I’ll Race You

I stood slightly hunched over with a concentrated anticipation. My ears rang a little from the clamor of the crowd. I might have appeared poised and ready -in a solid runner’s stance- but my legs were all wobbly. My heart felt as if it would convulse right out of my chest. My mouth was dry like the desert in June.

Clearly, I was out of my league, surrounded by collegiate looking athletes- the kind that run a sub 4 minute mile. All I could think was: “What were you thinking, signing up for this wave of the race? Remember, this is just a personal goal thing. Don’t kill yourself. Ignore the fact that you are in a sea of 20-somethings who are literally going to leave you in the dust.”

POP! The gun startled me even though I was ready for it. The mass of amped up humanity moved together– but only for the first 30 seconds- to complete this one-mile race. It would be over in less time than it takes to eat lunch.

By the first corner, I realized that most of the pack had passed me. When I rounded the second corner, into the straightaway, I saw an almost empty street.  My heart sank.  Was I really going as slow as that?

My legs were feeling like the legs of a Barbie doll- rubbery and stiff. Then before I could process what was happening, they buckled under me. I almost fell to the ground if not for the arm of a friend that held me up. She looked at me worried and said that I should quit. Determined, I stood.  I would keep going. (Hey, my stubbornness has to count for something, right?!) 🙂

For the next minute or two, all I remember is seeing people cross the street in front of me, acting as if the race was over, the ringing in my ears- the kind you hear when you are about to pass out, my parched throat and the burning in my chest.

But as I rounded the next corner and finally the last, my eyes saw what I came for- the finish line. I had to gather every ounce of strength to cross it and I prayed that I would not be the very last to do so.

At  9:39, I finished the one-mile loop, fourth from the last runner. Exhausted. Depleted. Weak. Embarrassed. Perplexed. It was one mile and I totally bombed it.

What happened that day, I am still unsure of. I had trained for weeks and hoped to achieve a personal goal time. I felt prepared, but failed. My mind said yes, but my body said no.

Even though it didn’t feel like it at the moment, I realize that I did achieve what I set out to do-run the mile race. It just did not happen the way I expected it to. Did I fail? No. I finished after collapsing. I competed against myself that day- and WON!

Lessons were learned that I have not forgotten.

~ No matter how prepared you are, sometimes things do not go as planned. Readjust your expectations for the moment you are in.

~ Trying with all your might at something doesn’t always bring about what you thought it would, but realize that success has many faces.

~ You can do more than you think you can when push comes to shove.

~ Comparing ourselves with others is a dangerous and often destructive tool. It strips us of being able to recognize the value of our own accomplishments.

~ If you run, make sure you sign up for the wave of the race where all the other 30-something, moms (with hip diseases) are so you are in the company of 9-12 minute milers instead of sub 4-ers!