Today was a good day. And the main reason is because I was able to share it with friends. Dwelling on a conversation had this past Wednesday I decided that a race was in my cards despite my knee not being 100%; I’ve never been a fan of playing by the rules so why start now? As 5:45 AM rolled around, my alarms began to buzz…I was up…I was up. Not enough time to shower thanks to some train detours I layered up and head out the door. Dressed in civies I made my way down the street with only my pair of Lunar Elite’s to tell of my running commitment for the day. A train to a cab I made my way there with an hour to spare. Passing the registration table I grabbed my bib; today I donned yellow with the hopes of making it through the 4 mile course in 28 minutes give or take. Basking in the sun I began to realize that I was in fact running today. You see there’s not as much of a build-up unless I commit some weeks in advance to the race. The nerves began to kick in here but were soon calmed by a familiar face. Tony approached with his earphones in and game face on…when he looked up he greeted me with his typical smile. All that smile said to me is that “we’re going to do this and we’re going to love it”. For those of you who don’t know, Tony is the man who has taught me to realize what I am capable of. I’ve spent many a bridge runs trailing behind his mane wheezing with every step. As time went on I was able to keep up with a more regular pattern of breathing. Next was on to form and confidence. He gave me most of what I have as far as my running knowledge and none of it was through word; lead by example lead by action.
Tony and I made our way to the bag check where we asked a passerby to snap off a frame or two for us. As we stored our bags Tony gave me some more advice, “don’t try to go fast” but I think he knew that I wouldn’t listen. We walked down to the pen side by side. When we reached my gate we parted with a hug and a simple good luck; the “run hard” was silent but understood. As the area filled up I began to question my abilities which. for me, is typical in any race. I wondered to myself, “am I going to be the last to finish in yellow” and “I hope I don’t cramp”. Mid thought I was greeted with a jab in the side…it’s was Geb, another new BridgeRunner and another strong runner. We passed the minutes chatting about the previous days event. Soon the horn was blown and we were off. The mentality of not going out quick goes out the window on a short run…run hard, run fast, don’t stop, trust yourself…the confidence was coming back with each stride. Geb pulled away and I pointed my head to the ground watching my feet in motion. As I pulled them up I peered at my new running co-pilot, my Liver Bird given to me by a special person, and asked for strength. Redirecting my eyes to the course I let myself sink into the rhythm…I am a kicker not a front-runner. As mile 1 passed the clock read 8:54; I knew that I hadn’t run an 8+ minute mile but psychologically it gets me every time. “Time to pick it up a bit.” I pushed hard to the next checkpoint crossing the line at 14:40. Geb was still ahead of me at this point and it was great to see him running so strong. Half way through this mile I knew that I had to start moving…the race was half done and I was sitting much further back than I wanted. Each stride became strong pushing me further and further…I began weaving in and out of racers hoping to gain better position. Mile 3 appeared and my pace was unwavering. Gulping down some water I knew that this was the home stretch. “Save it for a sprint”. I kept up at a 6:45 pace, give or take, until I saw Ming motivating a fellow runner who was slowing down. Anytime you see a friend on the course it gives you a surge…if he can do it why can’t I. Ming began to take off and I attempted to give him no new ground. I trailed him closely until we turned the corner for the final four hundred meter stretch. “This is where it counts…this is where you dig deep.” My legs moved faster and faster and everyone around me became a blur…stepping carefully through the sea of runners I made my way across the mat. Looking back I caught a glimpse of the clock to read 27:45…15 seconds off my expected time and that was just the clock time. Where would my official time put me? I waited for Geb to congratulate him on his strong finish and we made our way to claim our bags…had a bagel and parted ways.
A few hours later the results went live and I was astonished to see my time…a 4 mile run done in 26:34…a pace of 6:39. Tony had beat his hopeful time of 25 and landed himself at 24:56. To share the course with my running mentor is always a pleasure and to see him challenge himself is even better. Tony, you are a true runner with a heart of gold. Your love for the sport has inspired many to go faster, go longer, and most importantly to love it every step of the way. I am thankful to have been the one to send you off today. I cannot wait to see what you accomplish.
While running is an individual sport, sharing achievements with those that you care about makes it that much sweeter in the end.