Yeah. You read that right.
Just about 6 miles.
And I did it. I set myself the goal and I completed it. Smashed it. Demolished and obliterated it. I looked my goal in the face and I scared it into the atmosphere.
After crying, and whimpering and almost quitting, of course.
The day started out cloudy and overcast. When we got to the race venue (which is really just a large mall/shopping center) we could see that a huge amount of rain had already come through earlier, and the sky looked to be promising more. It was a bit brisk for a summer morning and the air was damp and humid. So not the best thing to be walking in, but better than clear blue skies and sweltering heat.
The race started at 9am on the dot, there were just over 600 people there men, women, and children. There were folks with their babies in strollers, a gentleman in a wheelchair and a father and his special needs son in a stroller. And me. I started off strong, matching my pace with a pair of older ladies and just keeping up. but they soon passed me, and then more and more people passed me. But that was alright, I was fine. I knew that there were still people behind me. I made it through the first 3k without any problems.
It was around the 3.5k mark that things got difficult. My feet were hurting, my back was aching my knees wanted to give up. I started to cry. I could not believe what I was doing to myself. What in the world had seeped into my brain to make me think that I had anywhere close to a chance to doing a 10k walk? I hadn’t even hit the halfway point and I was ready to die. How could I go around and do it again? And then, just as I was hitting the absolute bottom of depression, the knowledge in my mind that I just could not do this thing anymore, E was there. He had found the 4k point of the race and was waiting for me with fresh cold drinks (powerade) and encouragement. I stopped my crying, picked my head up, and instead of turning into the finish line, I kept on going straight to start the next lap.
I was alone. Completely and utterly alone. There were no more walkers in front of me that I could see and try to match with them. And turning around I was completely by myself. I could see nobody. It was just me and this course. And the cones. And the cars. And so I turned up my music and I walked. And I walked. And I walked some more. I cursed and I yelled and I chided myself. I hated my life and everything that I was doing but I kept on moving. Had to keep moving.
Got to the water station and looked at the kid behind the table, I jokingly told him that I thought I was last. He confirmed that I was. He told me to take a break, take a rest, have some water. But I had to keep going, I had to keep moving. I couldn’t stop, not even for a brief breath and some water. If I stopped moving then, I would have stopped completely. And so I moved on. Full of the knowledge that I was the very last person out of 600+ to be out on the course. The very last. Everybody was waiting on me.
And even that knowledge, and the fact that I knew that I would show up last and everybody would know that I was completely incapable of doing this, did not slow me down. I kept going, kept moving. Singing and dancing and walking and cursing and crying. I was soon joined by one of the race helpers, those blessed people who get up early to stand along the route of the race and cheer you on in their bright orange vests. She joined me to ostensibly keep me company, but also to keep an eye on me and make sure I didn’t collapse. Also, my own personal traffic cop. Because there were still intersections to get through and cars to avoid. Let me tell you a personal traffic cop is a handy thing to have when all you can do is concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.
One kilometer to go and there was my E again, waiting with yet another cold drink and more encouragement. So for the last kilometer of the race I walked with E and this orange-vested race lady. It was quite something. And as I got closer to the finish line I was greeted by more race personnel and they all offered congratulations and adulation on my continued effort. I was last. But I had still made it that far.
I turned down the roadway towards the finish line and as soon as I appeared in that area the remaining racers and their friends and family all erupted into cheers and applause. The MC of the event, a guy from the local radio station, announced to everybody that I was coming down the home stretch. He announced me by name. And the applause and congratulations and approval got even louder as I crossed the finish line and the clock stopped.
I was hurried over to a chair where the race workers took off my bib and put it into the box for the spot prizes and they removed the timing chip from my shoe for me. I was then allowed to move into the crowd, where even more people offered personal congratulations on completing the race, and they decided to do the spot prizes and the big prize drawings. Oddly enough, we were joined by some friends. They had done the 5k run and had no idea that I was even there, but they heard my name over the speakers and were surprised and happy. The prizes were awarded and then we left to go home.
I hurt. My entire body was aching and I could barely form complete sentences. But I had finished my goal, beaten it to the ground. I had told myself that if I could finish this race in under 2.5 hours, I would be happy. I blew that expectation out of the water. And I was still alive and still breathing.
The applause from the other participants was the biggest mix of emotions that I have felt in some time. Pride in my accomplishment. Shame in how long it took me. Embarrassment at the attention. Guilt that it took me so long and everybody was waiting for me before the event could move on. But mostly just relief that it was over. And then pain.
It’s two days later and I can say that even though I have blisters on both feet and my ribs ache as though I’ve been dry-heaving for days, I am glad that I did it. I set myself a goal and I achieved that goal.
Now, I rest a bit, get my feet healed, and then back at the training. I’ve got another big race coming up next month!
This one’s only 8.5k though. Only. Hah!