“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is by trampling it beneath your feet.”
I have run too many races to count. Most of them occurred in the three years following the birth of Alexa, my second. It started with training for the Disneyland Half-Marathon (all on a dreadmill, I might add, as I needed to stay close to home with a new baby), and culminated when I was doing at least one race a month with two half-marathons at one point only one week apart.
Whew! That wasn’t that long ago, and already I feel old.
In all that time, however, I had never done what is considered American as apple pie:
The Turkey Trot.
A way for us to justify the intake of unforgivable amounts of calorie-laden carb plates followed by numerous delectible desserts ingested vigorously and copiously despite our already-full bellies begging us to stop. . .
There was a choice between a 5, 10, or 15k. 5k seemed too easy. 15k was reserved for when I had gotten actual training for a distance run (I save that for the Hot Chocolate Run). That left the 10k.
So, I signed up for the middle ground. Yup! A 10k should do the trick.
6.2 miles? Pshaw.
Except that my friend Elise, who had suggested joining her in this annual race (since there are, like, a billion to choose from), failed to mention the hills on this run.
Well, okay. I’m sorry. I’m throwing her under the bus, here.
It was only one. One huge, never-ending hill.
And I had to overhear this information from a stranger. On the way up.
Damn you Elise. I’d smack you on the wrist if you weren’t a blur going past (she like, places and stuff. My turn to brag that I have awesome friends like that).
So, ok. My journey:
First Mile-Two Miles
This is usually when I catch my pace.
The first five minutes are spent feeling awesome, all at one with the group, holding on to the vibe of my tribe: the crazies out at the crack of dawn, all standing shivering at attention while a recorded National Anthem heads up the starting gun. All trying to dodge one another to gain enough area around themselves so that they feel ahead of the pack. Or else so they can hear their Justin Timberlake playlist in peace without being elbowed or stepped on.
By the second mile, though, I haven’t quite caught my pace and I feel like, “Why the hell did I do this, again? Oh, right . . .Elise.”
I have to say at this point: that when I run, I am a purist. No headphones, no gimmicks. I do, however, appreciate very much the mile markers along the route.
Running can be a head game. You see a “3” ahead of you, and know you have just over halfway to go. Especially helpful when running anything over 10 miles. You can break it down to, “Only a 5k left . . .only a 5k left . . .what’s a 5k? A friggin’ warm-up . . .” It becomes your mantra that helps you through the “wall.”
Unfortunately, there were no markers on this route, save the points at which the shorter races got to either detour or be turned around. So much for my mind games.
And I got a new kind of race puritanism. Just running till it’s done.
Here came The Hill. Capitalized because it deserves it’s own time zone.
Fortunately for me, I’ve been practicing hills in my Orangetheory class runs. So, I didn’t have to slow down, I didn’t feel tremendous pressure on my legs.
Matter of fact: halfway up, I couldn’t feel my legs at all.
My mantra was renewed at this point: Damn you, Elise. Alternating with: No one running with a stroller or dressed in a unicorn costume is going to beat me.
Oh, yes. When you run in themed races, people love to sparkle in tutus. There is a virtual cornucopia of wild accessories: headbands, crazy costumes. These always make you giggle at the start of the race, but somewhere towards the middle you want to beat them senseless as they deftly pass you. You silently mock them when you see them taking a walk break on the side of the pavement, if in fact you do (which I did- take that unicorn man!). I used to be a stroller person people used to curse, so now I curse them while admiring their strength. They just better not pass me blasting Jonas Brothers music from their kid’s player stashed beneath snacks and binkies.
At the top of the hill (finally!) we turn around and come back the way we came. All. Downhill.
Whoo woo! Right? Let those legs fly!
But at the bottom when it leveled out, my numb legs (now numb from the jarring sensation of coming down at need-to-make-it-up speed) had to fight to the finish. And I’m now passing the walking 5kers. But just barely.
I hear a couple of them murmur, “That’s a brown bib. I think that’s the 10k . . .”
Which helps my ego. But doesn’t seem to push my speed. . .where is the damn finish?!
Damn you, Elise.
Usually, at the end of a race there is a straightaway to the finish, where you suddenly can kick it in to gear and “finish strong.” At least, you can hear music or cheering that lets you know it’s coming.
I turned a corner, and suddenly I had about 50 feet to the end. Whoops! Finish strong!
BAM! Finally done! First Turkey Trot in the books!
Since the runners in the 10k had thinned out somewhat by the end, I thought maaaaybe I might have medalled this time. . .?
Nope. 6th in my age group. Not even close.
Elise got 2nd. Of course she did.
What an absolutely awesome way to start the day. All in all, a challenging race, a great experience, and now that I’m done I am totally hitting the turkey. Guilt free. Ha!
And for that . . .I gave my amazing friend a huge sweaty hug and a whole lot of thanks.
Damn you Elise. I am totally doing it again next year.