|The all-powerful Shrinky Dink charm.|
|I honored my Earthathon team on my racing bib.|
I handed my jacket off to the Vulcan and my purse to Uncle Chester. They both wanted off the course before the race officially started and they got trampled by a woman wearing a pig nose and sequined pink headband. As the 4500 participants slowly moved as one toward the starting line, I plugged in my earphones and got my Green Day-heavy playlist ready. While the handy Flying Pig app allows family and friends to track folks in the real races (i.e., full and half marathons), my cheering section was stuck with the lower tech version of me texting my husband at each mile marker. As we went over the starting line, I clicked the chronograph feature on my watch and set out to the tune "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers. So I wasn't really going to walk 500 miles, but at that moment it kinda felt that way. (Anyone familiar with Cincinnati and interested can see the course map here.)
I walked along for about a quarter of a mile, my legs gradually warming up and getting looser. Then I did the strangest thing. I started to jog. I had sworn I was not going to do my basset hound trot in public, but there is power in the combination of adrenaline and a slight competitiveness. I began to pass people. And every time I passed some boney-ass looking cute and perky in her Lycra jogging shorts, I felt a shot of energy go through me and I went just a little faster. I know, I know. It's petty and bitchy and juvenile. Damn, it was fun.
|I crossed that bridge at some point...I think...|
As we crossed we were saluted with honks and waves from a guy in a cement mixer and the driver of the train going the opposite direction. Once over the bridge into Ohio I knew I was past the halfway mark. I glanced at my watch and the time was under 41 minutes. Holy crap! I was still on pace. A little more Green Day, a little more jogging, a little more adrenaline when I lumbered past the skinny bitch in the pink jogging skirt. Okay, she may have been a perfectly nice lady, but she was thin and had nice legs and probably would have made fun of me in high school, so I used my bitterness to my advantage.
By mile four we were back near the stadium and the spectators had increased significantly. So did my anxiety. I slowed down to a walk again and tried to figure out if I could reach my goal without any canine cavorting. Then I thought, "To hell with it." I caught my breath, then went back to my ungainly gallop. At mile five I texted my husband for the last time. All that fiddling with the phone and its case and trying to type was slowing me down even more and I needed all the seconds I could get. I shoved the phone case in my pocket and checked my watch. It read an hour and six minutes. A few quick calculations and I realized I could walk the last 1.2 miles at a very moderate 3.2 m.p.h. and still come in under 1:30:00. I couldn't believe it. I could make it.
As "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred blared in my ears I started to get worried. What if I suddenly hit the wall? What if some muscle decided to pop and I could only limp the rest of the way? I had visions of me crawling to the finish line as all the skinny bitches ran past me and my goal slipped away. I started to jog again. By that point I probably looked like I was wearing ankle weights, my feet fighting gravity with each step. I chugged up the tiny incline on Pete Rose Way that now felt as steep as Mt. Everest. The six mile marker was in sight. I could make it. I think I can, I think I can... OK, only two-tenths of a mile. I inhaled deeply and slowed down to a walk.
So, do I consider myself a great athlete now? Not hardly. The real athletes were crossing the finish line before I hit the first water station. It never was about me being fast or good compared to anyone else. It was me compared to a past me, By-Default-Girl. I remember trying to do Jane Fonda's workout tape when I was in high school, her second one that had an aerobic section about three minutes long. I couldn't do it. I had no stamina whatsoever. That certainly didn't improve as I got older. My joy isn't because I did something no one else could do. It's because I did something I didn't think I could do. And there's magic in that, I tell you. Magic.