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Enjoying myself running July 5, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Running.

Yesterday was the Firecracker Run. It was hot – 77 degrees and humid at the 7:30 a.m. start – but I successfully made my way through the 6.2 miles of the 10K course in one hours, 23 minutes and 5 seconds. I was, and still am, happy with that.

This was a different race for me than the one in 2005. Oh, the course was exactly the same. But, even though I drove along the course on Friday after picking up my race packet, it was much tougher than I remembered from 2005. Hotter, too, than before. Which made me slower. And that was fine.

I loved the beginning of the race. As I was leaving my car and walking over to the starting area, I realized how great races are. There’s energy and excitement in the air, plus a rush of adrenaline and anticipation that is impossible to replicate on a normal running day. Too, there’s the annoyance of running a race – the crush of people at the starting line, the having to spend several blocks or more weaving your way around the people who are walking yet still start ahead of runners. I kept my uncle Jim’s race advice in mind: don’t start out too fast. (I didn’t.)

Most of the local races feature musicians throughout the course. There was a gospel choir singing several blocks after the starting line yesterday – I’d walked past several of them warming up on my way to the starting line. I’m not sure if they’re the same gospel choir that sings during the QC Marathon each year (I’ve done the 5K quite a few times), but they had the same exuberance that’s such a boost. They need to be singing at mile 5 or so instead! There was a barbershop chorus singing “God Bless America” right at the 1 mile mark. Throughout the rest of the course were several rock bands, the drum line of a high school marching band, a beauty pageant queen doing karaoke, a father and son banjo and saxophone combo (I went to high school with the sax player) and a bagpiper who was likely just standing in his driveway but was dressed up in a kilt. The music was appreciated. I also had my own, in the form of a race playlist I’d created on my iPod that mostly consisted of “Glee” soundtrack songs since they’ve been motivating to me while running these past four months.

About a mile and a half into the race, the 5K course continues on straight ahead while the 10K course turns – and heads straight up a giant hill next to a cemetery. Five years ago, I ran up the hill. Yesterday, I ran about five steps, saw everyone in front of me was walking and thought that seemed like a much better option. Competitive as I am, I decided to walk fast and see if I could catch the people ahead of me. The man directly in front of me was also taking the “walk fast” approach – I never did see him again once he reached the top and took off running. I did catch up with a woman just before the top of the hill and started a conversation with her. We talked about the heat, the hill, the race thus far and what was still ahead. She said she was glad for the hills, since she was going to use those as walking breaks, then try to run the rest as best she could. After we reached the top of the hill, we started running. Since I am not fast, I was admittedly happy to be faster than she was. And that was the last time I was with another runner for the rest of the race.

Six or eight blocks after that, my Mom and aunts were in a Walgreens parking lot. It was a nice boost to see them, and especially nice to get the bottle of water they had. Five years ago, there hadn’t been enough water stops in that race. For the first half of the 10K course, that was the case again – thankfully I’d asked them to have water in case I needed it. (I did.)

And from there the race was just about the journey. As expected, I thought a lot about the Twitter conversations and advice I wrote about the other day, specifically to “take the time to enjoy yourself running.” I also thought a lot about the many people who sent me messages Saturday on Twitter, as another pal had tweeted that Cardinals fans should wish me well in the race. (Twitter really is an amazing thing, the way it can connect people from all over who – in this case – are united by their love of the Cardinals. I have met exactly one of these Cards fans in person before, and that was a week ago in Kansas City. Yet I’ve gotten to know so many of these people and about their lives beyond our team, and they’ve obviously gotten to know me as well.) Yes, I did think about Chris Carpenter. But I was thinking more about his many injuries, specifically how hard and frustrating it must have been for him to deal with not being able to do physically what that intense focus of his surely wanted to do mentally. And I was thinking about this while I was telling myself that if I ran to that next light post, then I could walk … and suddenly found myself walking right away. Oh well. “It’s YOUR race.”

When I reached that downhill portion that was such an exhilaration in 2005, I realized a moment like that can only happen once. Yes, I am proud of myself for training to and then running this race. It truly is an accomplishment. But it’s not like the first time. This time it wasn’t going from nothing – from never running until I was 36 years old and lost 65 pounds – to running a 10K. It was going from not running regularly because of sore knees, not running consistently because of plantar fasciitis, not running all the time because of this or that, to getting back to it and sticking with it and building up stamina. A proud moment to do this again, absolutely. Just not the same.

I spent the last several blocks of the race trying to see if I could catch the girl in front of me. She’d consistently been about a block or so in front of me once I’d reached the top of the hill. Between miles four and five – the toughest part of the race for me – I did get closer than the block, but never close enough to catch up to her. The woman I’d talked with going up the hill finished about a block behind me, her husband (I’m assuming, since she’d talked about him) joining her for the last several blocks. He’d already run either the 5K or 10K. My family – Mom and three aunts – were at the end cheering for me and that was terrific. Their support means a lot.

And then I crossed the finish line, to the congratulations of the volunteers there. The biggest accomplishment wasn’t finishing, or finding out I was 532nd overall in the race. It was in running the race itself, and enjoying myself in the process.



1. linda - July 6, 2010

I was hoping for a post-race post (the prerace post left a desire to “find out how it ended” for you). You should be very proud of what you have done and continue to do. It’s easy to forget what you go through (sore knees, plantar fasciitis…) to get here because it doesn’t stop you. I am proud (and a little bit sheepish when I think about your drive). Congrats Chris!

2. LS Murphy - July 7, 2010

Congrats on the race. You are such an inspiration!

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