I love running.
It is true; I am one of those crazy people that love to go out for a jog. There is nothing better than putting on my running gear, lacing up my brightly colored Asics, attaching a Garmin watch to my wrist and placing the ear buds with my specially designed running playlist pumping through them in my ears. Stepping outside in the early morning with the sun just over the horizon and breathing in the cool fresh air. As the sun starts to peak over the roof tops and filter through the leaves, I get those last few minute stretches in while the Garmin locates satellites. It is the feeling that it is just me against the world. After playing team sports, such as softball and soccer all through high school, it is a nice change of pace to only depend on my capabilities.
If I have a great run, it is because I put in the sweat and training hours. Every once in a while, I have a bad run and I cannot put that blame on a fellow team member. A bad run only motivates me to become a stronger and better runner. However, even a bad run is better than no run.
The feeling of waking up on a race day brings back memories of competing in a softball or soccer game. The competitiveness spurs down in the pit of my stomach. However, the only opponent I am competing against is a previous time I have set. To me, there are no losers in a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon. Everybody who took time to put in training hours, lace up their shoes and hit the pavement that morning is already a winner. However, my goal is to always improve on my time or, in the least, stay consistent.
It has been a struggle getting back into running shape after having a baby. Also, I may have been too ambitions to lose the baby weight as fast as possible. None the less, I completed my first half marathon nine and half months after having a baby. The feeling of crossing the finish line with dad, while my husband and son cheered us on, will be a memory that I will cherish forever. The runners high felt so strong that I decided to sign up for a second half marathon five weeks later. All I had to do was maintain my running stamina for a few more weeks and the half should be a piece of cake.
As the weeks inched closer, the weather took a turn from beautiful fall weather to bitter cold. The dawn of my much anticipated half rose to a meekly 12 degrees. By the time I was expecting to finish the race, the temps should have jumped to a whopping 18 degrees. My feeling of competitiveness that morning disappeared and it was replaces by hesitation. Never had I completed a race in these bitter cold temperatures, let alone run three miles. Luckily, my husband and dad braved the cold weather to cheer me on and provide words of encouragement.
The race started out like any other race that I have ran. Once the crowd had finished counting down, us runners jolted forward only to be slowed down to a walk until we crossed the starting line. Puffs of white clouds emitted for the lips of all the runners are we started our first few steps. During this time, I spotted a woman in a bright pink running jacket that I deemed to be my pace girl. I could tell she was slightly faster than me and if I could keep her in my sights, whether she knew it or not, she was going to motivate me to run my best. Shortly after completing the first mile, I felt a slapping against my leg and found my left shoe had come untied. I veered off to my right, unclenched my pink and black gloved fist and tried to tie my shoe as fast as my numb fingers would allow. It was a relief to look up and spot that bright pink jacket was still in catching up distance. I closed the gap and felt great doing so. As the first water stop approached, I looked down at my Garmin and noticed that it was only 1.6 miles into the race. With this water stop being so early on, I decided to skip it and hit the next one a few miles away. Bright pink jacket girl had also skipped the first water stop. I knew that I would have to stop at the next water stop, and by the time I approached it, I notice there was a line of runners waiting for water. There were two volunteers trying to pour water as fast as possible, but with it being so cold outside, the water was partly frozen. During the wait, I decided that if water breaks were going to be this backed up, I was not going complete my time goal so I should just run for fun. After I chugged my half frozen water, I threw the small green Gatorade cup to the side and took off running. The wait for water was long enough for my sweat to freeze over. Therefore, as I took up jogging and realizing that I lost bright pink jacket girl, the immense cold hit me. This race was not going to be as fast and easy as I was expecting it to be.
From looking at the elevation map, I knew that mile six through seven was going to be all up hill. Normally, hills are a nuisance but not horrible. There has always been a sense of accomplishment after running up a long hard hill. The only feeling I felt after completing the mile long hill was pain. From the intense below freezing temperatures, my knees and hips became stiff and painful. I was beyond grateful to see my husband and dad cheering me on around the nine mile marker that it gave me a boost of confidence that I needed. That confidence, however, quickly ran out two miles later when the stabbing pain in my joints won and I had to slow down to a walk. Not only are my goals to improve my time or stay consistent, I also never try and walk unless visiting a water station. My knees, hips and left thigh were so broken down that I could not run another step. For the next mile and a half, I alternated between jogging and walking. My husband and dad met me along the trail with a quarter of a mile left and ran with me to the finish line. It is another memorable finish that I will always remember.
Today, a day after this hard and painful run, I am sore all over and discovered that I have pulled a groin muscle. I will never look down on a football player that decides to sit on a bench instead of playing through a muscle ache. The most valuable lesson that I learned from this experience, is that no matter how much I love running, I hate running in 12 degree weather. If I ever sign up for a race and the weather decides to take a dip, I will pick up my t-shirt and stay in my cozy warm bed come race morning!