Sunday, January 17, 2010
I would have never ever thought to myself, not in a million years, that I would run a race with my husband.
Do y'all remember my C25K journey, in which I forced myself off of the couch, and took the liberty to get out and get moving? I had always wanted to be a runner, and after 9 hard weeks of training with nobody other than my ipod and my Adidas, I was one.
Before I had found out that I was pregnant, Christopher had told me about a 4 mile race that takes place every year here on base. When we ran our 5k together a few months ago, it was just the two of us out on the track. There was no organized event, it was just something that I had wanted to do, so we went out and did it on a random week night, in the warm fall air. But this, this was an actual race- with people, and rules, and... "sign us up", I told him. And then I started training.
Even though the news of our recent pregnancy was a shock to both of us, it didn't cancel our plans for going out to the flight line together on January 15th, and pounding the pavement. "We'll still run", we agreed.
Of course I did my research, making sure that it was safe for a pregnant woman to run. As long as I wasn't starting a new workout routine, it was safe for me to continue on with the same level of exercise that I had been doing before. The only difference, that I'd soon learn the hard way, was that I had to go much, much slower. I'd have to keep my heart rate below 140 beats per minute, and the way I figured I'd keep tabs on that, was by my breathing. If I lost control of the rhythm of my breathing I'd know that I was pushing myself too hard. Not only that, but if I moved my body any quicker than a snail's pace, I'd start to hurt everywhere. I had to teach myself to run without twisting my torso with the teeter totter motion my swinging arms made, and had learn how to pace myself so slow that at times I wasn't sure if I was even running at all. I knew my legs were moving, but I was so sluggish that I had to concentrate on figuring out if it was more of a jumping power walk, or a jog. It was a cross between the two, I've decided.
The week before the run, I knew I had to push myself just a little bit farther than I had in the past, and farther than I probably should have. I ran 3.75 miles, as opposed to the usual 3 miles that I did (I used mapmyrun.com to keep track of my routes). When I got home, I warned Christopher that I might pass out, and leaned my exhausted body weight into the door, the wall, the chair- anything that would catch me while I tried recovering from my workout. Christopher asked me if I still wanted to go through with the run, and I assured him that no matter what- I was doing it. I know my body well, and I know when enough is enough. We agreed that it had probably been my lack of lunch, and maybe slight dehydration that had caused the exhaustion, and that I'd just have to prepare myself better when race day came...
On Friday, January 15th, we suited up, and headed out. Christopher is currently in Airman Leadership School, and it turned out that his entire class (42) was going to be running the race as well. Other than them, there were about 5 other people running, 2 of us being civilian. Can you imagine how out of place and intimidated I felt? I had to put that in both bold and italic type, because the stress of running my first race with a group of people that had been physically trained by professionals, and were required to keep up with it as part of their jobs, was enough to shut me down. While we stood around in the cold waiting for the last plane to land and clear the runway, my nerves calmed and I accepted the fact that everyone would be faster than me, and that was ok.
They explained the route to us. It made no sense to me. Alpha this, and Echo that. Runway this, turnaround that. Something about men in vests, cops and a red line- um... right. I figured since I would be last, I'd have no problem following everyone else. It would be impossible for me to get lost.
I had previously told Christopher that he didn't need to hold himself back for me, he could go ahead if he needed to. But I knew that no matter what I said to him, he'd make sure to do everything in his power, even if it meant tripping over his own feet, to stay behind with me at my pregnant civilian lady pace. And he did.
When the race started, everyone charged ahead of us. It was raining, the foggy misty kind of rain that isn't even in the form of droplets, but more like a constant blanket of moisture that swirls around you. It was windy, which caused the swirls to come and go in waves of different intensities, soaking our faces and weighing down our clothes. And it was cold. The temperature was probably around 45 degrees, but it might as well have been 20 with the water and wind added in. "They'll slow down", I thought, as I watched the group get farther and farther away from us.
The next thing I know, two men walking, with backpacks on, passed us. They cut us off when they took the short end of a corner (we took the long end, I had full intentions of doing this run the right way). We were officially last. Soon the gap between us and the rest of the group became wider. I looked over at Christopher, and just like I had predicted earlier, he was having a very hard time slowing himself down for me. His beat was off, his steps were uneven, he looked miserable. I thought "maybe I can speed up, just a little", already feeling uncomfortable at the pace I was going at... so I tried.
Christopher and I both had headphones in, and hadn't said a word since the race had started less than a mile ago. As I watched the group through the fog up ahead in the distance, and choked on my lack of breath and nagging pain in my side... I made the decision to slow down. "I'm just not as fast as them", I reminded myself, "let them be faster".
