Years before I started running I heard about the infamous runner's high. I imagined that these 'runners' were such losers that they wouldn't know 'high' if it knocked them on their asses. Nevertheless, I became intrigued with the possibility of getting high from a decent run. In the years following the pre-contemplation stage of running, I continued to search for this high. I packed on miles and races, while losing the weight. Blah blah, if you've read my crappy blog you've heard this story before. After most long races where I pushed myself, I ended with a lackadaisical feeling followed by a slight fever, several hours later. Most of my fatigue and accompanying symptoms were relieved by a hell of a power nap. Not this time...
I started this year's race season with a 5K PR. Not too shabby considering the crappy winter we've had. Thanks to my Rainbow Runners I maintained 20+ mile weeks through most of the season. I crossed the finish line forth in my age bracket — something I had never imagined possible. I hauled ass that day leaving little in the tank. I, again, ended with a lackadaisical feeling topped off with a slight fever. No nap for me that afternoon, but I recovered nicely. Realizing my capabilities for maintaining a much faster pace, I selfishly scoped out last year's award finishing times for the Emmaus 4 Miler, my next race. The times didn't appear too out of reach, so I stuffed that in my pipe.
The night before the race couldn't have gone any worse. I sadly needed to handle a personal matter which made my blood pressure rise without warning. I.WAS.ON.FIRE. With age and maturity, I've learned techniques to dampen the rage. This unfortunate situation was no match for my techniques. Hot emotion laughed in the face of breathing exercises. I needed an outlet; one that wasn't immediately available. Plan: I'm gonna run the shit out of that course. Three hours later, I tried to center myself on my mat. Ten minutes into my practice, I started to surrender; nothing else mattered. At one point, my periphery greyed out. Either I was in the zone or losing oxygen quickly. After dragging myself off the floor post savasana, I passed out in bed.
Early rise. All business.
The girls woke up not too long after I. We piled into the car for a quick Dunkin' run (Muffin runs on Dunkin' hot tea with sugar). While the ladies munched to the sounds of Disney Junior, I hustled to shower and dress. Eventually, the bear of the house woke and the entire family was off to the race. The morning, already swimming in sunshine, started a little chilly, but I knew that I'd be just comfortable in my shorts and tee-shirt. Following the kids' run, I kissed the girls and the hubbs before lining up near the front of the starting line. Thankfully, I laid eyes on my target. We shall call her Jane...
So, Jane, ahem, is a lovely woman. Well, actually, she's a bit of a shark. Let me explain: Jane is a beautiful woman who clearly takes care of herself. I look up to her dedication and her competitiveness; she works hard. And it shows. I've known Jane for years, although I don't know her very well. Sometimes, I dream of grabbing a cup of coffee with her, but I'm fairly intimidated. She just appears more mature than me, no matter that only two-ish years separate us. I think too much.
I stood as tall as my almost 62 inch frame could muster with roughly 4 feet behind Jane. My right hand cradled my Garmin (out of retirement) ready to strike as my left foot crossed the white line. And we were off. I trailed behind Jane mesmerized by her bouncing, curly pony tail. I studied her arms while they swished at her sides, barely making contact with her torso. She moved with such efficiency. I felt like a goofy horse, clomping behind. I knew that my effort would eventually fail; I definitely started out too fast. Self doubt flooded my mind.
I refocused my gaze at the back of Jane's shirt. Her graphite colored, high-tech tee-shirt clung to the curves of her body. The black pattern, thin black swirls, seemed to come alive. The shirt breathed with her movement. I could not turn away. Everything fell silent and disappeared; it was just me and the swirls. I stopped noticing the pain of maintaining a blistering pace (well, blistering for me); I stopped hearing my feet against the street; I stopped seeing the people around me. And just like that, the unexpected happened. I started to pass Jane on a hill.
There was no need for me to dial down my pace, but I feared my future if I passed her. I couldn't take it anymore...there was no choice. I pushed up that hill to pass Jane. I never looked to my left as I flew up the hill. With eyes facing front, I crested the hill and continued to push the pace. At that point, I stared to panic. Shit! Now, who will I target? Jane was my goal, but Jane was gone. I never imagined being in my position that I failed to develop a Plan B. After a minute or so of freaking out, I reeled it in and chanted a mantra in my head: DO WORK. HARD WORK. I was working hard and if I played my cards right, that work would be paying off. Not once did I look back. DO WORK. HARD WORK. I pushed the pace through the rolling hills to cross the three mile mark. A moment of distraction led me to a strong desire to pull off the course for a puke break. "It's okay if I stop to puke," I thought. I couldn't imagine stopping before the finish, so I, instead, pressed on. DO WORK. HARD WORK. With less than a mile to go, I crested the final hill to barrel down towards the high school. I kicked a little while leaning into two turns heading home. DO WORK. HARD WORK. I spotted my cheering squad as I rounded the final turn to the finish line. I observed the clock click past 29 minutes. My feet settled to a fast walk after crossing the line in 29:13.
DO WORK. HARD WORK.
Jane and I crossed paths while waiting in the exhaustive food line. We hugged and exchanged pleasantries. She noted my hard work by singing my praise, 'You have worked hard, girl. You deserve it.' She then asked if I placed. I never imagined that possibility. Too long of a story shortened - I placed third in our age group. I beat out another woman by 11 seconds to nab the coveted spot. I walked away from that race with a slight fever, an award and a shit ton of pride in my hard work.
I finally hit my stride, so to speak; I found that high I've been searching.