Saturday evening I went to bed a bit apprehensive yet about what exactly I had gotten myself into when I signed up for the Run for Water 5 km Fundraiser. I planned to be up early so as to get to the park on time so I could scope things out as I wasn't sure how everything would be set up and organized being as this was my first time ever participating in such an event.
Our 5 km run was scheduled for 9 a.m. Sunday morning but we had been asked to be at the park by 8:15 to give ourselves time should we run into traffic jams and/or parking issues in getting ourselves to the event. Thousands of people would be participating throughout the morning in the half marathon, 10 km, and 5km races.
Waking up to rain throughout the night gave me concern over how that would effect my run. What was I to wear now that it could be raining, maybe even pouring? Should I bring a change of clothes with me to the park? Should I bring along an umbrella for the pre-race time in the park? But then what would I do with it when the race started? I had read about a bag check but how would that work? Could I check in my bag with my extra set of clothes and an umbrella? So much to consider knowing there was a good possibility we'd be running in the rain. Despite the concerns I did get a decent sleep.
I had arranged to pick up my young niece, who was also running the 5 km, at 7:45 a.m. As I was leaving the house to pick her up I started to become aware of an uneasiness in my stomach. You know that feeling down deep in the pit of your stomach. What was I doing? Here I am 55 years old, had never been a runner and I am off to run a 5 km. Sure I had trained and I had done a virtual 5km with Spark on the treadmill once but was I really ready? Was I really ready to run at such a public venue? The butterflies had come out in full force and I was still an hour away from the race.
Together my niece and I headed to the park; she as cool as a cucumber because she runs long distance in the fall for cross country and long distance for the track meets in the spring and me dealing with the butterflies of which more and more kept emerging I'm sure.
Once at the park we found things to be extremely organized so we were able to find where we needed to be very quickly. We were able to watch the 10 km runners start so understood how people would be started in waves so as to deal with the crowds who were running. At about this time I started to calm somewhat as all those little details I let myself become concerned with were resolved for me.
And then our cheering section arrived. My brother (niece's father), wife and 3 other young children, along with another brother met up with us.
These people knew me, would be there to watch for me, and would be cheering me on. I had signed up and this was really happening. No turning back. Yikes. All those butterflies hadn't left me yet.
As we walked towards the start with our family my niece and I realized we needed to part ways with them and get ourselves to our corrals as most runners were already corralled for the race. She met up with the group for under 25 minutes while I headed towards the back of the larger group to meet up with those anticipating to finish under 40 minutes. This was it. Yes, this was really it.
There I stood in amidst the crowd of people who would be running wondering what I had done. The music pumped through the loud speakers and runners started moving their bodies for final warm ups. The music took my mind off the butterflies and got me moving and warming up. Okay now, the race just needed to start. Enough waiting around, enough butterflies, let's just do it now!!! I realized I was as ready as I could be and for me the run just needed to begin.
Begin it did. The first wave was out of the starting gate at 9:00 sharp with each wave leaving 30 seconds later. As my wave was at the starting line all I could think about was the need to pace myself correctly so I could finish the race and run the entire course. I had never run with others and didn't want to let their run and pace effect my run.
As I crossed the start line, I felt an excitement to be participating in this event and knew this was another of those life changing moments. Dealing with the hundreds and hundreds of fellow runners while seeing the throngs of people ahead I knew I had to focus. I had to focus on my run and on my pace and not be distracted by those around me. And just then I looked down just in time to see a young boy step out in front of me. Where had he come from? Jumping to the side I avoided tripping over him and continued with my race trying to establish my pace.
Many had suggested to me to find someone to pace myself with. I tried but that didn't work. I set my pace, kept a steady pace according to my ipod and concentrated on just that and not the other runners around me. Okay, I did have to concentrate on moving on by some and avoiding young runners who I'd have to look down for in order to see in front of me and avoid colliding with.
By the end of the first km I had found my pace, the crowd had started to spread, and I had been encouraged by the many signs along the way reminding us of what we were running for, as well as, expressing supportive words for us the runners.
Ran that second km and was into the rhythm of the run. Excitement and determination had taken over those butterflies of the earlier morning. Now another 1/2 km and I'd be half way a significant mark for me. Yes, made it that far. My body was running like a fine tuned machine. The pace was steady, each breath supplying my body, and my spirits were flying because I knew I'd finish this race.
By the end of the third km we were approaching our watering station. I was ready for the hydration and knew at this point that I was seriously in the race when I was contemplating how to get that water while keeping the pace I had set. I grabbed that water cup, guzzled as I ran, and dropped that cup in the recycling bin all without breaking the rhythm of the run.
Now we were running around the lake approaching the final kilometre and people could be heard to say that as we rounded the next corner we were in for our final stretch. I started planning for that last stretch wanting to give it my all but knowing that it was all in the timing so as not to run out of steam before reaching the finish line. Knowing that finish line was within reach I picked up the pace ever so slightly in the last km and gave it my all for the last 50 meters or so.
It was in those last 50 meters that I was suddenly and out of no where overwhelmed with such extreme emotion. I could have burst into tears as I envisioned myself crossing that finish line which was now within reach. But wait, if I was to finish the race, I had to hold back all that emotion of moment because I would have fallen apart right then and there and never finished the race. While I focused all my attention back on the run I could get myself to the finish line without a hitch. I crossed that finish line with a pride I had never before experienced in my life!
I had struggled with the butterflies, I had felt an excitement like none before in running, I had choked back the tears and I now celebrated a victory I had never dared dream about and most certainly never believed I could accomplish!!!
My first and only medal ever for running!!!
So where did all that emotion come from? I'm not even sure I have the total answer to that yet but I do know for certain it was in that moment that I realized I had conquered so many of the lies I had bought into from my childhood and youth from messages I had received from classmates, peers, teachers, family and society about who I was or perhaps even more so who I was capable of being. Who would have thought chubby or fatso Maria would one day be capable and fit enough to run a 5 km. Yes, did you hear that? Maria finished the 5km, ran the entire course, and set a personal best record. She finished the race 46/126 female runners in her age category.
Believe it because it happened at the Run for Water 2013!
Spark Friends, don't let your dreams and aspirations be taken from you by believing the lies of the past. Determine your dreams, set your goals and you may be surprised at who you are capable of becoming. You may not run a 5 km but you too may discover some totally unknown ability you have because you are stronger than you belief you are.