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MOOnlight race recap!

July 15, 2013

We did it!!! Sam and I ran our first 5K this weekend, something I thought I’d never do in my lifetime. I still can’t quite believe it actually happened.

Sam and I decided to make a little weekend getaway out of it, so we checked into a room in Davis near the race center on Saturday. It felt really good to have a home base, a place to change and cool off and relax, to mentally prepare. I was having cramps all day, which made me worry that I would get those really terrible contraction-like cramps during the race (this has happened to me only a few times when running, but it’s really quite hard to take). I took a few advil and just breathed. I tried to trust what’s out of my hands to work out, but that’s not something I’ve mastered!

Still, I felt pretty hopeful and excited as we left the hotel to head over to the race center. We got a little lost looking for parking, but we were plenty early and it all worked out. As soon as we got our bibs, I already felt a sense of accomplishment. I hadn’t backed out, hadn’t made the I’m-getting-married-in-two-weeks-and-life-is-too-crazy excuse that I’d wondered if I would convince myself to make. We were there, crazy as it was, and we were going to do the best we could.

I was glad to see that the vibe at the event was friendly, positive, and fun. There were all kinds of people walking around the lawns, from serious runners to first timers, from children to life-long runners. There were people of all shapes and sizes. I didn’t feel at all out of place.

This is not to say that I didn’t have my insecurities. I started fixating on my shoes. Everyone else there seemed to have nicer, newer, more appropriate running shoes, often with fun colors and neon laces. Not only did this make me jealous, it also made me nervous that my crappy little old brown LA Gear shoes wouldn’t be good enough, that they wouldn’t carry me through. (Next time I run a race, I decided, I’m springing for new shoes. One less thing to fixate on 😉 )

It actually wasn’t entirely silly to worry about the shoes. My shoes started hurting my feet before the race even started, and their lack of ventilation made them feel like two little ovens in the Davis heat. Luckily our race started about 25 minutes late, so the heat of the day began to wear off around the time our race began.

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When it came time to line up, I felt joyful. I’d thought I would be terrified, full of dread, etc., but I was just happy and excited to be there. Everyone around us was happy, and it was simply too contagious to be anything but. Even Sam, who was frankly too exhausted to be there but wanted to follow through, got a wave of positive energy! And suddenly we were off.

And then it was just like any other jog, really, except that there were way more people around. It was strange how comfortable it felt… for some reason I had thought it would feel so different running a race vs. running elsewhere, but of course the bodily experience is pretty much the same. At least, it was at first.

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I had never actually run the whole distance of a 5K all at once before the race. I had gotten up to about 2.8 miles in my practice runs, at least according to my phone, so I thought I was pretty much prepared. Well, for some reason that first half mile felt like a freaking two mile run. I can’t explain it… but Sam, I found out later, experienced the same thing. Something about the new route or the adrenaline or something on race day made all of the distances feel longer. Not good news to someone in the midst of the longest run of her life! That 1/2 mile sign almost made me want to give up. I just couldn’t imagine that I still had to run over five times that amount. It didn’t seem physically possible.

But I was determined. I really was. Good thing, too, because something else started happening: some of the freaking run/walkers started to pass me. That really was just the pits. I had to remind myself that my goal was to run the whole thing, not to get my fastest time, because the truth is that at my current jogging speed, I would be much faster alternating sprints with fast walks. Something about walking allows your body to rest & reset. I started getting resentful and jealous of those run/walkers; I started second guessing my approach, thinking “maybe I should run/walk too!”… but that wasn’t what I was there to do.

When I was running up the first of the two big hills on the route, there was a young dad behind me with his little kid. The kid must have been getting tired running up the hill, so the dad picked him up, put him on his shoulders, and proceeded to zoom past me up the hill. A guy with another human being on his back was able to run faster than I was! I wanted to laugh and cry. But I just kept going. I started thinking about my brother Jon who has never been able to walk or run, and most of the sorry-for-myself subsided.

There were moments when my pacing was working and I wasn’t so tired. There were moments when I even wondered if I was pacing myself too slowly. But then there were the moments when I felt like I was running through quicksand wearing lead shoes.

The second of the two hills came at one such moment, unfortunately. I never stopped running, at least in terms of the actual physical motion, but I felt like I was running the wrong way on a conveyer belt. I just wasn’t propelling myself forward at that point. That’s when I really almost gave up. I had no idea how far I had to go still at that point, and it just seemed impossible to keep it up. But right when I was deciding I should give up, I reached the hill’s peak, and as soon as I was on that downward slope, nothing seemed hard anymore. In fact, that’s the moment when I began to hear the most miraculous sound I’ve ever heard: the crowd at the finish line. I couldn’t see anything indicating how much farther I had to go, but I could hear the announcer’s cheerful voice on the loud speaker and all of the yelling from the people on the sidelines. That might be what saved the whole experience for me. I knew at that moment that I would be able to do it. And so I did…

…with one minor detour. At the stretch before the final stretch, the 10K runners’ path merged with the 5K path, which caused a bit of confusion. I followed the directions of the volunteers at the merge spot, but then I wasn’t sure where the 5K path was. There were a few orange cones scattered around, but I wasn’t sure what they meant and no one was running near me, so I just kept running straight. It was only when the wave of people behind me in the race didn’t follow me that I realized I’d gone off the map! I ran back, and it didn’t bother me because I suddenly found myself running down the final stretch!!

I knew Sam would have finished before me, and I scanned the side-line crowd for his cute little face. I didn’t see him, but I saw so many other friendly faces smiling and cheering. One lady told me to finish strong, and I listened: I sprinted those last few yards until I saw Sam smiling in front of me and the finish line beneath my feet, one right after the other.

I don’t know that I’ve ever allowed myself to feel pure pride before. I’ve always tempered my accomplishments with some subtle yet powerful internal message that I could have done even better if I’d only done x or y or z. I’ve always confused that with humility.

I think we need different words. The kind of pride suffered by Icaris and Narcisis has no relation to the pride I felt on Saturday. Theirs was a destructive pride, based in ego and ignorance; this was something radiant, something wise, something holy. I’ll keep pushing all my life to feel this way.

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I want to thank Sam. I don’t even know where to begin, really. Sam has given me this amazing gift every time I want something but don’t believe I can reach it. It’s just a nudge, a nudge with exactly enough force to get myself going & never more. He empowers me to empower myself. I don’t know how he does it; it’s nothing less than a form of art. I love you Sam! I can’t wait to marry you.

❤ Diana Banana

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