I was jumping up and down like a lunatic as Grace, Byram, and my mom headed for the finish chute. Grace declined the stroller; she walked the loop around. No, they didn’t make two loops for a mile, but Grace was running for all her size 9 feet could carry her into the chute.
She was Supergirl. That costume and her blonde hair won her a cute little Build-a-Bear (which is English for expensive) and a family pass to the Children’s Museum of Richmond for a year, valued at $125. For a costume bought 75% off after Halloween, that was a pretty nice prize. Her daddy was The Bat, the Dark Knight, Batman, of course.
My mom stayed in town for the event, which I greatly appreciated. She and Grace posed with Wonderwoman:
My stomach was in complete butterflies at 8:50 when I hear them call for the 5k runners to line up. I based my starting place on what others around me were wearing. Anyone with a Richmond Road Runners badge or arm band was too advanced for me. Anyone in really high tech should be ahead of me. Anyone in more costume than running gear was probably a walker. I figured I should start ahead of anyone pushing a stroller (boy was I wrong about that guess, though). I picked an area about 2/3rds of the distance to the back of the crowd.
I caught Mom looking for my attention in the crowd. Shortly after that, I got really nervous. Everyone seemed very relaxed, talking to their friends around them. I was by myself and it was my first go. Rather than listen to the MC chatter towards the final countdown, I put in my headphones and sank into Jack White and Alicia Keyes crooning “Another Way to Die” at me. I could hear and see enough to know when it was time to go.
It turned out I probably could have started farther up. I spent the first quarter of a mile weaving in and around slower paced runners than myself, but once we got out on a major (closed) road, I had plenty of room and found my pace. I targeted a Richmond Road Runner about 15 feet ahead of me and matched her very comfortable pace and paced with her for about 2.5 miles. What can I say about those miles that passed below my trainers? The first mile passed far too slowly. I was bored. I was already fantasizing about a triumphant sprint to the finish, mile-wide smile plastered across my face as I ran into the arms of my beloved. Getting into the second mile, I could see runners who had made the U-turn, heading back. I cheered them in my heart; the real competitors. I fantasized about being one of them in the future. The U-turn finally arrived. Like an incredible goober, I high-fived the 4 volunteers standing their directing us and yelled “Thank you” to the Henrico police officer preventing traffic from Parham Road from intruding on our temporary territory. He waved and probably thought “Heh, I am getting paid time and a half to sit here…” The U-turn was not the half-way point. We had a little detour through a commercial/industrial park. I bypassed the water station because just before I extended my hand to accept the Gatorade offering, I had the thought “What if it isn’t the sugar-free kind???” The idea of swallowing fully sugared Gatorade and then suffering that unique experience called Dumping Syndrome made me change my mind and decline their well-intentioned offering.
As I was hauling along, I passed a red line and in huge red spray painted markings read 2 mi. It took my brain longer to register what that meant than it should have. I had completed 2 miles. A quick check on my wristwatch, currently functioning as a stop watch showed a time of 19 minutes and then some. I could have cartwheeled; well, not really. I had run two miles under 20 minutes.
I completed the little side-trip into the commercial park, and headed back along the main road. I admit at 23:40, I had to slow to a walk. I walked until 24:00, only 20 seconds and picked up the pace again.
The last half mile was brutal. There was no way on God’s green earth I would be walking across that finish line, and for me, the finish line became any point where spectators could possibly see me. That was a long half mile. I remember very little. I do remember Ronald McDonald cheering me on as I approached within 500 feet of the finish line. I probably haven’t mentioned here before, but clowns and I….well, we don’t get along. I wouldn’t make eye contact with him. The first familiar face I saw was our friend Fritz, cheering me on like crazy, taking pictures. Again, I didn’t make eye contact because I was getting a little emotional between the adrenaline and the appreciation for his presence. I found my mom in the crowd, taking pictures, but now I was focused on the red digital clock ahead of me. At the last second, I managed to locate Byram and Grace in the crowd cheering me on, and I tried to flash them a smile, but I was sprinting with whatever I had left and aiming for chute directly ahead of me.
I never actually saw the red finish line painted on the ground. I didn’t realize I had finished until race volunteers were telling me I could slow down. My thanks to them. I had read not to slow to a walk in the chute which might slow the runners behind me, and I was trying to be a good, etiquette-conscious racer, so I just kept going. At the end of the chute, I was emotional, excited, a little disappointed since I had seen the number I had come in under (and it wasn’t under 30 minutes as I had fantasized about during that first mile, so long before).
I sat on the grass and cried and laughed at the same time. It was awesome. It was fun. It was exhausting. I couldn’t wait to do it again. I couldn’t believe I had done it in the first place.
My family came around the corner of the crowd and gave me hugs and congratulations.
All told, our World’s Finest Team raised over $400 for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to support their efforts to protect and stand up for abused and neglected children. We came up with a plan just over 2 weeks ago, raised the money, and ran the race. I couldn’t be more proud and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Next year, you might even get me in a costume.