This Saturday morning I ran my first Charlottesville Ten Miler. Even though they held the race each of my three years of law school, the timing never worked out for me to enter. And by bad timing, I mean that the race always coincided with The Libel Show weekend, which as anyone who knows anything at all about the UVA Libel Show understands that running and “libeling” do not mix.
I was nervous about the race because I remembered how hilly Charlottesville is from my law school runs. I really didn’t want to have to run another Lynchburg Ten Miler-like course (ugh. If anyone is looking for a hard course, come to Lynchburg in late September and I’ll take you on a lovely tour. Bring your Advil.) I also didn’t know the race course (very unnerving) and had no seasoned runner friends to bounce questions off of – “What is the hardest part of the course?” “Is the finish up or downhill?” “Do they have timers at every mile?”
Thankfully, the race went as well as I could have asked. The weather was freezing (upper 30s), but once I get past the numb hands and wind-chapped legs, I much prefer to run in the cold than the heat. The hills were no match for Lynchburg either – there were as many down hills as up hills and the finish was downhill after all (wooohooo!). It wasn’t my speediest ten-miler, but it was my fastest post-children (which I’m not sure should make much difference, but I’ll take any excuse I can at this point).
I haven’t actually trained for a race since Frances was born, so I am always pleasantly surprised when I can eke out another run. Of course, once the race is completed, I sometimes find my mind drifting to thoughts of, “if I had really trained hard for that, maybe I could have done a ____ minute mile or run a sub-____.” But honestly, that is what I enjoy most about my running these days – no pressure. Once I start “serious” training for goal times, I find myself becoming a tad bit obsessive compulsive (who ME?) with the end result.
I started running almost 15 years ago (scary – I actually had to double check my math on that one). I had just “retired” from ballet at the ripe old age of 20 and was feeling very lost and uninspired. I had also put on a few rebellious pounds in my new found “I can eat anything I want to now!” freedom and was uncomfortable in my skin. One afternoon, I was flipping through the TV channels (remember those days of just sitting for an hour or more in front of the TV???) and stopped on ESPN airing the New York City Marathon. I sat there and watched as these teeny-tiny muscular runners ran lightening speeds for 26 miles in a row – and I was hooked. Obviously I knew I could never be a professional runner, but what I did know is that I wanted that effortless but athletic feeling that seemed to pulsate from their bodies. I wanted that sense of accomplishment on their faces. And after weeks of inactivity, I wanted to sweat again.
So, the next day, I put on my worn tennis shoes and went for my first run. Those early runs were a struggle. My asthma flared up constantly, my knees ached, the shin splints kicked in and I was more sore than I had been in a long time. But for whatever reason, I kept trekking. I also read every running book I could get my hands on and subscribed to Runner’s World (back before you could just read all of the articles on the internet…shhhhh!). I adjusted my stride, bought better shoes, cross-trained and experimented with new routes. I also experienced injuries (hello, stress fractures!), overheating and complete race failures.
But fourteen years later, I can honestly say that running (every-other day now) has helped me stay sane. I love that you can do it anywhere you go with very little equipment or preparation. I love that running has been my companion through some very difficult times (terrible work days) and the absolute best of times (my wedding day morning!). I especially love zoning out during my runs and letting my mind wander to wherever it wants – usually my only “me” time of the day.
I am hoping to run until I am old and gray. Maybe by then I will prefer to run in those fun groups of older women I see strutting through our neighborhood talking about the children and grandchildren. Or maybe I will still enjoy running alone. Either way, I hope the old knees (and the rest of my body) hold up!
Virginia Ten Miler 2008 (Lynchburg)
(Sorry for the old picture, but it is one of the only action shots I have)