Looking out over the crowd as we moved forward toward the starting line at this year’s 10K Ford Island Bridge Run, I took a moment to observe the people around me. Like musicians tuning up before the overture, there were runners shaking and stretching their limbs, adjusting their earphones, tucking in their shoelaces, getting ready to move with the hundreds of others who were about to run the same path but in their own ways. As I looked at the bridge ahead, I began to do the same warm ups. The noise of the crowd began to diffuse like watercolors washing across a canvas and I focused quietly on the journey ahead.
A year ago I stood at this same starting line, running what would (unbeknownst to me) be my last race for many months, pregnant with my daughter (our third child), my husband at my side. This time I stood alone with a few 5Ks, nearly 5 months of (re)training under my belt, and the hope of making a great time in my head. I visualized meeting my goal (59 minutes), mentally plotted the course and my level of effort, and when they signaled us to start, I focused hard on the fact that, like all races for me, I was only in competition with myself. Not getting distracted by people who would pass me or who I would leave behind was important.
As I started over the bridge, I told myself many things – pace yourself, breathe correctly, watch your form, get comfortable but stay focused, and, most importantly, appreciate what you are doing right here and now. I still get a little choked up sometimes over how far I’ve come since deciding to try running for the first time in my life after having my second son in 2011. I remember how hard it was training myself in that first Couch to 5K where I could barely run for 60 seconds at first, struggled to run that first non-stop half mile, couldn’t make it around the 2.5 mile loop in my neighborhood without stopping to walk several times, to my first 5K where I still had to stop to walk for a stretch. Today, 5K is shorter than my “short run”, I do not stop to walk, I breathe easy even on the long runs, and I truly enjoy myself in every step.
I’m nearly 30 pounds lighter than I was a year ago and exponentially happier on so many levels, and as I ran, I thought about how many “bridges” I had to cross and even burn to get here. All I wanted to do was be able to run with my husband so we could spend time together and this journey has turned out to be so much more. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it. There were times I thought I would give up on myself because of the challenges put on my path. Even toward the end of this race, I nearly lost focus in the last quarter mile when my phone began to ring which took me out of the headspace I wanted to be in and reminded me of the things my family has been struggling through lately, but I turned off the phone and kept going, imagining my husband’s finger pushing me in the small of my back, telling me to keep my feet moving. Keep the feet moving. I finished this year in 1:01:24, a sub 10 minute mile (AWESOME for me) and 17 minutes faster than I finished last year. It was a great accomplishment for me personally, but a reminder that there are always going to be more challenges up ahead that I will need to push through. Like the bridge, those moments can be tough to run, but they are absolutely necessary for helping me get to where I need to be on the other side.