I set my goals high today. I must 'PR' (set a personal record) and I must run under 1:45. I believe in always setting a goal to keep my mind motivated and legs moving.
It was a brisk morning - a cool 45 degrees. Perfect running weather! As much as I love to run in this weather, I loathe the pre-race shivering and so my clothing selection was a bit tricky. After much debate, I settled on shorts, a tank and my homemade arm warmers (a cut off pair of compression stockings from Target).
Fueled by an extra hour of sleep and months of training, I made a dash from the start. Today would be the day I would simply go for it. No holding back in fear of bonking. The conditions were ideal and today had potential to be a near perfect race day.
I locked in a comfortable pace. In the back of my mind, I still had that apprehension of starting out too quickly, but if I was going to PR today, I had to go for it. When the rolling hills began around mile three, my confidence from all those hill repeats I've done in my training kicked in and I started making my passes - one by one.
When I made it through the most difficult part of the course (miles 3-7) and I knew the rest of the course was relatively flat, I let myself loose and I went for it. I locked in a 7:40 - 7:50 pace. I just kept passing people and instead of fueling my thoughts with doubt, my adrenaline wouldn't allow for anything but a positive mindset.
Around mile nine, I approached a young boy, running briskly in the distance. I could hear someone shouting his name, pleading for him to slow down. The boy simply acknowledged the yells with a "C'MON! We can do this! Get Up HERE! We are going to finish together!" Then like a flash, two young boys swiftly passed me to catch up to their friend.
I was so inspired by the friendship, the teamwork and the encouragement I was witnessing between the three of them. "We finish as a team! This is just like a cross-country meet. We DO NOT quit!"
How could I ever imagine slowing my pace while I witnessed such a positive display of human interaction and compassion between such young kids? With that I kicked my legs harder and pumped my arms stronger and passed them as I gave them a huge thumbs up! "Let's go! You guys are awesome!" I shouted loudly.
Nothing was going to slow my pace now. No time for negative thoughts. I continued onward. Mile 10, then 11 and 12.
Then in the last half mile, I felt someone approaching me and it was the boy. The leader. He asked me how much farther we had to go and was showing signs of extreme fatigue. My heart ached for his desperation and I simply couldn't let him down. "C'MON. We're going to do this together! You are going to finish with me," I shouted.
With that encouragement, he picked up his pace and when I looked at my watch, we were clocking a 6:50 mile. A pace I could only dream to run. We came to the last turn as the crowds lined the finish line. There we were, the young boy and I, racing to the finish. He passed me and finished seconds ahead of me and I have never been so happy to have someone beat me!
I later learned he was 13 years old. WE finished in 1:44! Ironically, my greatest achievement today was not accomplishing my goal, but rather being a part of a special camaraderie that unites runners of all ages, genders and abilities.
**Update: I was able to obtain these photos today of the trio of runners! Aren't they awesome?