from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

giving thanks

I did not mean to enter a race anytime soon, not while feeling every day when I run that I can barely run whatever I run. But I knew from her blog that traveler 022 was coming to New Mexico for the holiday, and had signed up for a Thanksgiving 5K. I thought it cool she combined the feast with a race. Giving thanks is fueled by emotion, emotion is energy, and energy is a good place to run. I knew this when I entered the 4th of July 5K, my first race ever – I ran on gratitude, gratitude that I was living here, that I was American. And I placed in my age group – so amazing.

It occurred to me, due to traveler 022 (thank you), that I could run the Turkey Trek 5K as well, nothing was stopping me, except inertia and the issue of cooking, but I could start cooking the night before, couldn’t I? Well, there was more.

I dread races.

I only run two so far, the 5K in July and the half-marathon in September, and each time I pushed myself so hard that running became a nightmare. Not that I planned to. It was as if someone took over, someone who wanted to get there fast, and did not care my body could not keep up. I am scared of that, scared of the violence done to my body. Call me a whimp... whatever.

But I went to Fleet Feet anyhow, and signed up the evening before the race, feeling like an outsider among all those people who liked running and knew what they liked. Or was it among people who knew running, and liked what they knew?

The sun shone bright over the mountain range in a cool and glorious morning. A balloon took off with the American flag waving over us while the anthem played, and it was a moment of incredible beauty. I cried. Okay, so I am a silly goose.

The starting line was 50 yards long – people of all ages and colors, people with babies, people with dogs, walkers with strollers, runners with strollers, runners with double strollers, people in wheelchairs. 1,500 people. It became clear soon enough this was as much a fun race as it was a competition, and that relaxed me somewhat. I did not need to push myself.

It took 5-10 seconds after the GO before I could even take the first step, and that first step and many afterwards were not running. Then the crowd loosened up and I ran. I knew all the time I was running for sheer running. It was only yards before the finish line when I tried to push myself, and I realized I could not because all the way through I had run at my utmost capability. 29:52. If it were not for the slacking start, I could have almost PR-ed. That is incredible.

Someone took over again. Someone steering blindly ahead in my body, shut off from thought, oblivious to pain and intent. Someone running. I do not know if there is a runner in me after all. Or if that is the animal in me.

Too many people sprinkled the field to allow for finding traveler 022. I asked the coordinator more than once to page her through the loudspeaker, but the timing must have been wrong, because we did not find each other. About the only other way she could have recognized me in the exuberant crowd was that I seemed to be the only one alone there. Pathetic, I know.

But walking aimlessly through the grass, taking off damp layers of clothing, dizzy with exertion, happy it was over, still unable to think straight, I felt, in spite of loneliness, utterly alive.

I am grateful today, again. I am confused as to who I am, but I am grateful for what I have.


At 8:04 AM, Blogger Black Knight said...

What a pity, the crowd didn't allow your PR but you ran under the 30 minutes: good job. Don't worry, you will find your friend at the start of your first amazing and unforgettable marathon! Go Lia!

At 8:18 AM, Blogger Running by.... said...

I agree with Black Knight--It was a great run, especially since you didn't
really expect to run it in the first place.


At 7:04 AM, Blogger TX Runner Girl said...

Great job on the race...our Turkey Trot here is the same way - too crowded!

At 5:18 PM, Blogger traveler022 said...

Glad we finally met! Great description of the race and your running. You are a runner, you are part of the running community ("insider")! Every time I see someone run, I like spying on them...their form, what they are wearing, listening to music or not(collecting data), and I secretly whisper to myself, I am one of them, too:).

I've gone back and read some of your older posts. You write very well, very articulate.

I know we will meet again, maybe next Thanksgiving, if not sooner.

At 7:06 PM, Blogger backofpack said...

Running just for the running - for that alive, worked-hard, sweaty, sweet feeling. That's why I run. I love the crowd, I love the energy. I love all the heights, weights, body shapes. The running clothes, the smiles, the seriousness. I love it all. Runners, and that includes you(!!) are the best.

At 9:36 PM, Blogger robtherunner said...

Great report. It has been quite some time since I have cried at a race, but those are the ones that usually mean the most to me. Whether it be because I had worked so hard and accomplished what I set out to, or I was so badly beaten and so happy to be finished, or if the emotion of watching others accomplish what seems impossible, whatever the reason is, the emotion is what keeps me wanting that experience. Looking for that "1st marathon" exuberance is what keeps me coming back for more, partially at least.


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