I spent all night trying to remind myself that this was just an opportunity to test my feet. I have placed in one of the top three spots in this race since I began running the Papercon Runability 5K four years ago. (let me clarify that there is usually only about 10 women running this race so you usually end up in first or last without much difference in effort) But, knowing that the New Orleans title would go to another runner was a hard pill to swallow. I had to be smart, right?
I size up the competition at every race. It’s silly, of course, because I am far from the stereo-typical runner’s physique so I know you can’t judge a runner by the technical shirt she’s wearing. I do it anyway. I justify my actions by thinking they are doing the same thing to me and dismissing me because I look the way I do. I’m 40 lbs over weight. I wear black cotton Bermuda-yoga shorts, and an XL T-shirt with Kalamazoo printed across the front. I run barefoot but they don’t know that yet because I am wearing my Merrells until I know what the course is like.
While I am lined up at the starting line, I make a truthful, smart-aleck comment that since this course is flat and fast I’ll be blazing a 30 minute time. Inside, I’m lecturing myself that I can not try to race today. A 30 minute time is probably a bit much to be asking for. I need to keep an easy pace. After all, I can’t remember the last time I ran 3 consecutive miles. Actually, I can’t even remember when I ran more than 1 mile. I know it’s been at least 4 weeks. I could be in some real hurting if I am not careful.
I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that after the gun went off I spent the first mile trying to pace with The Stomper and kept Turquiose Shirt in my sites as my third mile passing target. I said it’d be hard for me to not try to defend the title. At that point, the three of us were running at about 3,4,5 places. See, as hard as I was at trying not to make this competitive, I knew what place I was in the whole race. If I could just hang on to them, I could pull ahead at the end to place.
I started losing my competitive edge at the end of mile 1 when I closed my eyes and realized not a thing on my body hurt. My foot, fine. Hips, fine. Achilles tendon (thanks, new dress shoes), fine. I was out running without any problems. A smile lit my face and the Turquoise Shirt started to pull away. I was happy and didn’t really care. You’d expect that I would have pushed myself to go faster when I acknowledged that I was pain-free. Secretly, I’d been afraid I wasn’t even able to run anymore.
With one mile to go, I had fallen back to about 9th place. I couldn’t see the Turquiose Shirt nor The Stomper any longer. I let new targets pass me and drop me. Since I knew that I wasn’t going to win or even place, it was time to pull over and pull off the Merrells. I didn’t expect to finish the rest of it barefoot but I did. My first official barefoot race. Only one of the officials noticed my barefoot state and commented on it. Not that it really mattered. I was there running. Running barefoot. I hadn’t even been curious if an ambulance would be at the finish line.
Can you believe it? 29:40 thanks to the lady who tried to pass me at the last half mile. 10th place but not last.
Right now, I’m icing my feet (as a precaution) in the hotel bathtub. I’m contemplating the race and rejoicing that I’ve recovered my ability to run.