Thursday, March 27, 2014

Long Distance Relationship

Apparently, the Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon was a great race not just for me, but for everyone in my running group. A week after the race, we met up for our weekly trot around the lake, an easy four since most of us hadn't run since Sunday's 13.1. We talked - again - about how much run the race had been, whether we should aim for the full next year (I voted yes!), and when we could run another. Someone mentioned a race on nearby Oak Island in mid-April, someone else said they thought the half only cost $45, and later that day we were passing around the registration link, trying to decide if we should go for it. 

We decided to go for it. 13.1, I'll see you again in three weeks.

Running is an odd animal. Despite the fact that I've now completed 7 half marathons and 2 fulls, I still consider myself a beginner. I ran my first full mile six years ago, when I put "Run a 5K" on my list of goals for 2008. With the help of a few friends and the Couch-to-5K training plan, I accomplished that goal just a few months later. I haven't stopped running since. 

While I've written reports for nearly every race I've completed, that first one is just a memory. I ran it with my friend S., it wove through the SFASU campus, and I finished in 34 minutes on the nose.  I remember wondering if I'd be able to finish. I remember not wanting to throw my paper cup of water on the ground because I didn't trust race volunteers to clean up after us, and ending up carrying my paper cut through the finish line. I remember how S. and I ran side by side until the very last moment, when she sprinted ahead and beat me by three seconds. (NEVER FORGET, S.) And I remember calling Nathan, who had to work that day, and reporting, proudly and with mild disbelief, that I had actually done it.

Compared to some of my other running milestones - my first sub two-hour half, my first marathon, that time I woke up early to run 10 miles and still made it to work by 8AM - a 34 minute 5K isn't especially impressive. And yet, it's the race I remember most clearly, most fondly. Probably because it was during those 34 minutes that I managed to shed all the preconceived notions I had about myself. At the start line, I was a non-runner, a non-athlete, a non-racer. By the time I crossed the finish line I was all those things, and more.

That's what I love about running races. Not the training, not the medals, not the PRs or the post-race brunch or the friendly competition (though all those things are definitely perks). What I love most are the minutes and hours between the start and the finish, and all the ways we are tested, challenged, and changed while running through the course. A race - whether it's a 5K or a marathon - is a journey in the truest sense, a story that can't be told through numbers alone.

Well. That post went places I didn't expect. But reading it again, it's exactly what I didn't know I wanted to say. Running will do that to you.