I haven't run anything less than a 15K this year, so I thought I'd celebrate Labor Day with a little labored breathing at the Labor of Love 5 mile in Akron. I've been a regular attendee of the Chapel, anyway, and while spiritual matters still rattle my brain, I've found a modicum of comfort within the walls of this massive church and thought it might be good to participate again. I ran it about 3 years ago with Debi and Mike K. in 45 minutes even. It's not an easy course--undulating up and down hills, against the gray, visually bland asphalt edges of Akron U. and The Chapel. Afterward, runners can help themselves to a generous spread of cookies baked by real church ladies. Bob signed up first, I was hoping to test out my newfound puma speediness from doing the Bill & Bob 5 am runs (although Bill is on extended sabbatical), for the twice a week knock-it-out-before work runs. Along with the built in speed work of running with people faster than me, I thought I might have a pretty good race considering there is an inverse relationship between how shitty life is going and how well you're running. It's the runner's bonus..if things are going bad in your life, cheer up, cause you'll be running like the wind.
I lost five pounds from doing Mohican training and never gained it back due to general anxiety riddled life circumstances, so I'm extra lean and mean. No matter how much I eat, I couldn't gain it back, so I'm accepting my leaner frame for now, bought smaller dress slacks to fit my bitter little crab apple bootie, and will use my slight frame to help me bag the bird in the Akron Road Runner marathon. After the marathon, I plan on doing lots of cooking and pack on the pounds back to my ideal weight, which is the weight that yields an ever so slight lateral right and left butt jiggle as I traverse the work cave halls. I don't own a scale. It's all by feel, you know.
I got to the race an hour early to enjoy the festivities. Bob's always early. It was going to be perfect running weather--slight breeze, mix of clouds and sun and about 67 degrees. Bob was 5 days into growing out a beard--a fabulous red beard. I thought for sure, he'd either look like a young Kris Kringle or Ernest Hemingway, but I was wrong. He looked like Bob, but with more fabulous red hair! I knew Bob would kick my butt on this race and expected it. The person I was surprised about was Wendy C., a bubble gum pink tank wearing, British accented, lawyer friend of my friend Debi, whom has never been known to go tearing off down the road. Wendy has been following a systematic Galloway training regime to run her first marathon at the Road Runner. Just two days ago, on Saturday, she did a final long run of 26 miles, which I don't really understand...would seem to make the actual 26.2 on race day rather anticlimatic, but I gather she's the type that wants to make sure she can do it. Even more surprising was her desire to run a 5 mile race just two days after such a long run, but to each his own.
I was getting really nervous about this race. I stood in the middle of a pack of runners at the start, a virtual sea of clean white wholesome looking shoes and there was me, lean and mean, wearing my dark muddy trail shoes, my Methuselah shoes, at the center, like a dark fish eye. The race was on! Bob shot off like a runaway train. I kept sight of him till he rounded the first corner. At mile two, I was running around an 8:16 pace, which is probably the fastest I've run in 3 years. For this Labor of Love run, I thought about the labor pains of giving birth...the heavy breathing...the waves of pain bearing down on that 9 mile bowling ball traveling down my birth canal, rather than blue collar workers taking a well deserved day off to celebrate American prosperity. Suddenly, in my peripheral vision, a cloud of pink appeared, a British accent announcing her arrival...it was Wendy! Holy moses, how did she catch up to me? I wondered if she was in my age group. I knew it! She's been a speed demon masquerading in casual runner training for their first marathon clothing. I said, "Darn it, Wendy, now you're going to make me have to run faster!" I picked up the pace until I couldn't see the pink cloud in my peripheral vision. Drool was flying out both sides of my mouth. I knew I was maintaining a sub nine minute pace. I passed a number of people. I didn't dare stop for water. I saw Bob again at the second turn around...he looked fast and effortless. I knew he'd have a PR for sure.
At last, the finish line in sight, the bubble gum cloud shot by me like pink lightening! I couldn't believe it, she was going to beat me. In a pure adrenaline surge of outrage, I pulled ahead, but problem was I had nothing left in my tank. I felt like my legs were turning to lead and I was gonna hurl. Why is running fast so painful? I'd truly rather run for 12 hours than this awful lung sucking pain. I couldn't catch Wendy, she beat me by 15 seconds, I think, but gosh did she push me.
I have been a finish line stringer for countless races, and couldn't manage to pull off my own bib strip. All I saw were pale capable hands doing it for me. I stumbed through the shoot, bent down, commenced sobbing from all the emotional effort. Half way through my crying jag, I reached out my hand to officially greet Wendy's twin girls, about 6 I think, but they hesitated, not sure about accepting the hand of this whacko middle aged finish line drama queen. I don't think I've ever pushed myself so hard in a race. Turns out Wendy isn't even close to my age group, but I was awed by how well she ran and so grateful to have Bob and Wendy both pushing me. It was PR for this race...43.51 and 4th in my age group. Bob did an astounding 8:11 pace and PR'd as well and placed an impressive 6th out of 19 in his age group. I'm not certain how Wendy placed, but dang, she's an awesome runner if she can do that after running a 26 mile training run. This was a great family event. There was a free pancake/sausage breakfast as well as inflatibles for the kids. I was high all day long. I felt like a exorcised a few demons and left em rotting out there on the course which is as it should be.