This past weekend, Matt and I ran the Army Ten Miler (ATM) in Washington D.C. We signed up for it MONTHS ago--it sells out within a day of registration opening, so we jumped on it back in the Spring. At the time, I was still really overwhelmed with the Boston Marathon bombing. I grew up in Boston, lived in Massachusetts most of my life, and watched the marathon just about every year, whether it was live and in-person or on television. I really signed up for the ATM as a way to run in honor of Boston and the marathoners who experienced that awful day back in April.
Let's get this out of the way though--I am not a great runner. I am okay, I can hang for a few miles, I am not slow but I'm not fast. I don't love running the way some people do. And the last time I ran ten miles was ten years ago when I was actually IN the Army. When I was 24 years old and running 5 days a week for PT. None of which is true anymore.
I had grand plans back in April of the training I would complete to get ready for this event, but life and lack of real motivation sort of derailed my plans. I ran quite a bit in preparation for the ATM, but never ran more than 5 miles at once. And I only did that a few times, to be honest. I mostly ran 3-4 miles at a time, 2-3 times a week for the past two months or so. Really I did not train for this race very well.
For a while last month, that was freaking me out. I felt really anxious about training more, but not anxious enough to ACTUALLY TRAIN MORE. Just enough to freak myself out a bit. (Apparently, I am an idiot.)
Then about two weeks ago, I came to the realization that my lack of training no longer mattered--I had run out of time to make a really big difference, so I finally relaxed and just ran a few times without constantly judging my pace and time and endurance in my own head. That was a nice change.
The day of the race, I was nervous again, but mostly just wanted to get started. My only goal at this point was to run the whole thing without stopping/walking.
And I did it. I am pretty happy about it, actually.
The first eight miles were kind of nice. I found a good easy pace and I kept it up--I was running a 9:45ish mile for that whole time, which is definitely slower than my normal pace, but since I had NO IDEA how I would fare after the 5th mile, I felt like I better take it easy.
My parents were kind enough to bring the kids out to the race course, so I got to see them at about 5.5 miles in and I stopped for a few quick hugs and kisses, but jumped right back in and kept going. Seeing my munchkins gave me a nice boost for a few more miles.
The race was pretty crowded, but it's also pretty inspirational. As I ran, I saw Wounded Warriors running and walking, I saw people with shirts depicting fallen military members they were running to honor, and I saw people of every age and size and shape and speed just trucking along. There were spectators along a lot of the course, cheering runners on and holding signs. I was wearing a Boston Strong t-shirt and had several people--total strangers--yell to me personally to cheer me on. It's hard not to feel inspired to just keep going when you're surrounded by that kind of determination and support.
Then I hit the 8-mile marker. Within a minute or two my left knee and my right hip decided they were DONE running. Like, DONE. They hurt more than I can ever remember my legs hurting, and that includes the time I broke my foot in Basic Training. I'm pretty sure that ninth mile was the longest mile I've ever run. But I kept going. I literally had to talk myself out of walking for the whole mile--but I did it.
The last mile wasn't nearly as bad, because once you've already run 9 miles, one of which was completely SUCKTASTIC, you can pretty much just run one more. I was really, really proud and really, really relieved when I crossed the finish line. I ran the 10 miles in 1:45 (with the last two miles being significantly slower that the first eight). I'll take it. I did my best, and I am happy with myself.
I'm really glad I did this race. I'm really glad I proved to myself that I could do it, but I'm also glad I've realized that I have really got nothing left to prove. I am who I am, I'm pretty strong and determined when I need to be, and I don't need to run to the point where it is NOT FUN ANYMORE to prove that. Those last two miles were NOT fun. I'm checking it off the bucket list and probably never doing it again. I think I'll stick to 5Ks and obstacle course races from here on out.
But every experience teaches us something--be it good or bad. I'm glad I had this one, and I appreciate the lessons I've learned.