Seaside Striders 5K, Winthrop MA
Friday, June 13, 2014
My goal for this 5K was to run an 11 minute mile or better. Hardly a time worth striving for (or writing about, let’s be honest) until you consider that back in March I’d injured myself badly enough that I couldn’t run a single block without feeling pain shoot up the backs of my heels. I started over from scratch (again) after buying a new pair of running shoes. I increased my distance a block at a time, until I was slowly jogging one mile, then two, and finally – a week before the 5K – three whole miles.
I told myself that pace didn’t matter, that it was all about the distance, and even more than that, about persisting. About giving my thrice-pregnant body a chance to recover and reclaim its own health. To make the mental shift from giving it all to the baby – from the vitamins and minerals I ingested, to the sanity that can only come with a full night’s sleep – to making the time and space for myself. There’s a reason why mothers get so used to putting ourselves last, and – as Junie B. Jones would say – its name is Evolution. That mental shift is literally fighting biology. (In the same way, I suppose, that trying to lose weight is also fighting biology when Evolution has primed us to stock up for the once-inevitable famine.)
The day of the race was cool and rainy. At one point it was coming down hard enough that I considered shamelessly backing out. (Who the hell wants to run their first race in two years in a downpour?) But the ultimate appeal of bailing wasn’t the weather. It wasn’t even my worry about making a fool out of myself, of not being able to finish or to make my modest time goal. It was the fact that it would make life easier for the rest of my family.
Friday nights, after all, are not the most convenient time to leave my husband alone with the kids. It’s the night he usually makes homemade pizzas with the Bigs, and we often invite friends with similar aged kids to join us. That particular night our oldest desperately wanted to have one of her best friends sleep over – a girl in her class who was leaving the following week to spend a month with her mother’s family in Spain. It was too much to ask of Steve: a sleepover, making homemade pizzas, managing our son’s possibly complicated feelings around his older sister getting yet another sleepover while he has yet to have one, and, let’s not forget, an 11 month old who needs to have her bath and bedtime routine in the midst of all of this. It would have been easier for everyone if I’d called off the race and stayed home. The sleepover could happen, the pizza could happen, the baby would have been taken care of, and our middle child’s consternation smoothed over with extra attention. (This is not to say, by the way, that Steve isn’t perfectly capable of handling a houseful of kids. If he’d had to, he would have done it and it would have been fine. Just not ideal.)
But I’d put this race on the calendar months ago. That time had been reserved for me. And even though it was less convenient for everyone else, I had to recognize that part of the battle – part of my training – is for me to make my peace with sometimes putting myself, and my own health, first. So I met up with my friend Cathy, fellow writer, running buddy and admirably full time vegan, at her place in Winthrop and we walked down to the Point Shirley Athletic Club to pick up our race numbers and bags of goodies. It was lightly raining when we left, but just as we all lined up at the start the rain paused, and it stayed dry for the duration of the race.
There were enough kids under the age of ten running in this one that I felt nostalgic for my own – next year I’d love to have Josie run at least part of it with me – and the race had a delightful small-town feel to it. Artie, one of the race organizers, invited all participants back to his house for a post-race BBQ, and there were directions to his place in everyone’s goody bags. Plenty of friends and family lined the course, even though rain-heavy clouds continued to threaten.
Although I’d been happily chatting with others up until then, something happened to me when the race began. Something took over. Thoughts of all other obligations receded and only one thing became important: putting one foot in front of the other as fast as I could, knowing that I’d have to do it for just over three miles. Race Mind beat out Mommy Mind, at least for the next thirty minutes. Every runner I passed (and the many, many who passed me) became the competition. And when they announced my time as 10:40 at the first mile, I automatically increased my pace. What? Race Mind ranted. I can do better than that! In the end, I finished in 32:39, with a 10:31/mile pace. Well under my goal of 11 minute mile, but definitely leaving a lot of room for improvement.
This month I’m traveling with my family in California, mostly in the Bay Area, with a dip down to Big Sur for a writing conference at Esalen. And I’m loving running in the warm, humidity free afternoons and almost-chilly mornings. I’ve got my eye on increasing my distance, and am hoping to run a 10K in the fall. Anyone got one in New England they’d like to recommend? I’ve always wanted to run this one, but I’m open to other suggestions…