As I laced up my shoes Sunday morning I felt nervous. Not the normal nervous of a race day – something hard to describe. I was about to “be a runner,” after a month of not running at all. I had kept in shape, training heavily for Taekwondo-related events, but I hadn’t found time to run.
Something strange compelled me to sign up for a 10K I had my eyes on, even knowing that I hadn’t run and wouldn’t run, until race day.
So there I was. Surrounded by runners picking up their bibs and trying to warm up muscles in the chilly New Hampshire morning. A guy with 2013 Boston Marathon jacket walks by to pick up his bib. “That’s a real runner,” I said to myself. I watched as people went out for warm-up runs and slowly rocked back and worth to keep my body warm. For the first time all year, I felt like I didn’t belong. How dare I cross into this realm when I hadn’t been running at all. These people are running a few warm-up miles before the race and I doubt I’ll even make it halfway before I’ll have to stop.
I lined up at the starting line with the expectation of getting 3.1 miles and then walk-running the rest of it. There was no way I could run a whole 6 miles when I hadn’t even run 1 in a month. It couldn’t happen.
Around the first mile mark a group of ladies caught up to me and we talked a little about how beautiful the day was. Not too cold, not too hot – perfect for running. The leader of the pack wished me a good race and pushed a little ahead. Little did she know, it was the “Because I Can” ladies that I did so well. I kept pace with them until mile 4, where I just couldn’t push myself any further. I slowed my pace to a shuffle and counted paces. 200 shuffle steps, 100 running steps. Repeat. Repeat.
When the guy at the aid station said 1.49 miles left – I knew I was almost there. I had found out from another runner that we had been going at a 9-minute mile pace for 4 miles. In the back of my mind I tried to calculate my finishing time. It would be close to an hour, depending on how much I had slowed. As I passed a trail marker, I could hear cheering from down the path.
“You’re almost there! You got this!”
But I wasn’t almost there. My feet were aching, my legs were screaming. I could taste the sweat dripping down my face. But I kept going.
As I got closer, I could see the gathering of runners and supporters at the finish line. I had never seen so many people gathered to cheer on runners before. I wanted to kick and finish strong, but I just didn’t have any more energy left. Then, I heard it. The one voice I had been waiting to hear since he wished me good luck at the starting line.
“Let’s go King! Sub-60!”
It took a little while for that to register. Sub-60. Was I under an hour?
A runner who was cheering yelled “You got this! Under and hour! Let’s go!”
Then it happened. My legs found the little bit of strength left within them and over the finish line I went. I yelled. I jumped. I fist bumped the heavens. I had done the impossible.
I managed to set a PR that was 4 minutes and 33 seconds faster than my first 10K back in April.
Never say never to meeting your goal. You never know when something could happen that changes your mind, or a group of “Because I Can” ladies leads you on the way. In just 1 hour, I went from feeling like I had no right being on the course, to feeling like I belonged and was invincible.
I am a runner. I may not run marathons. I may not run fast. But I am a runner.