What do you do when you really don’t feel ready?
What a silly question. You go out and give it your best shot of course. See what happens.
And sometimes, it just all comes together.
Saturday night. I go to bed but I don’t sleep at all. Truth be told I’m upset. I’d entered a (non-running related) competition which had taken place earlier that day. I didn’t even place top three and I really thought I had a shot at the top spot. It had yanked me back down to reality. Which can be a cruel place to sit sometimes. The competition plays itself out over and over again, one million times over in my head.
Sunday morning. Finally the alarm goes off and finally, thankfully, that awful loop shuts off. I focus my thoughts on what I’m supposed to do today. I’m supposed to race a 10km race. But I know that I shouldn’t expect anything from it. That’s what I tell myself. I tell myself that because I don’t feel ready. I’m exhausted.
The morning starts off oddly. Waiting at our bus stop, my husband and I are offered a ride from a stranger in black sedan, who’s just pulled over and is motioning us inside his car. He’s an elderly gentleman, seems friendly. My husband accepts. I follow. In my head a new loop has started. It goes something like ‘don’t take rides from strangers’. But we have a nice chat and are deposited downtown 10 minutes later, very close to the start line of the race we’re to run this sunny Sunday.
Thanks to our unexpected ride, we have time to kill. Starbucks is a great place to kill time. It happens the Starbucks we choose to sit in is mere feet away from the start line. I can see the blue balloons that mark the elite corral directly opposite me. In front of that, there are hundreds of yellow and blue balloons twisted together, in a gesture of support and sympathy for Boston. I’m in yellow, my husband in blue. Eventually, we’ll see thousands upon thousands showing their support in yellow and blue. It’s touching. It’s the very least we can do – which of course can never feel like enough.
The race will begin at 9am. So at 8am, we leave the warmth and comfort of the coffee shop and jog a couple of kilometres. Slowest warm-up ever. Seriously, I’ve just logged 1.84km at an avg pace of 8:10/km. Now I know I must get into my corral if I’m going to be at the front of it. In a race of 46,000 runners, corrals are a must and I’m in the second one. My husband is in the blue one with the elites. I am jealous, but I know it must be earned. One day, I think… One day. It’s a dream.
At 8:15am I enter my corral and am horrified to see it filled with hundreds upon hundreds of people already. There is no way I’m getting to the front. I slowly inch my way forward, tactfully attempting to squeeze my way in front of these people. I finally end up about 4 rows back from the front. I stand there. And wait. I listen to the chatter of the teenage guys in front of me. They’re funny and crude and mildly entertaining. I wait. And wait. Thank goodness for throw-aways. I’m warm and cozy in my white hoodie.
Finally, it’s 8:55am. I unzip my hoodie and contemplate tossing it over hundreds of heads to the side of the road. However I do not have a good throw and in this sea of people I am guaranteed of hitting someone. That wouldn’t be very nice of me. The guy beside reads my mind and tells me to pass it down. Runners pass my hoodie along until finally it’s safely tossed on the edge of the road where it won’t trip anyone. “Thank you”, I say.
9am. The gun goes off. And what?!!! They are holding the yellow corral back! I watch the blue corral take off and I am in disbelief they are holding us back. Last year the yellows left at the same time as the blues.
9:02am. And I am off. Unlike last year, where my thoughts were all over the place and the race went from awesome to awful and back again in the matter of seconds, this race passes by unremarkably. My mind gets stuck in a new loop. It’s something like, “Push it, and don’t stop. There’s an uphill, push up it. There’s a downhill, push it. Five kilometres left, push it. You’re almost there, push it.” I run. I give it everything I have. I get mad when I think back to yesterday and my failed competition. So I push it harder.
I enter the final kilometre and this is where I realize that I think I may break 45 minutes. The thought excites me so I push even harder. I’m glad there’s no race pictures because my face is probably completely contorted and silly looking. I’m pushing so hard I think I might puke. I’ve never puked in a race before so I think the chances of it happening are slim. And I keep pushing.
I cross the finish line and my husband is there. Defying the volunteers telling him to move along. Waiting for me. Smiling at me. I think he’s laughing actually, because I look like I’m dying. Double glad there’s no photos. I glance at my watch and start laughing/crying. It reads 44:00. It can’t be! But it is. I’ll find out later that my final results are actually 43:59. Guess what time females need in order to qualify for the blue corral? Yep, 44:00.
This was a day I was not expecting one of my dreams to come true. Saturday’s disappointment had overshadowed my thinking and I almost expected Sunday’s race to be a disappointment as well. Why do we give up on ourselves so quickly? I tell myself to remember this lesson and to avoid losing sleep in the future despairing over my failures and disappointments. Learn from them, sure, but move on to focusing on what the next accomplishment might be.
It came when I least expected it. But I can finally check off ‘beat 2006 10km PB’ and ‘qualify for Sun Run blue corral’. Overall? We can’t win ’em all. But sometimes, when we least expect it, we’ll achieve something that means a lot to us. I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.