Charleston Distance Run – 5K – First Race – September 3, 2011
Sweat poured off of my body. I do not even remember the last time I sweat so much and felt so much satisfaction at the same time. I do not mind the sweat today or the exhaustion that I feel. It is a strange mixture of exhaustion and energy that course through my body. My legs only ach slightly, my chest heaves to catch a breath, but I have the biggest smile on my face! The best words come from my Dad: “Sarah, I am so proud of you!” It makes my smile grow so much bigger.
Fourty-five minutes ago….
I am pacing up and down the street with about four hundred other people, preparing to go when we heard the canon blast. The butterflies that had come a couple of days before are still present, but I keep hoping they will flee when my feet started pounding the pavement. Suddenly, a sound BOOMS through the air. I wait for the throng of people in front of me to start moving. My feet automatically start running in place. I see those that are faster than me take off. Everyone moves in a slow motion pace. The spaces between us begin to widen. I purposefully keep my pace slow. Slow to start, strong to finish. People start passing me. I move to the center, then to the right, then back to the left trying to get out of the way. I try to have blinders on, not focusing on those passing me. I get a little discouraged as I see strollers pass me, and then those clearly double my age pass me. I try to remember that I am running my own race. Not any race but my own. My feet hit the pavement hard. I start to feel as if weights are attached to my legs. I look down feeling tired and overwhelmed. Doubts crowd my thoughts as I get passed once again by a young girl and her father. I try to focus on breathing, and my form. I just don’t want to be last, I keep telling myself.
Slowly, I get a rhythm. It has probably taken a half mile to find a rhythm. I get passed by “walkers” and sigh. Just be happy you are out here running, my heart tells me. I feel good at this point. I have the few people that surround me and I am encouraged to keep going. Before I know it I see the 1 mile mark. “Wow, 1 mile is easy,” I think. I start to pick up my pace just a little. I pass a couple of people and my heart is encouraged. “I think I can do this! I know I can do this,” I tell myself determinedly. I see a sign for 12 and think, “Am I already at mile two? Can’t be!?” (I find out later that it was a marker for the 15 mile race – Mile 12 for them). So, I pick up the pace just a little more. My side starts to hurt just a little. I have passed two water stations and feel proud that I don’t need a drink. I just keep plugging along. It is closer to 8am I’m sure, and the heat starts to set in. Sweat drips down the sides of my face and my glasses slide on my nose. Good thing I have practiced in heat, with my glasses sliding down my nose. I am used to it and I don’t let it bother me.
I turn the corner at Dunbar Street. Feeling energized with the song that plays next on my iPod, I feel myself going just a little faster, not too much that I am uncomfortable, but pushing myself just a little. I pass a sign that is clearly the 2 mile mark and start a little bit of worrying. I wonder if I can do this. I still have a whole mile to go. Can I do it? I tell myself, “Yes, I can it is only one more mile.” I can see the woman who has been in front of me the entire race. She isn’t so far as she once was. I make a mental goal of at least beating her.
When I turn the corner to go up Ruffner I can see the last turn, but it doesn’t look less than a mile, it looks like 10 miles! I seems so far, and I start to think about all that I have ran already. I also think of Jason and how he has probably already finished. My feet start to slow and I start realizing how hot it is. I know that I am slowing down, but then I force myself to not think about how far I’ve come and think about all that is before me. I know that it is less than a mile. Less than fifteen minutes. I can do anything in that amount of time.
I start hitting the pavement with longer strides. I start running just a little faster. I know that the sooner I reach the finish, the sooner I can rest. I see the only little incline of the whole race. The lady that I have been following for the entire race is now right beside me. I easily pass her, but not in blur as to show off, but in a steady, I’ve got my second wind kind of way. A couple of young teenagers who obviously started out way too fast are walking now. I pass them up. Soon, they are running past me, after taking a break. I turn the last corner. I see the field and it seems so far! I am hurting now, in my legs. I press on. I don’t try to run any faster, just keeping my steady pace. I pass a walker, but she soon is motivated by me and passes me by running. A little farther ahead I pass her again, as she huffs and puffs walking again. She passes me as we enter the field and goes onto the track.
I see one more person I want to pass. It isn’t the walker-runner, but someone I knew I wanted to beat the entire race. I know I can beat her. I pick up my pace, matching the sound of the music on the iPod. Thankfully, the song is one of the most upbeat songs I put on there. I round the corner of the track and know that this is where I need to really kick it in. I let go and just run as fast as I can. I pass her! I look up at my time: 43:30. I smile at the people on the side cheering for me. I grab a towel and something is placed in my hand as I exit the field. A medal. It says: Finisher. I finished. Who cares about the time. Who cares who I didn’t beat or did beat. I finished. For me, that was my goal. Only nine weeks ago I had never run in my entire life. And here I am – running a 5K. Isn’t that the Christian life: It isn’t about who we beat. It is about our race. Did we run the best of our abilities? Did we use what our Coach taught us? Did we encourage others? Did we gloat when we passed others? Did we finish? I finished. My Coach and my God are proud. That is the reward.
2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.