Do you believe, mother runners? Race day for Adrienne Martini at the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon is finally here! She's all smiles...kind of. (Catch up on her journey with past episodes of Martini Fridays.)
By the time you read this, I will be in the middle of driving the seven hours to Pittsburgh in order to run the Half Marathon on Sunday. Unless, of course, you are reading this on any day that isn’t Friday, in which case I’m either currently running or am enjoying a cookie or driving back home. Time is weird.
My last long run happened to coincide with one of our local races, the Fly Creek Cider Mill Cider Run. Last year, they only had a 5K course; this year had a 10K, which fit perfectly into the AMR Half Marathon: Finish It schedule. The prize at the end is a pint glass full of cider; you get to choose between sweet or hard. No matter which you pick, that cider will be the best cider you drink all year.
I went into the race cocky. I can do six miles easy, I thought, especially after all of the distance I’ve put in. I even went so far as to line up near the starting line. It wasn’t intentional, frankly. I was standing there chit-chatting with a stranger and not paying enough attention to the starting line forming around me, as can happen when there are fewer than 100 runners. Once I did realize what had happened, I didn’t bother to move to the back because, like I said, I got cocky.
What I failed to account for was how much my brain wanted me to stay with the lead pack despite how freaking speedy they all were. I ran the first mile waaaaay too fast and paid for it when the course got hilly, which it did, because it is well-nigh impossible to plot a flat course in this part of the state. I slowed to something between “snail” and “glacial” between miles two and three and wasted more energy than I care to think about beating myself up for it.
What I really wanted to do was drop back to the rear of the 10K runners, only with such a small race, there were only three of us, which doesn’t make much of a pack. I couldn’t manage to find a comfortable rhythm despite the number of six mile runs I’ve made during the last 15 weeks. It was more than a little demoralizing.
By mile four, right around the time I passed the cows, who paid absolutely no attention any of us, I’d mostly unfunked myself. I was helped along by a woman who I only know as “Pumpkin,” which was the name on the back of her shirt, who kept trading places with me. I lost her after the race in the sea of people clamoring for cider, which was, indeed, the best I’ve had all year. I’m drinking Nuun out of the souvenir pint glass even as I’m typing this.
In the theater, the received wisdom is that a lousy final dress rehearsal predicts a glorious opening night. While the 10K wasn’t that bad -- physically, I felt like I could have kept going but I was morally trashed -- I’m hoping it’s predicting a decent run on Sunday.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve settled on an outfit -- and wore it at the Cider Run to see if there were any chafing issues. While I was walking to get my bib and swag bag, I overheard a woman talking about how someone had given her this “badass” t-shirt. I spun back around to check it out.
This is Lori Ryan, another badass mother runner. It was a complete coincidence that we bumped into each other. I’ve decided to take this as a sign.
If you should be in Da Burgh for the race, look for me in the above Sparkle Skirt and tee. I might also have that same blue fleece on, depending on what the weather decides to do. Please yell something encouraging. Or throw Salted Caramel Gu and Eat‘n Park Smiley cookies (pic above). Your choice.
I’ve taken a number of stabs at writing this last bit but can’t seem to make it not sound like I’m about to head off into battle. And a race really isn’t a battle; it’s the reward for all of those runs through, say, upstate New York in 33 degree freezing rain. It’s the reward for seven miles on the indoor track with whippet-thin college cross-country runners. And it’s the reward for six miles on a treadmill, where you thought about gnawing off your own arm just to keep it interesting.
That might be the biggest lesson I take from the last 15 weeks of training: I can run through everything. EVERYTHING. While there is definitely physiological strengthening during all of those miles, there is metric ton of mental strengthening, too. I’ve reached a point where 95 percent of the running conditions -- both those in the outside world and those in my skull -- don’t make me fail to run. Snow? Run anyway. Sleepy? Run anyway. Convinced you’re too old and fat and slow? Run anyway.
This of course doesn’t apply to issues of health and safety, like, you’re if in white-out conditions or about to leave a toddler at home alone. But, most of the time, I’ve discovered, you can also find a way around these obstacles so that you can (you guessed it) run anyway. And if you really, really can’t (and it isn’t just mental monkeys flinging poo on your self-esteem), then you know that you can make like Queen Elsa and let it go. Until tomorrow, at which point, you’ll run anyway.
Admittedly, right now I can feel the beginnings of anxiety and excitement starting to bubble up. I can only imagine what I’ll feel like on Sunday morning. I’m trying to focus on what Jill Farmer pointed out in this week’s AMR podcast: this race is something I GET to do. In fact, I might take a Sharpie to myself and write that on my body somewhere so that I don’t forget during one of the inevitable sloggy moments.
See you on the other side.