The ends of my second toes feel like someone has scraped them away with an emery board, and the bunion on my right foot, generously passed down from Grandma Rop, pulsates. Did I mention the slight cramping that's manifesting in my left calf? But it's alright because these are my battle scars, earned proudly from my first 10K run.
The day began with positive vibe. As soon as my feet hit the floor I sprang into action. Rob and I promptly got dressed in our windy weather gear, pinned our bibs to our shorts, and looped the orange timer tab through our shoelaces. Out the door at 8:40am, we headed to the car with water bottles, iPods, and peanut butter granola bars in tow. Zoom, zoom, zoom we drove, heading to the slightly far away town of Belding, a place I'd hardly been to except for occasional trips to Pando's and a rare dinner at Bostwick Lake Inn. The Welcome to Belding sign appeared and a faint ripple of nervousness zipped through my body. The 10K was slotted to start at 9:45.
Once parked and out of the car I realized just how chilly it was. The wind whipped around from all sides and there was a nip in the air that bit through my windbreaker. I jumped around half-heartedly trying to warm-up while also wondering what the hell I'd signed up for. But looking around, I saw women wearing shorts and t-shirts (gasp!) and felt I fared better than them...in regards to clothing anyway. Rob and I milled around killing time, alternating between sitting in the massive tent (so warm and toasty) and pacing the outer area (so cold and windy). It's ok, I thought, we'll be running soon. I'll warm-up in no time.
Well, "no time" became "more time" as we discovered that the 10K kickoff had been pushed back to 10:30. Something to do with only having one clock and needing to wait for the final finishers of the 5K walk. Still no problem. I happily thought, I'm here with my best friend and we'll kill time together. So we sat inside the warm tent, my legs tucked snugly between Rob's knees and waited it out.
Finally, 10:20 rolls around and Rob and I head to the start line, braving the biting wind. Once in line we perform more jumping jacks and squats in an effort to keep warm. My watch reads 10:30 and there seems to be no sign of starting. My motivation wanes with each passing minute. Unfortunately, I was stuck way the hell out in Belding and have no choice but to do this. My watch then reads 10:33, 10:34...
Finally the man in charge of the race starts talking. I can't hear because my iPod has been on for the last ten minutes, replaying Erasure's "A Little Respect", the song I chose for my warm-up. Too bad I've heard it five times now and am totally sick of it. The man keeps talking, something about waiting for the straggling 5k walkers. The 10K group looks to their left to view these turtles and some yell out for them to hurry up. I groan inwardly as I see no move on their parts to speed up their walk. 10:35.....
Suddenly people are moving; we're starting! Crap! I take off slow, reiterating to Rob that I have zero intentions of completing this in a certain time and if he needs to speed up and let me go, it's fine. Of course, I knew he'd stick by me, even at my snail's pace, because that's just the man he is. But nevertheless, I wanted him to have the option to leave me in his dust. With Erasure finally transitioning to some hyper country (thank you Sugarland!), we're off.
Completing miles 1 and 2 was fine, but right before finishing Mile 3, I started to feel discouraged and really wanted to walk. "I'm walking at the Mile 3 marker", I loudly inform Rob (whose jogging so slowly it looks like he's in slow motion) but as soon as it approaches I change my mind. By now, my headband that warmed my ears has been ripped off (placed securely in Rob's pocket) and shortly after I remove my windbreaker, exposing my bare arms to the chilly elements. He holds my jacket, too, and I immediately flash back to the time last summer that he accompanied me to a used book sale at the library, chivalrously carrying all of my purchases, allowing me to pile books in his arms one on top of another. I smile in amazement. How did I get so lucky? But then the moment is gone and I'm right back on a country road in Belmont trying desperately to make it to the mile 4 marker. It's around here that I walk for the first time (not counting two brief slow-downs to drink water) and I'm proud of myself for not caring that I'm walking. There was no internal name-calling or badmouthing, just a little regrouping before picking up the jog again. I passed a pretty red tree and as I ran beneath it, following closely behind Rob who's breaking my wind, I took a quick second to appreciate the autumn tree, the handsome man in front of me, and the fact that my jelly-like legs were still moving. But, like my sweet reverie of the library book sale, the moment is gone in a flash as I glimpse an upcoming hill. Crap. Now, where the hell is Mile 5?
It's up this hill that I experience a complete ebb and flow to my energy level. I pick up the pace and start passing people. It feels good until I realize my stupidity: why am I speeding up on a hill? Then I'm completely out of breath and have to walk; I watch the women I just passed now pass me. I feel like an idiot. Rob is up ahead, and I wave him on on in an attempt to say "Screw this. I'm done. You go and finish. I'm going to mosey on in." He shakes his head, telling me silently that is not an option. And the dichotomy I'm feeling kicks in again and I run. I catch up to Rob, all the while cursing under my breath that this is the last fucking time I'm doing this and where the fuck is Mile 6 and what is with this fucking wind? The cursing feels good, an outlet I need. I see Rob smirk at all my bitching because he knows that fucking Mile 6 is right up the bend and then it's a short homestretch to the finish line.
Then I hear those magic words, "We just passed Mile 6, baby, only .2 miles to go! Finish strong...keep it up!" and I am cursing and muttering under my breath while wanting so badly to collapse. Fuck, fuck, fuck! The swearing stampede continues, spurring me on to finish. Then Rob's voice: "Now there's only .1 to go....you're doing great!" I am simultaneously moaning and sputtering my obscenities. Suddenly the Finish line is in sight. Before the race, Rob had made it very clear that I was to run in first. So I yell, "Stay back! I'm goin' in first!" and he smiles. I try my best to fly past him and then make one last effort to pass some chic that's about to get in before me. Oh no she doesn't!!! I see the clock at 1:06 and quickly pass underneath the banner. Rob is on my heels, reminding me to keep walking because he knows I just want to lay down and die.
Five minutes later we're standing in line, waiting for food. My breath is back to normal and Rob has his arms around me saying how proud he is. I again tell him I will never do this again. "Yes, you will", he says confidently.
And, like usual, he will probably be right.