Today is the best kind of winter weekend day. It’s been raining off and on, it’s chilly outside, and we don’t have to go anywhere. John built a fire, and we’re both sitting on the couch with our laptops. He’s doing homework, and I’m doing, well, this. We have classical music playing in the background, cheese and crackers on our (makeshift) coffee table, a glass of wine, and two dogs curled up on their beds in front of the fire. Perfect.
Thanksgiving was a success. Wait, let me back up a little more.
John and I ran in a 5K in Ashburn Thanksgiving morning. It was really cold (low 30’s), but sunny and not windy, so still a big improvement over the Herndon Turkey Trot. The 5K started at 8:25, and the start took us by surprise. We were standing in the crowd, didn’t have watches on, and everyone was talking and stretching. The start (was it a starting gun? maybe one of those blasts from a bullhorn? I don’t remember) jolted everyone around us and the crowd started to push across the starting line. John noticed that the clock already had 19 or 20 seconds on it by the time we crossed the official line. But whatever – that’s not really all that unusual. These things always start out in a crush like that, and not everyone can be in the front. It makes the official times a little less trustworthy, I guess, but, again, whatever.
I started running. I was concentrating on keeping my breathing even, and breathing through my nose to warm up the air before it got to my lungs. I could also tell that my right shoelaces were getting loose. Every time my right foot hit the ground, I could feel them loosen more, until, inevitably, my right shoe came untied. I hadn’t been running more than 5 minutes at that point, but I knew that if I stopped to tie my shoe, I’d have a much harder time finishing the race. I had the momentum I needed and I didn’t want to lose it. For the rest of the race, I concentrated on my stride so I could make sure my left foot never hit the ground close enough to land on my flapping right shoelaces. My time for the first mile, according to the guy with a stopwatch, was 9:38. I felt pretty good about that, but because so much of the first mile was uphill, I was hurting. I slowed down a bit during the second mile, but managed to keep running. The time at the end of the second mile, again according to the woman with the stopwatch, was 18:23. She shouted out the time as we went by, and I actually said, out loud, “That’s not possible.” The women around me agreed with me. If it were true, it meant that I ran my second mile in 8:45, which is something I have NEVER done. But even knowing that it didn’t sound right (since I KNOW I slowed down for part of that mile), I had no reason to think the woman was wrong, so as I started my third mile I had hope that I could beat 29 minutes. (False hope. John told me later (and it makes sense) that if a time doesn’t sound right to me AND it doesn’t sound right to the people around me, it probably isn’t right.) About half of the third mile was on a path behind a neighborhood north of the Broadlands shopping center, and as we came off the path and back onto neighborhood streets, there were spectators telling us we were almost there. And then we had to climb another hill. It’s just MEAN to put a hill at the very end of a race. But we climbed the hill and then I could see the finish. Kind of. I could see where all the people were, and I could see John waiting for me, but I couldn’t actually see the finish line or the clock. I was running towards the finish, looking for the line, picking up my pace to finish strong, and then John was next to me, telling me I had to stop because there was a line of people waiting to cross the finish line. I couldn’t make sense of what he was saying. It might as well have been another language. But then the people in front me stopped running, and there were race organizers telling us to line up in the order we finished. But…we hadn’t finished! Had we? Turns out the chute wasn’t long enough and there weren’t enough people working it, so the line to turn our race numbers had backed up onto the course. It really means that when the official times are posted (and they haven’t been posted yet), they won’t mean anything. I could estimate my total time based on the time called out when I finished my second mile, but I’m pretty sure that time wasn’t right.
Official time (or lack of it) aside, I felt pretty good about this race, and I think John did, too. It was a beautiful morning, we ran three hard miles, and then we were going home to put the turkey in the oven. John says that even though I say I’m not competitive about running (since while I’m actually running I’m mostly just trying to convince myself to keep my legs moving), my annoyance about the race clock and mile times AND the fact that I refused to stop to tie my shoelaces mean that I can now consider myself a real runner. Just in time for me to figure out how to keep it up over the winter. So if official race times ever get posted, I’ll let everyone know how it turned out.