By now I was soaked. With every stomp that I made, my feet forced puddles to break apart and splash up into the air around my legs. Eventually my feet went numb, ankles too, and I didn't feel it anymore. When we changed directions at the halfway point, I had to take my glasses off. I couldn't see through the mist, and I couldn't continue to wipe my lenses clean. By now we were running on the actual runway, not just the flight line.
Without my glasses, the water was now falling directly into my eyes, and not that I could see anything in front of me anyways, I had to start watching the ground. I didn't know where we were, I couldn't see a single person ahead of us anymore, and all I could tell myself was "you are doing it", to fuel my body into moving forward. I'd glance over at Christopher, to see that his cheeks were bright pink and there was a slight smile on his rain kissed face. It looked like his steps had evened out, and his shoulders had lost their tension. He was doing alright now. He had found his stride, and we were doing this.
The peacefulness that I felt when I lifted my head and looked around, was overwhelming. "Look at how far I've come", I thought.
We ran. And we ran. And we ran.
Along the path, from the beginning to the end, we'd pass men and women in uniform, standing out in the rain only to show us which way to go, and to catch us should we fall. The whole time I was thinking how angry with us they must be, for causing them to stand out in the cold for so much longer, not realizing that we were only about 10 or 15 minutes behind the rest. There was also a truck following us, which was more annoying than anything, especially knowing that they had been watching our butts jiggle for miles now, but somewhat a relief, just in case. The minutes seemed to go by so slowly, and after awhile, it almost felt like an alternate universe we were in.
And then, when I squinted and concentrated hard enough, I could see through the fog just barely enough... there was a finish line. We had about a mile to go. Yes, only a mile. But wait, really... a whole mile?
"Keep running Tia. Mind over matter".
My body had switched itself to mode: auto pilot. Each step was the same, each breath was the same, each blink was the same. Christopher and I each took out an ear phone, and reminded each other why we were out here doing this, by saying "I love you". He had checked up on me constantly, by giving me thumbs up signs when he thought I might be crashing.
And then somebody came into view. He was running towards us. He ran up to Christopher, probably somebody from his ALS class, slowed himself to our pace, and then took off again. He met up with another man in front of us, and then both men were looking directly at me, jaws dropped.
They must have just found out that I'm pregnant.
Both men came running back to us, this time on my side rather than Christopher's. I took my ear phone out, and got ready to defend my finale. The conversation went almost exactly as I imagined it would. They told me I was crazy for doing this while pregnant, jokingly yet seriously said they were going to kick my husband's ass, told me to get into the truck that had been following us, and then reminded me at least 3 times to stop if I felt any kind of pain at all. I told them I was finishing this race. I had trained for it, I had come this far, I was doing it. My stubborn attitude was enough to put them in their places, and they left us alone to complete our race.
That was the extra push that I needed. Reminding myself why I was out there doing it. Saying out loud, that I was going to finish.
Things started coming into sight. We could see the end. We'd go straight here, we'd turn up there, we'd turn again over there, and then we'd go straight until we crossed the finish line.
The human street signs in uniform clapped as we passed, probably because they couldn't wait to get out of the rain, I doubt it was because they were proud of us. And then we rounded the last corner, and we could see the end. At that point I'm not sure what came over me. Maybe it was adrenaline, maybe it was determination, maybe it was love. Love for my husband, reaching my goals, pushing myself. I really can't explain what my heart felt at that exact moment, it wasn't anything I had ever felt before.
I ran hard.
This was it. This was the end. I was going to push myself as hard as I possibly could. I was going to sprint. I don't know what Christopher must have thought when I took off like a rocket, but he was right there beside me. I felt my lungs begging for air, and my legs screaming for me to stop. But not once did I feel a pain telling me that it wasn't safe, so I didn't stop. There came a point where I felt weakness, my body wanted me to slow back down, but I fought it. "Let me run!", my heart screamed. I ignored the pain. I could hurt later. I ignored my lungs, I could breathe later. Just let me run.
And then at the very last minute, Christopher reached over and grabbed my hand, and together we crossed the yellow finish line.
Its kind of a blur as to what happened after that. I was having a hard time breathing, the world was spinning, and I thought for a few minutes that maybe I had actually passed out. As word spread of my pregnancy, I had paramedics approach me and follow me around until I was clearly alright to wander off on my own, yet still leaning on Christopher for added support.
After all was said and done, we walked away winning first place in the "walking division", because there hadn't been any actual walkers in the race. But wait- what about those guys that had passed us walking with the backpacks? I bet they felt cheated, haha. During the brief awards ceremony, it was announced over the microphone, the cute story of how the married couple that came in last crossed the finish line holding hands. Everybody awwww'd, we accepted our plaques for being the best at being slow, and we walked away happy.
And thats the story of how my husband and I ran our very first race together, while I was 10 weeks pregnant with our 3rd child.