When I signed up for this race a few days ago, we had to choose an estimated start time. I knew that I wanted to take my time, and I had no idea the weather was going to be a factor, but I knew hills would be. I also know from experience, that you often find the most interesting people in the middle and back of the pack. I wasn’t trying to PR this. I was here to run for Tuscaloosa, run for Boston, run for me. So, I chose the next to last estimated start time, a full hour slower than my real time if I was going to go all out.
It took almost an hour for my corral to cross the start line. By the time we did, we were all completely soaked to the skin but still jumping and yelling for the announcer. We were ready to get started. That is where the fun REALLY begins.
Some started out running up the hill. Some started out walking. But with the rain coming down harder, it was hard to see in front of us. I started out with a light run just trying to warm my legs up. It was also COLD! After the first big hill, I settled into an easy rhythm, running with a huge group of people. What happened for the next 12 miles was exactly what I needed and what I was searching for.
I passed a group of nuns, working an aid station in the pouring rain. I’ll keep using that reminder because the rain NEVER STOPPED. These ladies were smiling, cheering, and looking like they were having fun and I hope they were. I passed a girl with a prosthetic leg. She was walking this race at a pretty good pace and she had a couple of people with her for support. I slowed down and walked behind her for a bit just in awe of the determination in every step she took. She was talking a little with her team, but mostly she was just concentrating on one step in front of the other.
Later, I came up on a military group in full fatigues, combat boots, and full heavy packs. I’ve seen this before in Colorado. They were training for missions. In the rain. In boots. Heavy packs. I know how uncomfortable I was in tech gear, the best of running shoes and socks. But they were not complaining. They didn’t stop. They just kept going.
I met a young man in a racing wheelchair, propelling himself. He didn’t talk to his partner. This guy was concentrating 100% on getting to the finish line. I saw cancer survivors rocking their bald heads and thrilled to be there with the rest of us. I met an older gentleman who was laughing as the rain came down harder. He said “you either laugh or complain. I choose laughter”. We talked a bit. He and his wife were doing this race. They started running later in life after their kids were grown and felt that running added years to their life. “You can learn a lot about yourself when it’s just you and the road. So many problems solve themselves on a long run”. I’ve been saying that for a few years and it’s the absolute truth.
Again, I was reminded how easy I have it. Yes it was raining and cold, but I wasn’t missing any limbs. I wasn’t buried under storm debris. Tuscaloosa is coming back better than ever. I haven’t lost family members to terrorists. And what all of these people had in common was they JUST KEPT GOING. They didn’t sit on the side of the road, stuck in a rut. They kept going. And that is what I’m taking with me from this race. I know I’ve been trying to make sense of the world and trying to heal from tornado recovery scars. And while I’m trying to figure things out in my head, my legs work just fine. I just keep going. One foot in front of the other.
The last 3 miles were rough. The streets started flooding but there were a LOT of police and security to make sure we could get through the slow forming streams. By the last mile, I was ready to be done. I started seeing people walking with their space blankets and bananas so I knew it was close. I was about to cross the line of my first Rock n’ Roll race!
After I crossed, I enjoyed the long line of recovery stands. Chocolate milk, PowerBar, Gatorade, Publix, bananas, water, etc. I didn’t get my space blanket, but that’s ok. I got the medal!
This was an April 27 I’ll never forget! And now I have some great memories to carry with me. Maybe April can be good again