I anticipated hot – 100 degrees predicted. I anticipated humid – usually over 80% humidity around here. I anticipated pain – still recovering from a groin pull and hip injury. I got up early and checked off my list….shoes √, watch √, hat √, sunglasses √, Body Glide √, Keys √, water √ and drove downtown as the sun rose over the Cape Fear River. I glanced at the temperature gauge in my car and was surprised (and pleased) to see 74 degrees instead of closer to the predicted 100. I took a deep breath – I was ready and this was going to turn out okay.
I lucked into an excellent parking space and noted that on Saturdays the meters don’t start until 9:00 – I’d be back long before that! I took my hat, but not my sunglasses, and with less than ten minutes before the start I ran back to my car and grabbed them. The day began with a lot of clouds but the sun was clearly trying to make a major appearance. I stepped into the crowd before the starting line just in time for the opening prayer and the National Anthem. The gun went off and I walked forward as the crowd causes so many to do, clicked start on my watch, and set out for a slow, but steady run.
I found my pace quickly and felt like I was back in the saddle. My first mile was a 10 minute mile – the first one in many months, so I decided I would simply listen to my body but try to keep an average of less than 11 minutes per mile (which I did). Around that first corner, we began with a hill – not daunting, but still – a hill! Turning right on Front Street and running towards the first bridge I found myself thinking about these store fronts and found comfort in realizing that I knew some of them and we were crossing streets that I also knew. It was a sign that I’m adjusting…I’m beginning to feel myself in this new environment.
The first bridge appeared in front of us and volunteers clad in bright orange vests directed the 5K runners to the left and the 10K runners forward to the bridge. I slowly ran up and was grateful to have been pre-warned about the metal bridge – I picked my feet up high so my toes would not catch in the grate and propelled forward. As I made my way down the other side and turned onto the Battleship Exit I remembered that snakes live in North Carolina. I was near the side of the road and the grass was over grown (a perfect place for snakes to hide in waiting). I did see one small dead snake, but other than that I mostly saw bungee cords. It struck me how many there were.
Of course, seeing so many bungee cords pulled my mind onto a new topic – how do so many people lose bungee cords? Keep in mind here that there were no signs of anything that had been held onto a vehicle by a bungee cord. No trash, no broken beach chairs, no coolers, no towels. And then it was time to turn again.
I don’t really remember seeing much of the Battleship since we turned down a side road and traveled down to a spot where someone told us to turn around and go back. I was focused on taking in water and wiping sweat off my chin and keeping my pace. I passed the 4 mile mark and realized I need a port-a-potty. I knew I overhydrated. I wasn’t sure I could make it to the finish line but I chanted to myself and that kept me going.
When I reached the second bridge I watched a group of 3 stop to take a selfie with the river in the background. It was an awesome setting for a photo and I was a little sad that I didn’t have my phone with me. The third bridge was just after that and I saw my opportunity to photo bomb in their final bridge shot, but alas, I wasn’t quite fast enough to get there. I knew as we headed down the other side that I was going to make it. I had slowed a little bit but was still near that 11 minute mark and hoping to meet my goal.
And, then at last, I saw my car parked at the turn to the final two tenths of a mile. The couple in front of me, walking, heard my footsteps and turned to smile. I encouraged them saying,”all that’s left is one lap around a track.” They began to run and we quietly rounded the final corner and saw the finish line. I pushed forward and told my legs to run faster, but there was very little kick for the end. I remembered to stop my watch and then zoomed straight to a port-a-potty.
At the beginning of the race I was a little sad – no one here I knew, no one here to cheer me on, no one here to run with, but by the end of the race I was feeling strong and working hard. And now, I think I need a nap!