The morning dawned cold and bright. Ice covered the cars in the driveway and the lawn was frosted in a pretty white. I looked outside and knew that I was going to freeze. But it didn't deter me. I had woken up before my alarm and was dressed by 6, which was a full hour and 15 minutes before we needed to leave. My husband was laying in bed sleepily after his alarm had gone off, unable to drag himself out from under the warm covers. I told him that he didn't have to come and wait for me to run, to which he replied that he wouldn't miss it for anything. Tears in my eyes, I went to my kids' room to wake them up and start getting them fed and bundled for the cold. My oldest daughter, Anna (11), informed me that my youngest, Jonathan, had wet his pajamas at midnight, and that she had wiped him down and changed his clothes and put him back to bed. I thanked her and told her that she should have sent him into me, that I would have taken care of it. "No, you needed your sleep" was her reply. Now completely choked up by the love of my family, I went to the kitchen to start gathering snacks for the morning. My husband really got everyone ready to go, as I kind of wandered from task to task, unable to focus on anything for longer than a couple of minutes. My mind kept going to the run ahead of me, my fears and doubts overtaking my thoughts.
We arrived at the race in good time, and waited a few minutes to meet up with our friends, one of whom was running with me. At four months pregnant, I knew that if I couldn't keep up with her, I was in trouble. We stretched and tried to warm up in the freezing temperatures, braved the porta-potties, and then bid farewell to our husbands and kids and made our way to the corrals. We had to weave our way through the crowd of fun-runners, those who had opted not to be timed. Our bibs were purple to their orange, and a surge of excitement went through me when a man pulled his son out of our path and said "Watch out, they have purple bibs, let them through. PURPLE BIBS COMING THROUGH." I felt set apart and special.
We set ourselves in the 12 minute mile area and listened to the news reporters on the lift in front of us try to energize the crowd. After a word from the mayor and a rendition of "America the Beautiful" sung by a 12 year old girl, the gun was fired and we were off. Or rather, the people in front of us were off, while we took a couple of steps before the crowd thinned enough to let us start to run. The first mile was quick and easy, and my fears began to subside a bit. But as people passed me left and right, I began to think that maybe I was too slow for this. I forcefully pushed those thoughts aside, telling myself over and over, "It's about me, not them." It became my mantra in the first half of my second mile, and kept me going at an even pace when my basic instinct was to speed up. This was where having someone to run with really paid off for me - she set a pace, and she really stuck with it, while there were several times I started to speed to a pace I wouldn't have been able to maintain, and which would have had me walking the rest of the race.
As we approached the water table, my friend asked if I wanted to get a drink. I shook my head, feeling that I didn't want to stop or slow for anything. A minute later, my friend, panting, asked if I thought we were at 2 miles yet. She hadn't been running much prior to this, and as I mentioned she is pregnant, and 2 miles was as much as she had ran in the last couple of weeks. Almost immediately after she asked, the 2 mile marker came up, and renewed her dedication. Reaching the last mile with even breath was amazing for me, and I soared on that feeling as I kept moving forward. By this time, many of the people who had passed us earlier had slowed to a walk, and we were passing them for a change. I was so glad for having listened to my own mantra. The last half mile had the potential to be the slowest and most difficult, as my breathing was finally becoming a bit ragged and my legs were tiring. But ahead, in the distance, was an archway of balloons and a banner proclaiming "FINISH," and nothing was getting me down or stopping me at that point.
We ran under that archway, under the big screen projection of ourselves, and by the timer, and my friend turned to me and said "37 minutes" and I wanted to cry with joy. We ran 12 minute miles, my fastest time to date, and we were both thrilled with our results. I had run my very first 5k, without stopping once, which was my biggest fear overcome. The sense of pride in us, in myself, was almost unparalleled in my life, and I was elated. We found our families on the sidelines, and my kids ran to me and embraced me, and my world was perfect. When they stepped aside, I threw my arms around my husband, who was congratulating me and telling me how proud he was of me, and how I can do anything in this world. It was a wonderful moment.
We gathered the troops and made our way to the free snacks, loading up on fruit and granola bars and water. We visited for a bit before making our way back to our cars and going our separate ways to our homes to get showered and ready for our Thanksgiving meals. I couldn't stop looking at my husband and saying, in a tone of amazement and excitement, "I did it!" It was a truly wonderful morning, and the beginning of a great day.
(I look at this picture and I honestly think "Who is that girl??? That can't be me.")
There are more wonderful things to share, but I will leave it here for now, and fill you in later.