Do you have a lucky number? I mean other than number 7 which seems to be everybody's lucky number. I'm talking about a number that is your "go to" number when you need to "pick a number" or a number that comes up regularly in your life. We all have them and we know it, recognize it consciously or unconsciously and it tells us that things are where they should or the way they should be.
My number seems to be 4. It would pop up in all sorts of places. Number of occurrences of an action, number of people, on jerseys I was given (yes I was an "athlete" at one point in my childhood, I played basketball in elementary and a bit in high school) and, ironically, number of serious relationships.
It also seems to be where I find my latest race, my fourth and one that I feel is a turning point for me. My fourth and my longest to date, the Beat the Bridge 8K.
Now I know you're saying "8K? Weren't you struggling with 5K's and now you ran an 8K?" and to that I would say "Phhhsssss....um yeah." I'd seen the advertisements for this race each year for as long as I can remember. The race is run through the University of Washington and it's surrounding area and was heavily publicized every year. Being a graduate of the UW, I would see the banners and hype surrounding the race and often thought "Man...those people are nuts! Why would you get up so early to run...of all things, to try and beat the raising of the bridge, that's just silly!"
Well, for a non-runner, yes that does seem a bit bizarre and strange. However, now I'm looking at the same race from both sides, as a non-runner before and a runner now, and some of what I'd said still holds true to me. Hahahha...I know, I know. I'm supposed to be a convert now, I've been running for 7 months now and I should be "in love" with it. Well to be honest, no, I'm not...yet! Running is still hard, getting the miles done and logging the time on the pavement is hard. Learning my pace, finding my breath, keeping a steady run to train and then actually do the race. It's not easy, it's getting easier, but it is far from easy. Maybe not easier, but more comfortable, yeah, that's a better term for it.
This race was no exception to my rule above, it was hard. Luckily the course was fairly level, only a few low grade hills along the 5 mile course. My legs left like lead during the first 2 miles, the most during the .5 to 2 mile mark. They were saying to me "what the hell are you doing? Don't you know I should be sleeping right now instead of running with all these other fools!?!" I had to stop and walk more times in the first two miles of this race than I have in any other race up to that point. Sadness. I was really disappointed in myself.
The bridge was at mile 2.25 mark on the course and they were raising it 20 minutes after the last person left the start line. Now I don't have a watch and I have no idea how long it had been, and I had left with the second wave of people at a pace that was not my own, but I had no idea how long I had been running, only that I'd been passed by people that started in the waves after mine. Great.
Then the bridge appeared, the light was still green meaning we could run across it. Had it happened? Did I do it? Had I beaten the bridge? As I ran across the bridge I put my arms up in the air, proud of myself for having kept up with my running and walking breaks to beat the bridge, to get across before they closed it off and halted the race. All of a sudden my legs felt lighter and my breath more steady. I no longer was worried about the bridge, I'd done it, I'd passed it and crossed it. Now it was time for me to run with a couple thousand of like-minded individuals. Just get into a groove and pound the pavement, and that's what I did.
Now I have to say one negative thing about the race. On the map they had shown the locations of the water stations and indicated which ones would have glucose tabs. When I approached the last station which is where I knew I would need a Gu or gel or beans or something sugary to help me get through the last mile and a half...there was nothing. Damn it! Had I known this would happen I would have brought one of my own from home! Well I guess I learned that lesson the hard way, remember to always bring one yourself, JUST IN CASE! Write that down class, I don't want you to make that same mistake, learn from mine! This really sucked because I was feeling a major downturn in my energy level by that point in the race and I needed something to get me going through that last bit of the race. Regardless, I kept moving.
The last mile came and my body was done, I kept churning the legs. I kept telling myself this was the farthest I've ever run and I'm going to be tired and have aches and pains associated with this distance, but this is a milestone. Look at what you can do!!! That took me through my last .75 miles where I was fighting, HARD. There were people lining the course now and I took that energy in and gave the rest of what I had in me and pushed. I saw the finish line and sprinted with all my energy to get across the green mats to record my chip. Then I immediately looked for the hubby, I found him (luckily, there were easily 500 people waiting at the finish line) and collapsed in his arms. Just from sheer exhaustion and happiness that I'd made it, I had finished my first 5 miler and damn it, I beat the bridge!
I got a finishers metal, the first I'd ever gotten. I put it on and walked proudly. Yeah it wasn't a marathon or even 1/2 marathon metal, but to me, it felt like a marathon and I was proud of my accomplishment. I had done a feat I never thought was possible and still has my family in awe of how and why I do it. I don't know, maybe its the challenge that keeps me going because its a challenge against me, myself and I, and only I can improve the outcomes. It's not a team where multiple people can determine the outcome, its just me and I think I like that control and the ability to make it happen.
Now finishing the race was big and momentous for me, I'm still really proud of it. However it was made even more so when I saw the timing results the next day. My total time was 1:00:20!!! I ran 5 miles in just over an hour!! With an average pace time of 12:09!!??!! I shaved an entire minute off my pace time from my previous race, which had only been a 5K. What?!?!?!?! I was aghast. I still am. I am in awe of what I've been able to accomplish and see my training and hard work start to pay off. It left me so pumped and more focused on training and getting out there and just running. Just enjoying that time to grow and push and better myself for the sake of myself.