Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Can See For Miles

I did it!

Official time: 36:54, which works out to a pace of 11:54 a mile. Which isn’t the best of my training times, but is still faster than I could run a mile during the Presidential Physical Fitness Test when I was fourteen years old, so I consider that a victory in a number of ways.

The race itself was pretty overwhelming. After finding a spot in the far reaches of our second-choice shuttle parking lot, Team Cha Cha decided on an impromptu warm-up walk to the Start line. As we got closer to the course, we could hear music blaring and (mostly female) voices cheering and whooping as the emcee announced that over 19,000 people had registered for the race. I thought the start line didn’t look that crowded, and then realized we were on the wrong side of it; the sea of people flowed down Farmington Rd, ending somewhere far beyond where the street curved out of sight. Team Cha Cha hurried to wriggle into the mass of people, who were all pretty patient with our last-minute cutting-in. We only had a few minutes to adjust our various techie devices before the starting gun fired. I think it fired, anyway. I just felt the throng move, and I moved along with it.

The first quarter-mile or so was a little chaotic, as the real runners tried to break free from the pack and the rest of us constructed a loose pecking order based on speed. Team Cha Cha clustered together for a few minutes until we all found our own rhythm. I fell in with Elizabeth and Shannon, and although I didn’t have the wind to keep up with their conversation, I managed to stay on their pace. I wasn’t sure what to expect at 8:30 in the morning, but there were dozens of houses decorated in support of the race and yard after yard of cheering spectators. Between the race fans, wacky runner costumes, and my enthusiastic teammates, I didn’t even notice the time or distance until we saw the two-mile marker and then blazed right by it.

The race organizers are a little cruel, putting a long, menacing hill right at the end of the course, but I made it past that last hurdle and, had there been a bit more room, would have sprinted to the finish line. It was the longest run I’d completed and I expected to be winded, but instead I felt like I could turn around and do it all over again. It felt so good to have made it so far, not just in the race, but throughout the six weeks before. When I began my training, I struggled to run for a full minute, and there I was, more than three miles of road behind me. I’d been afraid that the huge crowd and varying paces would result in an isolated finish, but RJA and Coach Kristy were along the sidelines of the last stretch and watched as I crossed the line beside two of my teammates.

Of course, the question everyone asked as we ate our celebratory pancake breakfast was, “Are you going to keep running?” And the answer that seemed to shock everyone was, “No, probably not.” I have a friendlier relationship with running than when I started this process, but I still wouldn’t call myself a runner. I begrudgingly respect that it’s cheap and easy, but it’s not an activity I especially enjoy. And moreover, it’s about to become quite impractical, what with the clocks going backwards, the temperatures dropping, and a gym membership non-existent. I don’t like it enough to have it be something I work that hard for.

Which was really the whole point of this endeavor. I put myself through something that was foreign, challenging, and even a little painful for the sole purpose of drawing attention to an issue that is exponentially more foreign, challenging and painful than anything I’ve experienced. And with all credit to the generous impulses of those who followed along, I seem to have done that. Team Cha Cha has raised over $1100* to support breast cancer research and education. It’s hard to explain why I’d just quit running after six weeks of hard work, but to me, those weeks weren’t about becoming a runner. They were about becoming a fundraiser. I didn’t run for me, I ran for a cure for breast cancer. And I hope we’re a few steps closer.

Team Cha Cha!
Back row: Melissa Wolowicz, Toby Long, Richard Alley
Middle row: Liz Schenck Phillips, SAM, Elizabeth Alley, Stacey Greenberg
Front row: Colleen Couch-Smith, Shannon Dixon, (S. A.,) Ashley Harper

*Fundraising for the Midsouth Race for the Cure continues until November 15, 2010. You can still make a donation to Team Cha Cha by visiting:

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