I am a runner

I did it.  I ran the Army Ten-Miler, and I did it 13 minutes faster than any of my workouts.  And it hurt like hell.  The day was just shy of perfect.  The temperatures were low and it wasn’t raining, but the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  A cloudy day would have kept us cooler AND probably not given me a sunburn.  (I wore sunblock.  On my face.  I didn’t consider the back of my neck ’cause it’s usually covered with hair.)  And speaking of hair, I had no hair disasters!  Yay!  Over the last few weeks, my braids have come out of the bun repeatedly, come loose altogether (the bottom hair bands lost forever) twice, and generally behaved like Houdini getting out of a straitjacket.  This morning, though, my braid felt secure in its bun and it didn’t even jiggle.  It came down when I took it down, approximately 8 hours after I put it up.  Good bun.  Good braid.  Good me!  Practice works!  (I’ve been wearing my hair in a braid at every opportunity lately.)

So John and I got up at 5:15 yesterday morning, took care of the dogs, ate some toast, and headed to the Pentagon.  We’d been debating the metro vs parking issue for weeks, but when I heard that there’s only bus service between two of the stations on the line nearest us and we’d have to drive most of the way in just to find a station with uninterrupted service to the Pentagon, I convinced John that parking at Pentagon City would be easier.  Less stressful.  He wasn’t hard to convince.  We got to the parking garage right at 7, just as planned, and joined the mobs of runners trying to get to the port-a-potties near the starting line.  30,000-ish runners = long lines for the bathroom.  EVERYone has to go.  Almost everyone.  I’ll come back to that.

John and I were in different starting waves, so we split up to wait in our own personal crowds.  Eventually (couldn’t tell you if the race started on time, but I can tell you we waited and waited and waited and waited….), my crowd started shuffling towards the start we couldn’t see.  We must have been half a mile away, and we were packed in.  A guy behind me started mooing.  He switched to baaing when we stopped laughing at the moos.

John ran this race 5 years ago with a goal of finishing in 1 hour, 40 minutes (10 10-minute miles).  He said people were packed so close in at the beginning that his first mile took him 13 minutes or something crazy like that.  He made up the time later on and finished EXACTLY when he’d planned.  Magic.  I wasn’t counting on magic, so the possibility of a really slow first mile was pretty scary to me.  Luckily, my pack spread out pretty quickly once we finally got across the starting line, so it wasn’t really an issue.  The main race clock (and the timers at the mile markers) were set to the actual race start (which was about 20 minutes before I started), so I relied on my own watch to track my time, starting the timer as I passed under the yellow and black balloons.  (The Army needs to get better colors – yellow (or gold – whatever) and black make for some seriously ugly balloons.) Once I got past the first mile and realized I wasn’t going to have any crowd-related pacing problems, I let go of the what-if-I-don’t-make-it-through-five-miles-fast-enough-and-they-don’t-let-me-finish anxiety and concentrated on moving.  On concentrating.  On keeping my legs churning and my feet landing mid-foot or further forward (my right heel was giving me some trouble).  And then I got the 3-mile mark and found I was averaging well under 11-minute miles.  And then I got to five miles and saw that my average pace was 10:12.  Too fast!  So I slowed down for the last five miles, knowing I was going to be paying for the faster start later.

I did.  I still am.  But it’s a good hurt.  I worked hard for this hurt.  But I’d like it to stop now.  The second half of the race is a blur of bright sunshine and cowbell.  (LOTS of spectators had cowbells.)  I remember thinking the 14th Street Bridge would never end.  And I remember wondering whose bright idea it was to put three (four?) hills in the last two miles.  And then I saw Amanda and Greg and Alex near the finish (thanks for cheering me on, guys!) and then I could see the finish and then I smiled and then it was over.  And then we (John was waiting for me) came to almost a complete halt in a sea of people all struggling to get water (John had some for me because he’s wonderful.  And fast.) and get out and sit down.  For a while it hurt more to be standing still than it had when I was still running.  And we were like a mile from the car.  So we got our bananas and muffins and water and trudged all the way back to the mall parking garage.  When we finally got home (after a ridiculous search for a breakfast place – we at Anthony’s in Falls Church.  French toast!  Exactly right.), we put aside all plans to actually get much thesis and calculus work done, showered, and collapsed on the couch for some well-deserved TV.

It was fun.  No – it was painful and I was afraid it would never end.  But I would do it again.  I don’t want it to be so hard.  If I keep doing it, it’ll get easier.  If I keep repeating that, it might come true.

Moment of truth.  I’m going to check the official results.  Before I do, did I tell you that John finished a full 10 minutes faster than the last time he ran this race?  Because he’s cool.

Okay – my official time was 1:48:47.  (Only one second off what my watch said.  Look at me!  I know how to work a stopwatch!)  I beat my 2-hour expectations by a substantial margin and only missed John’s first time by just under 9 minutes.  Maybe next time.  🙂

Now I’m going to take more ibuprofen and go back to bed.  Lots more ibuprofen.

Right, I said I’d come back to the bathroom thing (many moons and paragraphs ago).  Yeah, the race had only barely started when, by the dozens, guys started hopping the guardrail on Route 110 and sprinting for the treeline to pee.  It was hilarious and a little disconcerting.  Was it planned?  Is that the best place?  Did they pass the word around?  Are these the guys who didn’t want to wait in the long port-a-potty lines?  Or just the ones who drank another liter of water while waiting for the race to start?  I mean, I have to go practically once an hour, more when I’m drinking lots of water, and yet I managed to plan ahead so that my last chance before the race started was enough to get me all the way home, almost six hours later.  Which, now that I think about it, pretty much means I was dehydrated.  Or a crazy-efficient sweater.  Sweat-er.  One who sweats.  Not the cable-knit kind.

That’s enough.  Go to bed already.


  1. I have dreams that I’m a runner, but I don’t think I ever really could be. I
    love working out and riding my bike (I’m not regular at either anymore — I’ve gotten THAT fat) but I don’t think my knees and back could take the abuse even at a normal weight.

    I run vicariously via other bloggers who run.

  2. Zannah

    Yeah, if you have knee and back problems, that could be an issue. I started by walking, which is supposed to be good for the back, and is just so pleasant, even when the weather sucks.

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