Running is the last event of the triathlon race. You’re tired, sweaty, and really ready for a beer. But alas, you still have 3, 6, 13, or 26 miles to go. In my first race, my back was cramping, my calves were cramping, and I felt like I was just running in place. Half a mile in the course traveled over an unexpected stretch of soft sand, which felt like a cruel joke. I remember noting there was a beautiful view of the downtown San Diego skyline, but I was in too much pain to appreciate it. So I told myself, “Okay, you get 100 steps. 100 steps to walk, get yourself together, and get back out there.” So I walked, and when I hit step 100 I mentally slapped myself and started running again. I’m not sure if I would say I had mental strength or if I just realized that I would be finished sooner if I ran instead of walked. Either way, I had done my run training, and I had trained to have my heart rate high for up to 90 minutes. My training was paying off. I’m not a fast runner, but I was passing men younger than me.
There’s a reason this is considered an endurance sport.
Once again, without my watch it was tough to gauge my time or distance. My race was 3.5 miles, but the course overlapped with the Olympic distance, which was 6.2 miles. The course markers were set based on the Olympic course, so I would excitedly cross the marker, see “4 miles” and think, “That’s not right…” All I could do was dig my knuckles into the cramp in my back and keep moving forward. Thankfully the end was nearer than I thought, and soon I saw friends and family at the finish line waiting to cheer me on.
There is a picture of me running towards the finish line that is not pretty- my shoulders are slumped, I’m hunched up from the pain in my back, and I don’t know what’s going on with the way my knee is raised. But there is an unmistakable, unmoveable smile on my face. I love the run, because the run is what brings you home.
This week I’ll be sharing some of my favorite beginner running tips. Stay tuned!