“I’m going to be last.”
I glanced over at my husband as we waited in the corral to begin the Hot Chili Challenge 8 mile trail run this morning, prepared to laugh with him about his pre-race nerves. But he wasn’t laughing – what I thought was a smile was more of a grimace as he analyzed the very fit and trim runners surrounding us.
Team “Three Mouseketeers” – me, my husband, and my friend started calling ourselves that when we began training for the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon a few months ago – signed up for this race as part of our training plan.
My husband loathes distances over 5k – as he puts it, there aren’t too many “woggers” (walk/joggers) at the longer races.
“Look,” I pointed out a woman of similar stature to him, decked out in hot pink from head to toe. “I know you can beat her.”
He shook his head and forced a smile. “Just remind yourself that there’s bagels and chili at the finish line,” I encouraged him, but for the first time started thinking about the courage my husband has to sign up for these runs with me. I can’t say I have ever shown up to a race thinking I may just come in last place. Would I still be willing to run if it was a likely scenario? Probably not. I realized I have no idea what it’s like being in my husband’s sneakers.
When the starting gun sounded, I gave my friends a thumbs up and switched my iPod on, figuring I’d see them at the finish line. The course wound it’s way through the state park – over rocks, roots, up small hills and then back down. I had no idea when I signed up for a “trail race” that it really would be tough terrain – I assumed it would be more like the local canal trail I run on during a typical weekend long run. 8 miles on a course suited more towards hiking boots than my Saucony ProGrid Hurricanes? As I watched countless individuals stumble over various hazards in the trail, I began to think about my friends getting lost in the woods or twisting an ankle and being unable to compete at Disney in a few weeks. And I thought about my husband – potentially in last place, having to pick his way through 8 miles alone.
I stopped and stepped off the path. And waited.
It was only about the 2 mile point, and fortunately most of the pack was still together. It didn’t take long for my friend to jog past, followed closely behind by my husband – NOT in last. I fell into a light jog behind him.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Listen,” I said. “If I get lost in these woods, at least I have you with me. Also, if I roll an ankle, I know you know first aid. Of course, if YOU roll an ankle, you’re SOL.”
Our middle-of-the-pack position didn’t last much longer after that – with each hill, we slowed down just a tiny bit. We lost my friend, but I wasn’t worried about her – as long as she was with people, she’d be ok. Around mile 4, we lost sight of all other runners. My husband joked that he was slightly off pace.
But not all hope was lost. At mile 5, a beacon in hot pink showed herself about a quarter of a mile ahead of us. I nudged my husband and suggested we could catch her. She made it easy for us when a fork in the trail stopped her short – the trailmarkers were difficult to find.
“To the left,” I shouted, and the three of us continued along the path, certain that we were the caboose.
Our friend in pink didn’t hang around with us for very long though, and with one mile left in the race, we knew we probably weren’t going to catch her. “You go on ahead,” said my husband. “It’s only a mile left, I’ll be fine.”
But we crossed that finish line together, with high fives from my friend (who finished about 10 minutes before us).
It can be hard for me to put aside my competitive nature and pride – but nothing is more important than supporting your friends and family.
But Ben – don’t expect me to hang around and wait for you at Disney :)