I began writing this when it was 49 degrees last weekend. It's equally cool now. But Sunday 9/11 when I ran the 30th City of Lakes 25K, it was in the high 70s, reaching close to 90 by the afternoon. I suppose I could have made this blog about the 10th "anniversary" of 9/11--but all I want to say about that is listen to the This American Life Episode on "Ten Years In".
The run for me was not about anniversaries--30th, 10th, or otherwise. It was much more selfish initially. It was only about making it. My goal was to finish and to have something left over in my body to run 26.2 three weeks later (just over a week from now!). This would be accomplished by taking it easy and being happy with a 9 minute mile pace over the 15.5 miles. I started off planning not to go too hard, considering the marathons past and future. I was okay with my 8:15 first mile. I was more worried about the mental toll of two loops around the two lakes, Harriet and Calhoun. These two lakes I have been running around since I began running in 1992 (jesu--that's almost 20 years of running for me!). That, and while family members have accused me of being a misanthrope, I do admit I am easily distracted by people around me. Thankfully, around mile 3, I fell into a rhythm with another female runner. After a half mile or so, I felt it would be anti-social not to acknowledge our shared space and pace. So I made some comment about that phenomenon. This led to more queries about how many long races she had done, what her goals were, what she did for a living, and so on. By mile 4, I had learned Andrea and I were both Iowans, that she worked for a non-profit in Minneapolis now, but had attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, and had never done a marathon. She was hoping to finish with an 8:30 average pace. I invited her to look up the Mississippi Road Runners, and sang the praises of having training partners and making running fun. We passed over four miles together, alternately chatting and focusing on mile markers. While we didn't end up finishing together, those four miles were easily the best of the race for me. Not because they were especially fast, but because they were meaningful. I felt like I was sharing the experience with someone, and getting to know someone new, even if (as is likely) I will never see Andrea again.
Maybe you have noticed this recurring theme of sociability and sharing in my blogs. I've written about training with my twin, positively pushing competitors in the Sturgis half-marathon, and sharing a long run with a good friend this fall. I've befriended fellow runners on airplanes, as I did flying to San Francisco.
The race itself wasn't all that great for me or my Mississippi Road Runner teammates. It was hot, and there was cramping, chafing, and dehydration. As a team, we came in last among women teams, and I was the slowest of all. So what's the point? I achieved my goal--I finished in 2:15, an 8:43 pace. But even at the end, I had to remind myself not to be selfish. My mom was there, just a few meters from the finish. I had cramped up (the first time ever in a race!) the very last half mile. Whatever she shouted at me, I did not want to hear then. I had to get my inner honey badger under control. As Randall says, "the honey badger don't care, the honey badger don't give a shit."
But the thing is, we aren't honey badgers. So I reminded myself why my mom was there (she loves me, supports me, and is proud of me, despite my proclivity to selfishness). This race wasn't just for me--it was for a lot of people, whether or not I know them. It was to get to know people like Andrea, and teach us to support each other. It was for teammates, and for 9/11/01. It was for loved ones cheering all the runners on, because, well, races are microcosms of life.