Running in the USA

Running is in my blood.  It gives me a feeling of freedom like nothing else.  It’s weird because I consider myself a fairly sedentary person, but the inner need to run is always there.  I quickly lose patience for standing or walking.  Running helps me think, rationalize, and sort out problems.

All kinds of crazy thoughts go through your head when a dramatic life event occurs.  It’s like all of a sudden you are within reach of the finish line in the race of life.  When running a race, your running changes as you feel yourself nearing the finish line.  You run faster, with more aggression.  I now have the finish line in view and it has changed how I live my life every day.  I want desperately to get so much out of life in such a short time period.  Being a runner, I want to conquer my goals and feel a sense of achievement through running.  Shortly after my diagnosis, all I could think about was running.  I toyed with the idea of running races in all 50 states.  Then life got in the way, I realized I still had to lead a responsible life as wife and mother and that probably wouldn’t involve a bunch of crazy running excursions.  Then fate stepped in, I actually verbally told a few people about my dream, and I realized this is something I need to do.  So, I am attempting to run a race in all 50 states.  After I sat down to think about how this would realistically work, I realized this is a crazy, awesomely difficult idea.  I’m not sure if I’ll actually reach my goal.  I’ve got to have realistic expectations for how much time and money I can really invest in this.  But I think it is achievable and I think it will be excellent for a number of reasons.

Anyone who has ever participated in a running race will probably agree with me that you’ll never find nicer, more positive people than runners and walkers at a race.  It’s humanity at its best.  I’ve never felt so good about mankind as I do when I’m at the starting line of a race.  This is what I need right now, positive energy, the feeling that I can do anything.  The hopeful feeling that this group of people around me is going to achieve something they have worked hard for.  They are all going to cross the finish line and proudly say they have done it, they finished.

I have a few hurdles.  At some point, I became a really slow runner.  I tell people this and they think I’m just being humble or trying some kind of modest psychological technique so I won’t disappoint, but I’m really slow.  I don’t know exactly what happened, but prior to my initial cancer diagnosis almost 4 years ago, I was usually in the top 20% of racers overall for any given race.  I now run about 30% slower.  Where I used to run a seven minute mile, I now will run about a nine minute mile.  I used to fairly easily run 10 miles if needed for a last-minute race or practice run.  Ten miles will now feel like a marathon to me.  I think a variety of factors have played a role in this.  Some of it could be age or general lack of training time, I am a 38-year-old mother, so that might definitely play a small role.  I think exposure to chemotherapy has given me a slight chronic fatigue that I never recovered from.  Now that I have metastatic cancer I think I have additional fatigue from that.  So, I don’t really know.  What I know is that where I used to proudly (and lest I say, smugly) stand up at the starting line knowing I was going to blow by 80% of the field, I now marvel at the speed of the group, wondering how they do it.  But, I still love it.  If fact, if anything, I’m even more proud when I’m able to finish.  I’m able to bask in the post-race glow a little bit longer.

The major practical hurdle I face is logistical.  How am I ever going to travel to all of these places, run races that are sprinkled randomly throughout the year, mainly on weekend days, without driving everyone around me crazy?  I already feel I don’t give enough time to my kids, my husband, my job, and other community responsibilities.  This has to be the most selfish thing I can do.  I have thought a lot about this and thought about just throwing up my hands and not even trying.  But, I just feel so strongly that this is important to me.  I could rationalize this by saying that races generally support a good cause and I’m hoping to pass along a love for running and seeing our beautiful country to my kids, both of which are true, but in the end, this is just me.  This is what I choose to do and I feel if I can spread the love of seeing a different environment through a race with just one other person, it is worth it.

So, I made my decision and decided to go for it.  Now I just needed a plan.  Well, as it turned out, my husband and I were planning a much-anticipated anniversary trip to San Diego.  Great, this was my chance to prove my commitment and cross off the sixth state on my list (I had already run races in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, and the very prestigious Boston Marathon in Massachusetts…I also feel I should get bonus points for a marathon in Winnipeg, Canada).  It was a laid back trip with only my husband and I in a large city, this should be easy.  Well, it turns out it wasn’t as easy as it should have been.  According to the sub par race-finding website I was using, there was really only one race that would work for the location and dates we were looking at.  I found out retrospectively that a huge AIDS walk/run was also being held that weekend, but for some reason that was absent from the website I was using.  I could tell that the race would not be a large race, but it was a race, so I signed up.  I don’t really know anything about San Diego and didn’t have a car, so I just gave the Lyft driver the address listed in my e-mail and hoped it would be easy to figure out how the packet pick-up and starting line were arranged.  I was dropped off at the Transportation Center which was essentially an office building in what seemed to be a remote part of San Diego.  The race started at 4:00 p.m. on a Friday (another bad sign).  It was 3:45 and I started my trek around the building.  It kind of seemed everyone had gone home for the weekend, but I finally ran into someone in the parking lot.  “Where’s the race?”  blank look….”umm, maybe try the security guard up front”.  The security guard was equally confused and at this point I started to have an inner melt down.  This plan was doomed for failure.  I couldn’t even make this work and this one was supposed to be easy.  I hadn’t even gotten to the remote areas of the country.  Finally, the security guard called someone and told me the race was in the parking lot.  I went out to the corner of the parking lot and sure enough, there was a group of about 7 guys standing around the sign-up table.  Apparently this was more of an intra-office competition than a race.  I still don’t know why the website I was looking at had this listed, but I made it to the start and I was going to go through with it.  As most runners can probably imagine, this was not a well-marked course.  I quickly got separated from the other 13 runners and found myself running completely alone on what appeared to be an abandoned bike trail along the San Diego “river”.  There were 3 total water stops on the 6.2 mile course and the water coolers were not user-friendly.  I almost took a wrong turn about ½ mile before the finish.  Being a “slow runner” I was afraid I would be at the tail end of the race.  Well, I wasn’t at the tail end, I was second to last.  The finish line was somewhat of a blind finish around a corner.  When I got close, I figured it didn’t even really matter anymore, I was just happy to be about done and slowed to a walk.  I rounded the corner and walked into the group of 13 people, cheering me on as if I had just won Boston.  I got a medal, 2nd place for the women.  These are runners for you.  They will never stop cheering you on, never stop believing in you.

Race in my sixth (at the time I guess I thought it was my fourth) state, California.  This was also the first race I received a Red Solo Cup in my goodie bag!

Next stop, the Hot Chocolate Run in Chicago!  It’ll be the longest race I’ve run in a while, 9.3 miles.

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