I arrived at the park with over 500 other runners in 34 degree weather less than an hour after the precipitation stopped. Thankfully the earth wasn't cold enough to let the snow stick to the trails. All was clear and the race was on. My husband and kids set themselves up on the sidelines to cheer me on.
As the start time approached I positioned myself at the back of the pack. Each runner got a chip to track their exact start time and the moment they cross the finish time. The chips turn out to be necessary as I wasn't able to cross the start line until 2 minutes after the starting bell. I can only imagine what starting at the big marathons must be like.
Knowing that I was not going to jog I had already prepared myself for having the crowd thin out quickly. I can't say I was prepared for HOW quickly it happened. Within 5 minutes of crossing the starting line, I was the last person with about 10 or 15 people in sight in front of me. At that point, I took stock of what I was attempting to do, said a prayer of thanks for yet another chance to get healthy, and promised myself that I would cross the finish line.
Starting out slow to warmup was my plan. Being that it was almost freezing, no amount of warming up before the race seemed to help for long. That worked for me and at that 5 minute mark I started to feel pretty good. I was able to speed up a bit, pumping my arms and standing tall. My pace held with the exception of my very very annoying shoe laces which had to be retied THREE times during the race. Grr.
During mile 2, I had company for a bit. The man was also participating in his first 5K. He'd been training with the Annapolis Striders and shared a little of his motivation with me. His mother at 67 years of age completed the her first marathon. Can you imagine? She definitely inspired her son and gave me hope as well. And when the time came, he used that motivation to pick up his jog again.
By mile 3, my hip and knee on my right leg were hurting. However I was striking the ground on that side I had irritated my leg and had to start modifying my stride. All I could do was tell myself to keep moving and try to change up how I was walking to avoid hurting. My physical therapist says that pain means you need to stop what you are doing. After almost 3 miles of walking, I wasn't going to stop walking, but I could definitely adjust and see if I could make it easier.
Towards the end of mile 3, I could hear people cheering at the finish line, but I couldn't see anyone. There was no longer anyone in my sight and I couldn't tell how close the finish line was. I was alone. And I started wondering if I was going to be able to finish. My hip was throbbing and my heart was beating. I was getting very tired.
And then this man jogged around the corner. Up to this point I'd been passed by a lot of joggers who'd turned around and jogged home after completing this race. This man jogged towards me, turned and jogged along side me. He'd come back to find me to make sure that I finished. At that moment, the tears started. For the next 0.2 miles I wiped tears away and I tried to increase my pace. Two more joggers came back and joined us. I was not quitting. I was going to finish.
And then I saw it. I saw the finish line. I saw my husband standing there. My friend who'd jogged ahead of me came back to jog in with me. There were complete strangers standing there cheering me in. I felt supported and inspired and JOGGED the last 10 yards of the race. I couldn't help it. Tears streaming down my face I crossed the finish line 56 minutes 24.3 seconds after I started. I finished the race!