I started this little blog in my head about 5 months ago in the middle of what turned out to be a very long race - it went something like this........
A funny thing happened on the way to the finish line - It was a crisp September morning and I was all geared up to run a great 1/2 marathon - that's 13.1 miles. Yes, I know I hadn't really trained since March, and yes, I know I was now in the 40-44 age group, but that didn't really matter. I had signed up to run this race and I knew that I could- at the very least walk that distance.
This race started out like all others - with a little anticipation, a little bit of nervousness, a few unrealistic goals, and a problem getting my ipod to work. All items that can be overcome. Then I saw her the girl with the funny socks, and long pigtails. She was there holding a sign that read 1:52 - she was my hero - she was something I could focus on and surely I could keep up with her. That would be a good time, one I could be proud of, one that would not win any awards but was worthy of notice. We were off.
The wind was low, the temperature moderate I was feeling good. Yes, this is a good pace - yes, this is something I can do - yes, I believe this will work. One mile mark coming up, fly on by. And then my brain starts this internal conversation -
"Relax the breathing, you'll be fine"
"but I have to pee"
"no,no just keep running"
"but I don't think I can"
"ok, fine -2 mile mark, make it quick"
Ok here we go out of the port-a-pot onto the trail - but wait where's my girl in the funny socks. I don't see her, could I have really taken that long? It's not possible, are they behind me? No, wait, there up ahead. Just put your head down you can catch up, no big deal. Okay I'm running, relax the breathing - good here we are back on track. But they are running so fast - here goes another brain conversation. "I don't think I can keep up", "yes you can, its not that far", "we have 11 miles left" "just keep running", "okay but not with her"............
So I run for about 4 more miles, my feet begin to ache I think I am getting a blister, my legs are lead - that one more glass of wine last night was not a good idea! I really don't think I can go on and I have never not finished a race. All delusions of putting this one on the record books are far gone now it was a matter of survival. Man are my feet hot, it must be 80 degrees out here! Maybe I'll just take my shoes off for a little while - that might make me feel better. Hey, you know what this feels pretty good. My feet don't hurt, I feel lighter like I am free. I feel like, like, Zola Budd. I am picking up the pace now. I am feeling like I am back in this thing, okay here we go. Ignore the looks, yes it may be a little more work to run with your shoes in your hands, but hey, I'm running.
Okay 8 mile mark still no shoes - feeling pretty good except for those acorns I had to run across. Remember you are now Zola Budd - this is the African Plain. The only thing standing between you and the finish is the African Plain - run, girl, run. Water stop up ahead with an out and back loop - drop the shoes, wink at the water guy, tell him I'll be back. Run, girl, run.
I have now entered the back point I have 4.5 miles to go, again I have shoes in hand and I am running, because that is what I do. Because this is the one activity that takes me away from my kids, my work, my life demands. Because in this moment I can be. So I run- almost there - and then something begins to happen that has never happened to me before. I begin to notice..... I notice how the light jumps off the water, I notice that there are people racing the other direction. There are moms and daughters, there are couples, they are old, they are very heavy and they are racing, they are moving, they are accomplishing. I notice the coolness in the brief moment of shade and I notice the heat of the pavement on the concrete and how that contrasts with the coolness of the slightly damp grass.
That is when this article started to play out - how many times have I run, how many amazing trails have I been on, how many views have I passed by - so that I could finish. What a waste, what a tragedy, to not notice all that is opened up, when I run in a way that allows me to experience and not just finish.
This is a task that is a little difficult for a project driven person, but I am determined to become a "noticer" not a finisher. Not that I won't finish - that I am sure I always will - but I am determined to become absorbed in my surroundings, to breath in the air and not just gasp for breath, to listen to the sounds around me, not just the ones that slip from one to the next on my ipod, to actually look into the faces of the people that join me on this trail, not just view them as someone to stay in front of.
This is my new way and I look forward to it --- So on the way to the finish line - my goals were not met, I broke no new PR's, but I did find a piece of myself I didn't really know was there. And that is the best award I could hope for.