The Akron Marathon is eight days away, which means my racing season is about to climax before it rolls over and falls asleep. In the two years that I have been running, I've raced a whopping six times. Here's a long look back.
Kent Heritage Fest 10K, July 2006: After starting to run in March 2006, I decided to try this race, which I used to watch my dad run when I was young. However, he hadn't run the race--or much at all--since I don't know when because of back and leg problems. So I asked him to race me.
Come race day, we ran side by side for the first 5K (this course is two laps of a 5K out and back), but my dad wasn't feeling it and dropped out. I found a pace partner, an elderly woman whose granddaughter had been a year behind me in school. (Yeah, I was 27, so what?) At the final mile, I realized I had a lot left in the tank and let grandma get a long look at my ass. My dad joined me for the last quarter-mile and I finished at around 1:06.
Crossing the finish is what really got me hooked on running. Training motivated me to run every week, but the finishline was an instant addiction. Unfortunately, I finished the year injured after I ramped up my distance too fast trying to break the 10-mile barrier for a long run.
Frostbite 4-Mile Prediction Run, February 2007: You want a dumb way to start your racing season? Try negative 3 degrees at start time. The winner was the runner who came closest to predicting his finish time. I wasn't even close. My only reward was the Cognac that Martini and I shared after the race to warm up.
Cleveland Half Marathon, May 2007: This was a test. I knew I wanted to run a full marathon. I just didn't know when. I figured this would be a perfect way to see what I was getting into. However, it meant I had to train smart during the snowy season.
Here's something to know about me: I don't run inside and I don't run on treadmills. Sometimes that means being flexible when the weather gets nasty. Not surprisingly, a massive mid-February snow storm blanketed the area and forced me to take a couple days off. I went for a six-mile run as soon as it looked like my favorite trail was plowed and torqued my knee because my feet kept slipping when I pushed off. I had to take a week off before resuming with a run/walk program.
Martini signed up for the full marathon in Cleveland, but he also ended up with an injury. Only his kept him from even attempting to run. That morning, I was on my own in a throng of 9,000 runners. And then I had to piss.
It was about 10 minutes before start time and I was in line for the porta-poopers. Now, here is a study in physics. The space-time continuum is clearly not a constant. In line, time slows down as the act of digestive relief stretches over eons. Meanwhile, time blurs by outside this sphere, especially in the starting corral. I was three turns away from glory when the race announcer told runners to walk toward the starting line.
Rationally, my mind tells me this is a chip-timed race and I don't have to start with everyone else. But my bat-shit bonkers mind has a long history of ignoring its logical twin. That's when I know I'm going to miss the race if this line doesn't hurry up. That, or I'm going to have to learn to urinate while running. And I must admit, I'm a bit pee shy. A door opens and it's my turn. Did I say something about pee shy? The starting gun is about to go off and I go. Repeat: it's just me and my chihuahua, it's just me and my chihuahua ... ah, there we go.
I burst through the door and cut through the crowd toward the corral, but it's gated off. I have to walk all the way to the end to enter. And the end is like three miles away. Luckily, someone has wrenched part of the gate sideways to allow us stragglers in.
I started slow but feeling strong. I skipped the first water stop and enjoyed the sights, crowd and other runners--especially the runner who veered off course to pee on a tree, glad it wasn't me. The half marathon course wends through West Cleveland and finishes with one of my favorite views of downtown as you cross the Lorain Avenue Bridge. After the finish, I set my sights on the Akron Marathon. [This is my current PR.]
Tallmadge Memorial Day 5K, May 2007: Just a week after the Cleveland Half, Martini goaded me into this race. Even though he was laid up for about a month with an injury and had only one training run under his belt, Martini toasted me by about three minutes. He's annoyingly faster than I. No matter how much I think I'm on his level, he still leaves me in the dust during a race. However, I managed a sub-8 mile pace for maybe the first time ever. [Current PR.]
Kent Heritage Fest 10K, July 2007: The only race where I'm a veteran. Again, dad and I ran, and he finished this time. We are well aware that we are by no means a speedsters so we didn't stick around for the awards. About a week later, a friend told me a guy I had passed around the fourth mile placed third in our age group. Turns out, I placed second. My dad placed third in his group. It was obvious the race had a smaller crowd than last year, but jeez. Somewhere there's a trophy waiting for me. [Current PR.]
Buckeye Half Marathon, September 2007: This is already well documented on this blog. I didn't do as well I wanted to. I started out too fast. My shoe came untied. My stomach cramped. I puked. And I almost bled to death from nipple hemorrhage. Blah, blah, blah.
However, none of these was my first race.
For that, we'll have to take a trip in the Once Upon A Time Machine to when I was 8 years old, the age I always am when I share childhood memories. It was a one-mile race in November, called the Turkey Trot, where the top three finishers received a turkey for Thankgiving. The course was one lap on a dirt road around a local park. There were six of us racing: two athletic boys, who finished first and second; two rolly-polly kids, a girl and a boy, who fell behind early; another girl, who just so happens to be the granddaughter of the woman who paced me in my first 10K in Kent; and I, who only ever ran when being chased.
The two athletic boys sprinted away from the pack early. I managed to hold steady in third for most of race. I rounded the last turn and the finish was in sight. But I could hear footsteps closing in from behind. I started to sprint. Then it happened. I got chicked. And all my hopes and dreams of bringing home the Thanksgiving dinner turkey evaporated in the wheeze of a breathless young boy.
At least I know I'm faster than her grandma.