Archive for June 2011

Rockin’ the Father’s Day Road Race, Mom Style

June 19, 2011

I start off this morning near the end of the line of runners.  The 10K does not seem like such a big deal this year.  Sue is out, her Achilles tendon the boss for this spring season.  My friend Victoria is missing too.  Torn meniscus.  No iPod today, either.  Just me and a bunch of strangers. The start gun goes off and the only way I know that it is that the runners in front of me take off.  I follow.

I feel great this morning.  We celebrated my husband’s birthday last night, and the belly full of homemade pizza and Red Hook Wit beer I went to bed with has turned out to be runner-friendly.  My race number is 90, and that makes me happy, too.  9 is my lucky number, so, that times 10.  I listen to the pounding of runners’ feet all around me, and again, the sound of spitting, over and over.  I barely have enough spit in my own mouth to wet my lips and wonder exactly where all that mucous comes from, as all around me I hear the sound of spit and splat hit the pavement.

I pass the first mile marker and hear the timer call, “7′ 28″ ” and can’t believe I am off to such a fast start.  Mile two flies by and I hear “15′ ” and I grin to myself.  This is it!  I have never started off this fast before, and I feel like I can keep the pace going.  I pass runner after runner, saying, “Hi!  Great job!” and inside I know this is my best race.  I don’t expect to win, but definitely expect to beat my time from last year.

As I grab water from each station, I take one big sip from the clear plastic cup, then pour the rest of it down my back.  Although the sun is out and the air is warm, today there is also a pretty strong wind.  The wet back and wind make for a wonderful coolness all through my body.

I notice I am running among a pack of men; some are younger than I am, some older.  Lots of them are wearing earbuds, but a few say hello or wave as I go by.  As I leave Pebble Beach, between mile 2 and 3, I hear someone coming up behind me on my right.  The breathing is hard, but the footsteps are strong and steady.  I wait to see which man or woman will pass me and look to my right as the footsteps get closer.  At first I don’t see anyone, but then notice a cute little head near my elbow.

“Hey, buddy!  You’re a strong runner!  How are you doing?”

The little boy looks over at me, panting.

“Pretty good, I guess.  This is the right way for the 5K, right?”

My heart sinks.  This little boy is way off track.  And I can tell he’s nervous.

“My name’s Elizabeth.  What’s yours?”

“Ben.”

“Well, Ben, how old are you?”

“10.”

“Wow!  You are so fast!  And a really strong runner!  I think you missed your turn a while back.”

His little face looks panicky.

“How do I get back on my race route?”

“I’m not exactly sure, honey.  I think you may have already run 5K.  But I can help you.  I’ll run with you and when we get to the next fork, I’ll show you how to get to the detail police officer.  He will help you.  He’ll either get you back on your course, or take you back to the finish.  Don’ t worry!  You’ll be fine.”

I run alongside this little boy and try to imagine how he must feel, running with a strange woman, not knowing where he is or how he’s going to find his own mom.  I talk with him a little more, then we reach Eden Road.  We slow down.

“Okay, Ben.  This is what you do.  Run straight up that hill.  At the top, turn right.  That’s where the policeman is.  Tell him you got off course, and he will take care of you.”

I turn right onto Eden Road, watching the tiny runner head up the steep hill of Penzance Road.  I turn my attention back to the race, speeding up and seeing if I can make up my time.  At the top of Eden, I see the detail policeman.  I stop.  I tell him about Ben, and the direction I sent him.  He thanks me and I start running again, hoping Ben finds his way.

I catch up to and then pass some of the runners who passed me while I was running with Ben.  I run for a while with a man from Beverly, but he drops back when we hit the big hills on Marmion Way.  I press on.  I turn onto Old Garden Road, really taking the hill on, and as I pass my house, I hear and then see my daughter in the front yard.

“Go Mom!”

She waves and my heart leaps to see her standing on the rocks with her arms raised high in the air, waving to me and cheering.

I turn the corner onto Atlantic Ave. and dig deep to prepare for the final big hill.  I kind of glide down Atlantic, then turn the corner for the last steep hill and head to the finish.

I keep my eye on the girl in front of me.  She is young, much younger that I am.  I can hear her straining, her heavy breath so loud that I wonder if she is going to make it to the finish.  She’s pushing so hard and I decide to stay right behind her.  I know I have it, this race.  I wonder how my time will be, but know that it was the right thing to stay with the little boy.  There’s always next year.

I finish right behind the girl and I finish strong.  I can feel the joy that comes with the end of a good race, that feeling of accomplishment and pride that turns the whole world and everyone in it a lovely shade of beautiful that sticks for days.  I look at my time as I cross the finish.  I read 50′ 28″, but am not sure if that’s quite when I crossed or not.  But for sure it’s better than last year!  I hear my husband cheer and call me.  I whirl around to find his face, but the volunteers wave me along the finish line ropes to the very end.

Almost at the finish!

My husband catches up to me and starts taking pictures.  I try to smile, but I know my eyes are darting around, looking for water, Ben, and the result board.  I get the water, find the boy, (and meet his grateful mom), then, at last, the results are posted.   I ran a pace of 8’08”, came in 45th overall, and first in my age group.  My husband captures my emotions so well with the camera lens— I am thrilled!

Just saw my time.

We hang around waiting for the awards and I can’t wait to collect mine for 1st place in age group.  I approach the awards table when my name is called, only to find out there has been a mistake with the printer.  They tell me I will have to have my framed prize shipped later.  By the looks of this final picture, I guess that didn’t really matter too much.  Floating along, knowing my time, and hearing my name over the loudspeaker is enough for me!

Happy just to hear my name called. Award coming later.

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