This is the first in a 2 part series of Saturday, the day I ran my first 10K.
We were gathered in our kitchen quickly sharing a bite before heading to Saratoga for Open Mic Night at Caffe Lena. “Wanna do a 10 K with me this Saturday?” my friend asked me out of the blue Thursday night. I experienced a robust internal sputter, followed by the familiar burn of insecurity washing over my face as the sides of my mouth twitched and I said, “Sure!” I felt anything but.
Let’s be clear about something, some months ago I agreed to do the2010 Danskin Triathalon when Millie asked. I did not, however, begin training. There was kindergarten to start, preschool, dueling schedules and one car. And it was finally hot. Ugh.
I thought that I would get to the gym, but that didn’t happen until last week. I just kept going about life the way that I do— choosing to walk rather than ride, skip rather than step, run rather than walk and most of the time doing it with at least one daughter in my arms. As Tara’s question hung in the air all I could think was, “You have to start somewhere.” And then I was overcome with yearning to have something, to have a thing that I did, a talent beyond parenting or fixing unexpected crises with glue sticks, saved ribbon and MacGyver-like confidence.
“Tell me more,” I said as I leaned forward. She told me that it was a 5 or 10k in Hudson Falls to benefit Operation Santa. Soon after the conversation turned to other things and before I knew it the night was over. Tara and I had not confirmed anything and I wasn’t sure whether I should do it and, if I did, would it be the 5 or the 10.
Sean responded first with incredulity and next with annoying supportiveness. I was ready to take the out, but he kept saying that I should do it, that the confidence boost would be amazing for me. “I loved getting to sing, to face down the trepidation and do it. I want you to have that too.” Trust me when I say did everything from claiming it would interfere with naptime to saying I didn’t want to. It was decided.
Saturday morning I got to the registration table and was overwhelmed by the nicheness of it— a charity run, the entrants were all bannered with tee shirts of past races, endorsements from area running clubs or with the bright colored uniforms of high school cross country teams. I felt old, out of place and as if I was going to make an ass out of myself. Looking at the entry form I took a deep breath and made a momentous check next to the number ten.
“Did you get a course map?” Sean asked me. “A what?” I stammered, “I. Um, no. I, shit. This was a waste. I can’t do this.” He looked at me and I swear he took a breath for me, pale blue eyes facing mine, the picture of calm. “I’ll go in and get one,” I said. Everything changed in that moment.
We got the map and proceeded to drive the route. The hills were huge, the wide expanses of farmland seemed at once impossibly long and surmountable. When we got back to the start I got out to stretch and Sean took the girls to a playground. I fretted about this thing and that, comparing myself to the other runners there, but after Tara gave me a squeeze I shrugged my shoulders and thought, “What the hell? I’m here.”
The start of the run was insane, 120 or so people in the 10k and another 220+ for the 5k all crammed together on a two lane road. We ran together for about a block and a half, I just channeled the Lion King and tried to get as far ahead and to the side of the pack as possible to avoid death. Before I knew it I was on a sweetly curving road that led into what can only be described as inaugural 10K torture. It was steep, long and wide open so that walking didn’t seem an option without the sensation of total defeat. I ran, step after step, breath after breath. I crested the hill and realized that the land I thought was flat, was in fact not. I climbed some more and then turned the corner literally and defiantly to strike out onto the first flat stretch.
I also peed. A little, tiny bit, but still. Pee. So I kept running, until…