A sea of red could be seen for miles across our city on Sunday morning. On your mark, get set, go…. and we were off. Thousands of bodies trying to cross the start line; eager racers jetting to the side in an attempt to pick up pace. Slowly the mass begins to separate as each finds their place and the race is on. I pick a spot near the middle; I put my headphones in and start my place list. “Thunderstruck” by ACDC gives me a beat to find my rhythm — two breaths in, one out, two breaths in, one out. I repeat this mantra; ignoring the urge to stop before I begin. “Keep it slow and steady”, I remind myself. “Don’t go out too fast, or you will burn out too soon.”
Right in the middle with my headphones in…. breathing
I fight the urge to pass the girl to the right. She is clearly 20 years younger than I am, and she has her game face on. I stay two strides behind and keep my focus. Breathe – Breathe – Breathe. “… working double time on the production line…” song number three begins, and I’m warming up. My pace has quickened and I’ve left the 20 year old in the dust. I spot my next competitor. If I pick up my pace just a bit, I can pass him on the left and cut in front of him. Here I go, the speed burns my quads, but I push on. I’m right on his trail; I move to the left, and I pass him. “Another one bites the dust…” I can see the water station coming up; should I stop? No, too soon. I buzz by, leaving a thirst group behind me.
Heel to toe, heel to toe — my feet have their groove, as my arms pump in unison. I’m running alongside the river now, and I spot a log drift slowly in waves. My eyes lock on the log and count how many steps it takes to pass it. One, two, three, four — it’s gone. Up ahead I see a group of walk/runners. They are on their walk cycle; I pick up my pace and skirt around them. “You may be right I may be crazy, but it just may be a lunatic your looking for… ” I wave at the familiar faces standing on the sidelines. They cheer me on, and put out their hands for a high five. Slap one, two — I’m floating on air!
Can this be right, the turn around already? It is! Volunteers cheer and wave me in the right direction. I’m on my way back, and I maintain my pace. There’s a man to my right, he’s inching ahead of me. I let him go by — I watch as his legs propel him forward. I keep my eyes fixed on the back of his head. I’m counting again. I count the bobs of his head, up one, down two – one, two, three. I’m beside him now, and I move in front. Not by much; can I keep this pace? How far behind me is he? I think I can feel him right on on my tail. I pump my arms and tell my legs to move. Faster, just a little faster — I need to gain some ground.
Here comes the final climb. It’s slow and gentle, but my tired legs can feel the incline. “Focus on breathing; the faster you go, the sooner you’re at the top” my internal voice repeats itself over and over until I reach the peak. It’s all down hill from here. There he is, he’s coming up on my right again. I can see his picking up speed as we start the decline. Little does he know, I can fly down hills. Should I? How much further is it to the finish line. If I pick it up now, will I still have enough for the final push? I go for it. Pump, pump, pump my arms. I drive my knees up, and he’s gone. Behind me know. I must keep up the pace to keep my lead. I see the last turn only meters away. I’m at full speed, as I turn and see the crowd surrounding the finish lane.
“Pump, pump, pump… breathe, breathe, breathe – go, go, go – don’t stop” I chant myself through the gates, I only have a few seconds until I’m there. “Keep pushing, you can do it” My feet hit the finish line, and adrenaline rushes through my entire body. Every inch of me is alive with excitment. Someone puts a finisher’s medal around my neck, and I shuffle out of the finisher’s circle.
This is not my first nor my longest race; however, it was one of the most satisfying. The older I get, the more I appreciate what I can get my body to do. I’m not a top placing runner; I usually finish somewhere just above the middle of the pack. For me, it’s not about placing — it’s about pushing myself. I came in at 57:30 minutes in this 10km race. I’m 41 years old, and that is the same time I had when I was 30 years old. To me, that’s a win! My internal dialogue is what gets me through the finish line. I don’t care if I actually pass my targets; however, they are what I use to challenge myself. With every pass, I build my confidence, and I move further and further ahead. I’m so proud of myself and everyone else that made it from start to finish on Sunday morning.
A race is like life; you must keep going and push yourself to the finish line. Each pass is a goal achieved, each marker a moment of realization. My hope is to come to my life’s finish line full of pride and excitement for all I accomplished — I raced myself, and I won!