Recently I started thinking about my running and racing history. To date, I’ve ran two 5k’s, a 10k, a 10 miler, a 15k, 40 half marathons and one marathon. This is all within the last 20 years. I ran on my elementary school’s track team but after that only ran for fun until I finished graduate school and had settled into my life as an adult.
My first race as an adult was a 5k. There was certainly nothing particularly memorable about it, even though it was my first race, but I do remember certain details about it. It was on July 4 and it was in the evening but it was still hot and humid, as one would predict. Probably the biggest thing I got out of that race was the desire to do more. I began running more and more races with longer distances.
I wanted to run a marathon by the time I turned 30. I ran the Long Beach Marathon when I was 31 years old so I wasn’t off by much. Just training for the race was like having a part-time job, with all of the time I spent running. After I would run for my longest runs of up to 18-20 miles I would be totally wiped out for hours afterward. The worst of it was I felt like I was always either sick or injured. My immune system was being compromised and my body just couldn’t take all of the pounding on the roads. The Long Beach Marathon leads me to my top five most memorable running experiences.
1. The day of the Long Beach Marathon in California was unseasonably hot when I ran it. It was in the 80’s and people were quite literally dropping out of the race all around me, passing out from the extreme heat. I must have been severely dehydrated myself because I experienced tunnel vision, where I had no peripheral vision; I could only see straight ahead of me, with only blackness in my periphery. When that started, I did what any stubborn runner like me would do and walk. I knew if I stopped moving that would be the end and I would drop out. I did not want my first marathon to be a DNF (did not finish). Somehow I managed to keep it together and crossed the finish line. The first words I said to my husband were, “I don’t ever want to do that again.” And I didn’t. Instead I choose to stick to half marathons. While the Long Beach Marathon may not be a pleasant memory for me given the race conditions, I still felt a sense of accomplishment just for finishing it and it’s definitely one of my most memorable races.
2. My fastest half marathon was at Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state. By this point I thought I had probably peaked as far as my finish times but I proved that even someone in their 40’s can still PR! The course was slightly downhill but not so much that it felt pounding on my quads. The race began at the top of Spearfish Canyon and finished at the bottom, basically. I remember running through the canyon thinking, “This is so amazing that I get to run through this! How many people get to do this?” Running that race felt like a privilege indeed. Perhaps my positive attitude effected my time as well.
3. Vermont was my first foray into the New England states and I was instantly in love with the area. Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont-9th state. This was a hilly race for sure but it was one where the people running around me gave off such positive vibes that it was one of the most fun and memorable races I’ve ran. I remember many times during the race that people would crack jokes and everyone around would laugh out loud. Vermont is one of the greenest states I’ve ever seen as far as the trees and grass. The course runs through lovely green pastures and fields and is truly beautiful. Plus, as you might guess from the name of the race, you get to run through or past several covered bridges.
4. The only time I’ve won first place in my age group was at the Roller Coaster Half Marathon, Missouri- 32nd state. The course wasn’t particularly scenic, but it wasn’t bad. It was two loops, which I certainly wasn’t crazy about but in hindsight it was kind of good to know exactly what I was in for the second time around. When I finished, my husband (who is not a runner and is my photographer and support crew along with my daughter) said, “I think we should stick around for the awards ceremony.” I said, “Really? OK.” When they gave the award for second place in my age group, I said to my daughter, “I remember passing her.” My husband replied, “What does that tell you?” Tears started to well up in my eyes. As I type this, tears are starting to well up again, honestly. Then the announcer called my name as the first place female in my age group and it was all I could do not to cry like a baby. I was shocked. I was elated. I felt so incredibly proud and yet humble at the same time, if that makes sense. This was definitely a highlight of racing for me.
5. When I signed up my daughter for Girls on the Run (see my post on that here Girls on the Run Interview), a running group that introduces girls to running and healthy lifestyles, culminating in a 5k, she had a love/hate relationship with running. She would say she’d want to go running with me but when we got out, she’d whine and complain how hard it was until ultimately we ended up walking or just going back home. I always told her we would go completely at her pace, too, so I definitely wasn’t pushing her. The frustrating part of it for me was I could see the potential in her as a runner. She’s a natural. She’s one of those people that just looks like a gazelle when she runs. However, she could not see the potential in herself, that is, until she started running with other girls in the Girls on the Run program. I could see her confidence gradually gaining and by the time of the 5k she had completely changed her attitude. I remember being so proud of my daughter when we ran the Girls on the Run 5k together and thinking that someday we may even run a half marathon together. How cool would that be?
What are your most memorable races?