I find it a bit alarming that just on the way to go pick up my race kit that I have butterflies in my stomach. Part of the reason is that it is a bit surreal that I am a day away from running my first 5K. I used to joke that the only time you would see me run is away from bees or an ax murderer. You can laugh but you have no idea how true that statement is. The other reason I am feeling anxious is that I am not entirely sure where the building is.
It’s called the Le Chocolat Run and the charity that is involved is Sparky’s Toy Drive along with our local Fire Fighters. Being part of a charity event is of course wonderful but reaping the rewards of chocolate and wine after the race is largely my focus. It doesn’t bother me at all that I am running in this race by myself. I don’t have many close friends who are into my new found fitness lifestyle. They support me of course, but are not necessarily participants themselves. And that is totally ok! I will admit though that sometimes it has been a bit overwhelming learning the health and fitness lingo on my own or becoming familiar with SportChek products and not looking like a fish out of water wandering around GNC. I have also slowly learned the names of some of Windsor’s finest fitness and health gurus. But there’s still a lot I don’t know. Like where the hell the Riverfront Festival Plaza Stage is.
I finally find parking NEAR where the pick up location is. I have to walk about five minutes to get to the Plaza but considering in less than 24 hours I will be full on running in a race, walking doesn’t seem all that bad. I spot the logo for Running Flat Radio and breath a sigh of relief. I spot a couple people walking towards the same area, decide that they look like runners and follow them up a set of steps and through an open door. It feels a bit like the inside of a warehouse. Not exactly what I expected but then again I really had no idea WHAT to expect. There is a small booth to the right of the entrance and a couple is standing, talking to the people behind it. As I wait my turn, assuming this is the “welcome desk” my eyes scan the room for anything relating to running. I overhear the people at the booth mention the “creamy taste”. Since the theme of this whole thing is chocolate I know for sure I am in the right spot! When the couple ahead move away from the booth I see a sign on it that says Adult Stag Shop…….along with adult toys in every colour, personal lubricant and flavoured condoms scattered all over the table like confetti. Clearly the “creamy taste” wasn’t a chocolate reference after all.
Oh God. Words are having a hard time forming for me at this point. The people behind the booth notice my “deer in headlights” look, smile politely and point their fingers down a hall way and tell me that if I am here for the Chocolate run that the race kits are waiting for me just around the corner. My face is still a lovely shade of red as I pick up my racing number, bottles of exclusive wine and snag a race day t shirt.
I suppose it was a given that sponsors of the event might set up a little trade fair of sorts for the pick up day as there were a few other booths scattered about. They were selling water bottles and track shorts. Maybe the organizers should have planned out the booth locations a bit better? Being bombarded by sex toys two steps into the room set a unique tone and could come off as a bit confusing, especially to us noobs. Pretty sure I am still blushing as I walk back to my car.
I toss and turn most of the night. Too bad because I was as prepared as I could be. I signed up for the run back in January and built up my endurance week after week. I was ready. I got my running gear all set to go for the morning. Yet sleep wouldn’t come. Once my alarm goes off the adrenaline kicks in anyways. I make myself some yummy protein pancakes and then it is literally off to the races.
I have the best entourage with me. My mom, my husband Chris and my fitness mentor/coach Jen. All of them would probably say they are my biggest supporters. I never felt so special. We overhear that about three thousand people showed up. I believe it – there was certainly a huge crowd. Karen Newman from the Detroit Red Wings sang the national anthem and the racers were told to “get in the shoot”. There’s some racing terminology for ya. The horn sounds. I press play on my ipod and begin to run.
It’s neat that they closed down a good chunk of Riverside Drive for this event. Based on the the number of runners involved, the road is really the only place for all of us. I have driven down Riverside hundreds of times. It feels brand new when you’re running on it. At first I am a bit self conscious of how many people are already passing me. Until the group spreads out a bit it feels as though maybe I should be running faster. Like I need to be keeping up with everyone else. I work really hard at staying focused on my own pace, my stride, my breathing and not comparing myself to anyone else. I find my rhythm.
There are people lined up along the side streets. Some are by standards just out for a morning walk and stop to watch the race. Many are volunteers shouting and cheering us all on. They are ringing huge bells and applauding us. I have a little Olympic moment. Not that I am anywhere near the caliber of such athletes, but I get a sense of what that must feel like. I’ve got some extra pep in my step now.
I come upon the first hydration station. It is just like what you would see at all those professional running or biking events on T.V. A bunch of volunteers ready for you with plastic cups in hand, waiting for you to grab it from them, chug it down and keep on running. Since I have never trained using water breaks and I am really in the zone, I don’t bother with them, but smile and say thank you as I run past. My legs have that wonderful warm feeling through them. It’s not pain or an ache per say, just an “in use” feeling that I find I settle into when I’m running. Completely bearable. I am still keeping a good pace.
St. Elmo’s Fire is playing in my ear as I round the final bend towards the finish. As I get closer, my eyes start scanning the waiting crowd. All I really see are smart phones and camera lenses covering up everyone’s face. I don’t immediately spot my supporters as I cross the finish line, but I know they saw me do it. The most intense feeling of accomplishment washes over me. I walk over to a group of fire fighters waiting to put my well deserved medal around my neck. I turn and see three smiling faces calling me over to them. The first long hug goes to my husband. My rock.
I didn’t run this race to come in first in my group. I didn’t run it to beat a personal best time. Even after all of this I may never run another race! It wasn’t really about running at all. Today was a moment in time that I will always remember as me accomplishing something I never thought I would or could. It is one of many that I have lined up for myself. It doesn’t matter how fast I go on this journey because slow and steady always wins the race.