...I ran the Peachtree Road Race here in Atlanta.
For those of you not familiar with it, The Peachtree is pretty much THE race in town, a 10K, always held on the 4th of July, the kind of race that people beg, borrow and steal numbers for. In 2009, my friend and I signed up for The Peachtree on a whim in early spring. It was a suicide move - I'd never run so much as a tenth of a mile when I signed up, but I figured I had three months to build up and I could walk when I got tired.
I trained, ohjosephmaryandbabygee, how I trained! Like seven days a week, running every day around my neighborhood, which was uphill on one side of the circle and downhill on the other (I figured the hills would cancel each other out). Built up to where I could run about 2.5 miles before I fell out. The last few weeks before the race were panicked. What the hell had I been thinking?
But I was there on race day, which is more than I can say for my friend, who begged off with a hangover. Mm-hmm...I still give her sh#t about it to this day!
It was the first (and to date, only) race I'd ever run.
I felt like I was walking on the moon, showing up for that race. Completely out of place, like a stranger in a strange land. Even though I'd been running for three months by that time, I was still twice as big as most of the people there and while everyone was nice, I totally felt like an imposter.
I was in one of the later groups because I'd never run the race before. When it was my group's turn, I started running, assuming I'd run for my standard 2.5 miles, rest in the middle and run the last 2.5 for a big finish.
In reality, I only made a mile or so before I had to walk.
It could have been nerves.
It could have been the crowd, screwing with my pace.
It could have been the fact that I was running on a flat road and that I'd underestimated the rest I was getting from the downhill in my neighborhood.
But whatever the reason, my performance was off.
Looking back, I maybe ran 2.5 miles the whole race, which was totally disappointing. I walked so much, I told my friend that the entire race just felt like "a long walk back to the car".
Even so, in the end, I made it to the finish line, got my photo snapped, got the t-shirt (along with a handful of blisters) and felt satisfied that I made it through relatively intact.
And then I stopped running entirely for nearly three years.
The manic training had burned me out completely, and along with the disappointment of not performing the way I'd expected to perform during the race, well, running just left a bad taste in my mouth.
I've documented pretty well why and how I started running again this year in previous blogs. My return to running has been far less intense this go-around. Currently, after three months of training, I've only just built up to running .25 miles at a time (I just do a thousand intervals each session). I'm running on a level track this time (so no downhill advantage), and the only pressure on me to perform is the pressure I put on myself.
This morning, I woke up early to get in my regular Wednesday run and I thought about all those runners who, at that very moment, were likely taking MARTA into Buckhead, lining up in front of Lenox Mall with numbers pinned to their bellies, getting ready for their challenge.
It made me smile, and I wished them well.
I don't know that I'll ever run The Peachtree ever again, even if I do build up to a 10K (or beyond), but I will never regret running (okay, run/walking) it in 2009. It absolutely taught me some valuable lessons -- for starters, if you ever decide to run a race again, make sure your running partner avoids bottom-shelf appletinis the night before the race. Also, longer races require socks, goofball, so wear some next time! Finally, challenging yourself is good, but know your mental and physical limits and assess them honestly. Determination and spunk can get you pretty far, but only SO far. Better to burn-out than fade away, certainly, but burn-out sucks A LOT.
So, for those out there who took on The Peachtree this morning, I salute you -- and hope your experience was far more inspiring (and successful) than my own!