I am a runner. I love to run, even if I look like a camel doing it. I registered for a half marathon in Green River, Wyoming thinking that it would be great to “Run with the Horses.” The race boasts a course that runs right through grazing land of wild horses!
I signed up faster than my brain could process. A few weeks later I thought I should look at the course map. Note to self: Look at the course map BEFORE you send your money in. I discovered that the course started at 6 thousand plus feet of elevation and miles 3-6.5 ran along a 6% grade…up hill. Ok, like I usually say before a race, what the heck was I thinking? What if I don’t make it? I pictured myself gasping for air like a fish out of water, and then sitting down like a stubborn mule.
The last race I ran with hills about killed me. The hills were at miles 10 and 12. WHO DOES THAT? I finished, but was so sore that I couldn’t exercise for a couple weeks afterward. I told myself that I am too old for hills and that I would never do that again. Yeah, look at the course map before you agree to run a race.
I mentioned my upcoming torture to a long time friend and he said, sounds like fun, I want to go. So it is that he came along as support and comic relief. I have traveled with this friend before, when we were much younger and went to Australia to play softball in the World Police Games. He was a kick then, and I anticipated that he would be fun this time too.
As my anxiety grew, he calmed me and reminded me that I was ready for this race, and worse come to worse, I could walk if I needed to. Pride aside, I reluctantly agreed and we set off on our adventure. I was so focused on embarrassing myself, that I didn’t pay attention to all the plans he was making for our trip. And we can go to Yellowstone and see bison, deer, bears and moose! “I really want to see a moose,” he said, eyes twinkling. Whatever dude, I have to run up a big ass hill.
The day of the race started at 0500 hours and it was cold. I was so nervous that I was grumpy and short with him. He smiled and said, Ill take pictures. I set my goal at 3 hours even though my best time for a half marathon was 2 hours 15 minutes. I was that sure that I was going to fall apart at the sight of this hill. The race started at 0630 and as soon as I started running I surrendered to the task at hand and tried to concentrate.
The 10K runners peeled off. They gave us thumbs up as they passed us on the way back down. The marathoners left us behind as they passed the turn around point and kept running up hill. I found myself alone for some time as I approached the half way point. I was so jubilant at the knowledge that the rest of the race would be downhill I actually woohoooed, OUTLOUD at the turn around.
The whole way, my friend drove ahead of me and took pictures. The whole way he left me alone and didn’t try to talk to me or make me laugh. Later he would tell me that he told himself, “This girls is labor. I better leave her alone.” He was right.
On the way back to the finish line I smiled, ran faster than I ever have on the second half of a race, and wondered why I was running alone. A seasoned middle of the pack-er I figured that I was in a weird pocket of time and settled in. I have never felt more relieved, more happy to run and more excited than this race. I knew that I wasn’t going to set a new PR, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to be too embarrassed about my time.
I finished, grabbed the finishers medal and went to find water and a banana. We sat for a little while waiting for others to come in and I smiled. I had finished a race that literally kept me up the night before because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to finish. I returned to the finish line to get my official time. A young man handed me a small card and I tried to read it. I am old, so without reading glasses I am worthless. A woman standing nearby asked me my time, and age group. I showed her my card and she said, “Congratulations on your first place finish for your age group!”
“What? SHUT UP!” I said, tears rising. “Seriously?” She handed me a gold horseshoe on a blue ribbon and I about fell over.
Oh, I know my time wasn’t all that great. And I know that there were only 150 runners. But hey, I ran up a hill and didn’t die.
I floated back to where my friend waited for me and beamed.
He took pictures and told me he was proud of me.
I realized, I am proud of me too. Wow. Who knew?