“If you never have a ‘bad’ day, you’re probably doing something wrong. If you never have a ‘good’ day, you’re definitely doing something wrong.” – Mark Remy
This past Saturday, for the second year in a row, I participated in the Runitlikeamom relay team for the Hartford Marathon, running the final 5.7 mile segment to cross the finish line.
My attitude, pre-race, was like, eh…I run some, I’m strong, I can just do this. No biggie. I knew I wasn’t going to have to hit the pavement until sometime between 11:00 and 11:30am, so I knew I’d have plenty of time to warm up and get energized. My pre-race schedule went something like this:
Friday (I took the day off from work)
7-8am: Get kids up and on the bus.
8-11am: Fold laundry, do laundry, pack up some of the kids’ stuff and 2,304 snacks because they were leaving for the weekend.
11am – 1pm: Pack up more of their stuff, start loading the minivan in a calm and organized fashion.
1pm-2:30pm: Kids arrive home after early release from school. Yell at them for an hour to get their toothbrushes and stuffed animals and books and tablets and shoes together. Stop loading the van in an organized manner and just start chucking their crap in it.
2:30pm: Lots of hugs and kisses to my littles as they depart.
2:31pm: Wow it’s quiet. Let’s get some work done.
5:30pm: What am I going to eat?
6:30pm: Stop dorking around on social media and eat!
7:30pm: Eat pasta with plain grilled chicken and an apple. My gut is notoriously unpredictable, but I know this will keep everything in check.
8:00pm: Should I have a glass of wine? Hmmm…I probably shouldn’t since I have to get up so early.
10:30pm: Yeah I probably shouldn’t have had that glass of wine. Or the second one. Set the alarm for 5:45am. Then decide to create my running playlist.
11 – 11:59pm: Toss and turn, wondering why I can hear Pickles (the hamster) running on his wheel in the other room as loudly as if he were right next to me.
12 – 4am: Tossing and turning continues. Tempted to turn on the white noise machine to drown out Pickles and his nighttime hamster-ing, but fear of oversleeping prevents me from doing so.
4 – 5:50am: Stare at the ceiling.
5:50 – 6:30am: Get up. Make coffee. Drink coffee. Don my running outfit. Debate about the footwear and inserts. Stuff a granola bar into my pocket, get water, try to do something cute with my hair, abandon that effort and pull it into the usual frizzy ponytail.
6:30 – 7:45am: Fast forward through the drive into Hartford, meeting up with my Runit sisters and getting on the bus to South Windsor, where my relay leg starts.
8 am: Arrive at our drop off point. Exit bus and walk the ½ mile to the relay point.
8 – 11:30-ish: Spent a lot of time standing around, wishing I could take a quick nap. Bonded with Relay Leg #4 runner about our kids, work, life and running. Realized there are a lot of commonalities between us, and we were strangers to each other just a few hours ago! There were a few minutes of distraction and a flurry of text messages when Runner #2 and #3 couldn’t find each other at the crowded hand off point.
11:30-ish: Relay Leg #4 runner is in my sight! We give a high five and I’m off! Running through the countryside! My allergies kick up immediately and I become a coughing/snotting/spitting mess.
11:30-ish – 12:39: I ran. I walked a little because the “rolling hills” wanted me to. I accepted water at the stations, threw an entire cup in the trash when I thought I was getting water but actually got a cup of generic cola (WHY???), and then kind of almost gagged when I tried to ingest a Gu packet. I did slow down and take some pictures, because I could. I waved to people who were watching from the road, high-fived policemen and other race observers, picked up my pace and smiled when I spotted the race photographers on the bridge crossing over into Hartford, and when I finally turned the corner to the finish line, I heard my name being called out! Emily and Devonna (Runners #3 and #4) were there cheering me on, and seeing their faces gave me the lift I needed to keep moving and cross that finish line. (Authors’ note: I have seen several other finisher photos, with the runners looking happy and triumphant crossing the finish line. In my photos, I look like I’m about to punch somebody. Maybe myself.)
12:39 – 2pm: We picked up our medals and other race swag, we had beers, took pictures, and enjoyed the warmth and the sunshine. Because Runners #1 – #4 were speedy, and despite the loss of time at Relay point #3 and my slow speed, we finished with a 10:40 pace.
So maybe 5.7 miles doesn’t sound like a big deal. And it shouldn’t be. But it was to me. Because of my lack of sleep and training, nearly every step felt like a monumental effort. I was disappointed in myself and got way to into my own head. I knew I could do better, go faster, but my body just wasn’t feeling it, and I felt like I was letting everyone down. Even though I had an energizing playlist in my ears, my brain was on a constant loop of “you suck, give up, go home”. What salvaged the run for me was the amount of energy provided by all of the people who were there as I entered the city. Seeing complete strangers clap and tell me “You got this!” and “You’re almost there!” was so uplifting and motivating that it made the end of the run go by so quickly. And seeing my teammates right before the finish line made my heart swell with gratitude. Despite the look on my face crossing the finish line, there were happy and triumphant tears in my eyes.
This time, I swear, I have learned my lesson. This is the last time I’m going into a running event undertrained. I can be a better runner and not a self-loathing one. I can train my body to run farther and faster, and I can train my brain to believe in myself and turn “I can’t” into “I WILL”. What’s next? Well, I have at least one, hopefully two, 5K races before the end of the year. I joined a ½ marathon training and accountability group that kicks off next week, and I registered for a ½ marathon at the end of May and am seriously thinking about participating in one April. I am going to be tossing all of my I’m-too-busy-with-work-and-parenting-and-other-responsibilities excuses out the window. I’ve toyed with this running thing for far too long, so I’m digging deep and making the commitment. C’mere running, I need to give you a hug. You’re mine now.