Ahh… summer in central Pennsylvania! Every weekend, you can find a short-distance race somewhere in the area. It’s a great way to explore new territory, meet new people, and test your (and your friends’) direction-following skills. There are a variety of 5K races (3.1 miles) around, but if you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon a 10K, which is 6.2 miles.
When you attend a 5K, you see people of all shapes and sizes. At a 10K, however, the amount of runners with a reasonable amount of weight to lose (like me) declines rapidly. My competitors are generally at a healthy weight, which makes my challenge of placing in my age bracket even harder. They don’t have to carry around the equivalent of my two-year-old nephew for six miles. Er…six point two.
Something possessed me to run 10K races two weeks in a row. The first was planned. The second was not. After a fairly decent race last week, I decided to push my luck today, and go out a little faster than I had last week. My nutrition had been on point all week, and I was feeling pretty good overall. I started at a low-quick shuffle, and had few side stitch issues (which seem to plague me often).
We ran on the Lock Haven river walk, adjoining the Susquehanna. It was a beautiful day for a race, with a nice breeze, and an overcast sky. I love running beside the river, looking out at the mountains, and hoping to spot an eagle. However, these river levees have a drawback…ramps. Because this is Pennsylvania, and there’s hardly EVER a flat race.
Before my paralysis, I used to enjoy climbing hills as a kid. During CIDP, I could barely do stairs. As I dealt with residual weakness, I just learned to run up the stairs to keep my quads from hurting. Nowadays, I run up and down the hills around the circle where I work. Sometimes, it’s even fun!
But today, I learned that running full-speed up a hill around mile 4 of a 6.2 mile race is a bad idea. Don’t do that.
I had run up and down the ramps the entire first half of the race. Now, my legs were heavy and I could barely catch my breath. I had hit the wall, and my body wasn’t going to recover to finish as strongly as I wanted.
As the others passed me, the frustration hit in, and my emotions pounced on my failing resolve.
“Why do you keep doing this?”
“You’re slower and fatter than everybody else!”
“You don’t belong out here with actual athletes.”
I knew at that point that I wasn’t going to finish under an hour, like I’d hoped. In fact, I thought I might have to walk the rest of the way.
I turned toward the river and saw the shadow of a large bird. Just the shadow. It was probably a crow, but I imagined it to be an eagle. Suddenly, I remembered WHY I was doing this! I was out here because I was confirming my victory over CIDP. I was out here for those who are too weak to walk, let alone run. I was out here for my friends who still have to live with debilitating autoimmune diseases and the awful treatments they have to endure. I was out here to give others hope!
I could have given up and walked, but I slowed my pace and pressed on. And somehow, placed first in my age group! My time was a few seconds more than last week’s 10K, but I was satisfied with that. I had once again learned that it’s better to be the tortoise than the hare. Especially on hills!