“Your biggest challenge in a race is yourself.” – Summer Sanders
I am standing with the other runners waiting for the 10K race to begin. We are at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. I’ve got this. I have so got this. I am normally not this confident in a race, especially on a hilly course such as this. However, I’ve run the entire route two times in recent weeks, so I know I can complete it. I also know the toughest part will be the first part. We are standing on flat ground but around the first bend we’ll be going up a hill, and then we will loop around and go back up that same hill.
The excitement of the crowd is contagious. Everyone is stretching, talking, jogging in place. I can almost feel the adrenaline. It is chilly, but we will warm up quickly once we start running. I greet a friend, Regina, who is lined up in the same area because she runs near my pace. Regina inspires me, for she has lost 100 pounds and has kept the weight off for well over a decade. My husband Ken is a much faster runner than me, so he is lined up closer to the front.
The starting gun sounds and we’re off! My MP3-player is playing at a low volume, and Sheryl Crow is singing “All I want to do is have some fun, I got a feeling I’m not the only one.” Most people, including me, make it up the first hill OK. I come back around and face that hill again. Some people are slowing down here. I listen to a song from the Sound of Music: “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, ’till you find your dream.”
As I run, I look for signs of spring. The scenery is beautiful. Every time I spot something green or blooming, I feel uplifted.
Somewhere around mile 2, two friends from the Bolingbrook Fun Run Club are shouting “Sue! Go Sue!” Wow! I did not expect anyone to be cheering for me, but Leslie and Amy have gotten up early solely to cheer a handful of runners.
I feel strong throughout the race and run steadily, listening to music. “Rawhide” from The Blues Brothers:
Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’
Though the streams are swollen
Keep them doggies rollin’
I sing aloud softly with Frank Sinatra to “My Kind of Town”:
This is my kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of people too
People who smile at you
And each time I roam, Chicago is
Calling me home, Chicago is
Why I just grin like a clown
It’s my kind of town
The flow of everyone running carries me along and I never even think of walking. When I pass the Strength bench, I repeat, “Strength. Strength. Strength!”
Throughout the course, volunteers and spectators line the road. A man shouts “Keep going! You’re almost there”.
No, I’m not! He means well, but it is not good to give a runner false hope. An app on my I-Phone tells me I’ve run 4.5 miles, so I have 1.7 miles to go. I know there will be three hills in a row beginning at mile 4.8. By now, I am getting tired, and the hills will be a challenge.
Reaching the first of the three hills, a teenage boy is obviously struggling. He walks, hands clasped, then runs a few steps with his hands waving wildly. Then he walks, hands on head. It is obvious he needs support, so I run alongside him saying, “You’ve got this! You’re rocking this race! Keep going!” He perks up but indicates someone he knows is up ahead of him. “That’s OK,” I say. “You’re doing awesome. No worries!” I don’t know if I helped, but I hope so.
I run ahead and power up the first hill, along with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”.
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
Surprise! There are my two friends from the running club again, shouting and cheering. You can see how much Amy and Leslie’s cheering perks me up.
With the last two hills ahead, I tell myself to just keep running steadily. Josh Groban and I sing,
You raise me up so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be
I pass people who’d been ahead of me but who now are walking the hills. Perhaps I’m a little cocky, for I think, “You didn’t train on hills.” Thank goodness for those Saturdays when I ran on hills with the running club.
Less than a mile remains. I have practiced finishing strong and that is what I will do. Around mile 6, I round a curve, and Ken is shouting “Good job! You’re almost there.” He finished the race a while ago and has walked back to cheer me on for a strong finish. That is just the boost I need and I cross the finish line with exuberance.
What have been your experiences in races? If you’ve never done one, what other challenges have you faced?