I did it all for the banana. And the Thanksgiving sides.

The night before, I got nervous.

The morning of, I got real nervous.

I think I went to the bathroom 11 times.

And then I was nervous about being nervous because nervous poops.

This is my life, y’all.

I wore my new running leggings. I congratulated myself for choosing the long-sleeve shirt because it was cold as hell. I got my free shirt. And my number.

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My friend Jennifer decided the night before to run the race as well, and she was giving me a pep talk. My cousin Anna – my running buddy – got there and we found our places in line. After one more bathroom trip.

I saw a few more friends lining up and silently cursed at/judged the people who were running before we had to run – you know, those people who will do the course before, just because, or will do a few laps around the parking lot to get warmed up. I was praying I’d just finish before the people with the strollers and the old man with the ski pole.

And then we started.

It felt good, at first. And I told myself I’d run as far as I could, then walk, and then run, and it was OK if I walked some, people do that in races.

I made it further than I thought I would before the cold outside air (this is where my training being indoors became an issue) literally took my breath away. I stopped to walk and told Anna to keep going.

“Save yourself!” I said. “I’m gonna screw up your time so badly.”

But she refused to leave. And I love her so much for that.

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I walked until I’d caught my breath. Then I ran again. And that’s how we did it – walk, run, walk, run, walk, run. My achilles was pulling, I was a full-on mouth breather and I needed Chapstick. I kept apologizing to Anna.

She assured me she did not care about her time, she was doing this with me, start to finish. On our walking breaks we looked at/smiled at/talked about all the dogs running with their owners.

She made note of our distance for me with a smile and kept me going. I saw one of my athletes halfway through and when he and his dad smiled at me and said “Hey Coach!” that was a boost of energy I needed then.

I tried not to look at the time on my Fitbit, reminding myself that this was the first one I’d done in years, the first one I’d actually “TRAINED” for, and any time would be acceptable, because I was doing it.

And when I saw the home stretch, I told myself, and then Anna, that I was going to run the rest of the way, even if I wanted to stop. So I did. Not far from the finish line I saw Jennifer, cheering me on and taking a picture (I was hoping I didn’t look like I felt – which was cold and a little achy). And I kept running through to the finish.

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My time was under an hour (which is really all I wanted for my first one). And I finished way ahead of the old man with the ski pole. And I immediately felt like crying because I’d actually done it. It didn’t look like I thought it would, but I’d done it.

I’d gotten 10,000 steps in for the day, done 3.1 miles, and was still going to make it home in time for the Dog Show. Oh, and all the food.

I could not have done it without Anna that day. She kept me going, never made me feel bad about stopping to walk, and was by my side from start to finish.

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I smiled like a goofball because I was so damn proud of myself. I’d set a goal and completed it. And I wasn’t lying on the side of the road in the fetal position (which I’d wanted to do last time I ran a 5K).

I got my banana, posed for some pictures, and smiled all the way back to my car. Later that morning, I looked up other 5Ks in the upcoming months.

2016 was the year I conquered Couch to 5K, and it changed everything.

2017 will be the year I am a RUNNER.

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