, that little gecko! My insurance company….Frieda, grandma frieda….Lynn, Larry, Malachi, Michael, Mom….I kept naming. I kept running. About the half way point I ended up getting a little lost and looped around an area twice adding a bit of mileage to my race. Time was irrelevant. I hadn’t a clue how far I had run or how much time had passed or how fast I was running. It didn’t matter anymore. I was running for me. R, Rachel….I paused on that one for a bit. I’d spent so much time focusing on others and how much they had done for me. I hadn’t ever really thought about all that I’d done for myself. Images of self-
growth and healing appeared. I recalled past pivotal choices. Moving out, stepping down from management, writing my book, running, getting a gym membership, coming to yoga, dropping out of school. Each choice a choice I made for me. No one else. ME. There I dwelt for a bit. Reveling in the woman I had worked so hard to become. There was no way I was going to give up. Not just this race. Not just today. Ever. Never. Never ever. Months of hard work had brought me to this point. A lot of hurt had brought a lot of healing. I found another part of myself Saturday. The part left underestimated by most. My will. My determination. My soul.
Life doesn’t get easier. You get stronger. And look at how strong you are Rachel. You did this. YOU. Shortly after, my mama passed me. We high-fived in passing. A little bit further down the road I passed Ben running the half-marathon loop. Another heartfelt high-five. More half marathon runners passed. All smiling. All shouting encouragement. These people are crazy. They still have another ten miles to go and are hardly out of breath while I am doing my best not to have an asthma attack. Wow. If that’s not inspirational I don’t know what is.
Needless to say, I was blown away by the support. Complete strangers cheering me on. Perhaps seeing a bit of their former self in me. Recognizing that each runner is at a different place. A unique pace. A position all their own. Shawn, Sarah, Sandy….Victoria…. Soon the finish line was in sight. I was certain that I had already been out there longer than my goal time. Then I heard a voice shouting “Beat that forty minute mark!!” Forty minutes?? What the– Sure enough I was going to beat my former race time. I took off hitting the marker at 39:27.
Blown away by my improvement. My previous time of 42:00 just a month ago. I took a moment to cool down before running back to find my mom who was still walking the 3.1 miles.
We walked together for the last half mile. Celebrated a day of first over apples and vitamin water. Then waited at the finish line for Ben to cross with a time of 01:45:00. Beating his goal by 15 minutes with an eight minute mile pace!
We all finished strong.
Each at our own place of improvement.
Couldn’t have asked for a better race day. Thank you for your support and encouragement. A kind word or genuine interest can go a long way. My next race is June 16th. A Five K trail run. Ben’s next race is June 1st. This will be his first marathon in South Bend. Keep reading for updates. And as always, THANK YOU 🙂