Freedom to Reach Higher

I thought I had the ultimate victory back in April when I beat my husband to the finish line of the Gate River Run. However, that race was only the beginning.  I do attempt to keep the bragging to a minimum, but I have to say that I am proud of what I accomplished today.  Let me share that story with you.

First of all, let us remember that today is Memorial Day.  Please reflect on our heroes who have made sacrifices for our freedom.  These sacrifices range from the loss of life to being apart from family while on deployment for months at a time.  Running is one thing I did today to honor those who fought for my freedom.  One man in particular, Marine Sgt. John Hayes, returned home without legs.  Not only does he have to give up something that I take for granted (running), but he has to work harder to raise his 3 kids.  Fortunately, some of the money from this race was for the benefit of his family.

I thought about those sacrifices as I stood at the starting line.  I also thought about what I could do to find the strength to work harder and not just settle for something less.  I told my family and friends that my goal was to run the 5 miles in 42 minutes.  What I did not tell them is that I had another goal in mind.  My goal was to place in the top 3 of my age division.  So, I had these goals in mind, but I did not follow all of the rules for preparation.  I spent all weekend not sleeping and eating food like hamburgers, chips and smores.  Even the night before I decided to eat greasy Chinese food and birthday cake.  What was I thinking?  Not sure, but it seemed to work for me.

For some reason, my running buddy and I decided to line up right behind the elite runners.  When these folks were introduced, I started feeling a bit nervous.  Let’s just say that words like “Kenyan” and “Olympic Trials” were used.  Even Jeff Galloway was there.  My buddy and I looked at each other and talked about how we could inch our way backwards, but it was already too late.  They announced the start and we were off!

I knew I was going too fast as I always know at the beginning of every race.  I tell myself to slow down, but I just don’t listen.  I see everyone passing me and I feel that I need to keep up.  I say over and over again that I will pass them down the road when they get tired.  I managed to slow down when I looked at my Garmin and saw that I was running a pace under 7 min/mile.  That was definitely a good idea, but I should have slowed down even more.

At around mile 1 I started passing those folks who sprinted from the start.  It was very hot and the sun was beaming down.  I desperately wanted water and shade, but neither appeared to be within sight.  We finally turned a corner at mile 2 and I was relieved to see both water and shade!  I decided to walk and drink, but when I did, I got passed.  I picked it up again and found 2 other women to play the passing game with.  It’s funny, but I think women are way more competitive with each other than men.  When I came up on them, they picked up the pace so I had to speed up just to stay behind them.  At one point I passed one of them.  However, the other one wasn’t budging.  She just looked like a serious runner and I was a bit nervous because she looked like she was within my age group.  However, when we got to an incline, I passed her!  Have I told you how much I love hills?!!

Then, at mile 3.5, I hit a “wall.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I felt like I did at mile 22 of the marathon.  I told myself that I had to keep going and I couldn’t slow down.  I know that most of running is mental, so I had to force myself to think positively so I wouldn’t fade.  I thought about how lucky I was to have both of my legs.  Then, at mile 4, I grabbed some Gatorade and I was good.  Not great, but at least good.  It was the last mile after all.  I knew I was on the home stretch.  I chose not too look behind me for fear that someone was there.  Now I wish I would have.

At around mile 4.5, I passed an older gentlemen and I managed to tell him that we were almost there.  He said something back and I continued on past him.  Then, I started feeling really tired even though I could see the finish line right in front of me.  That man I had just passed ran up beside me and told me to pick up the pace.  That was all I needed to get me motivated.  I started sprinting.   Yet, just then, that woman who I had passed on the hill, breezed right by me and crossed the finish line before I could fight back.  I came in right behind her and right next to the man who provided the push I needed.

Yes, I had made my goal of 42 minutes because my actual time was 39:11.  I couldn’t have been happier. However, I still wasn’t sure about how I placed.  I was worried, but I tried to feel thankful that I had made such good time.  We stood around for the awards ceremony.  When they announced 3rd place, I stood there waiting to hear the time.  It was a woman who ran it in 39:40.  That only meant that I did better than 3rd place!  And they did call my name next.  I had made 2nd place!  And you know who made 1st place?  That woman who crossed the finish line 2 seconds ahead of me!  Was I upset?  Sure, I was a little mad at myself, but I did make my goal of being in the top 3.  I figured that my 2 seconds behind would only be a motivation to do even better next time.  That’s the great thing about freedom… we always have the freedom to reach higher thanks to all of the military members and their families!

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