Well, I did it! I ran the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th, 2011! It wasn’t a stellar race for me considering it was my FIRST PRR, my FIRST 10k in years, and my FIRST race with a HUGE crowd of runners to dodge. However, even with all of that I managed to run a 9:43 pace (with dead stops due to slower “runners”) and finish in 1:00:20. I tried very hard not to dwell on that 20 seconds or the fact that my goal was to finish under an hour. 21 seconds shy of my goal! It burned me for 24 hours after the race. I am a competitive person and when I set a goal, I expect to reach or beat it! Then I remembered why I run. I run because I love it! I love getting out there and moving my body as many miles as I feel like I can do that day. I love pushing my body to new limits, adding mileage every 2 weeks to my longer runs. I love the challenge of besting my own times and improving. I love the solitude it affords me in my day with no children fighting or needing or interrupting me…a chance to think, make decisions, consider options, whatever I need to wrap my brain around at the time. Running is a release for me. Running is my own personal competition. Running is more than just a way to keep those pounds off as I skid into 40. So I began to dwell on the positives of the race.
I RAN the Peachtree and FINISHED! This may seem like a silly thing to say but to many people who run this race, finishing is all they really care to accomplish. This is 6.2 hot, hilly miles in Atlanta during July. Even the best trained runners have been overcome by the heat during the Peachtree. You will see all types of fitness levels too. Some people simply walking for fun, some who have been losing weight all year just to run the PRR, some who are highly trained running machines. I think it is the variety of people running that makes the Peachtree so much fun and frankly unique. It is the largest 10k race in the world with nearly 60,000 people participating, and I was one of them this year!
I RAN a 10k! I proved to myself that I could do it and still yield a respectable time with many challenges facing me. I kept saying to myself, imagine what you could have done if some of those challenging issues were removed. No heat, no huge crowds to dodge, no fear. That made me feel so much better about my time. I knew I could have done better had the race been a simple 10k…but the Peachtree is more than just a 10k…so much more.
I RAN in the heat! The heat has been my mortal enemy for as long as I can remember. I never tolerated it…becoming sick or weak as the summer sun rose higher in the sky. My training for this race involved acclimating to the heat that Atlanta generates during the Summer months. All of that hard work and sweaty morning runs paid off in a big way for me Monday. I ran without feeling overcome by the heat, listened to my body, and felt great throughout the race. This was a HUGE accomplishment.
I RAN up Cardiac Hill! Yes, it’s a punisher at mile 3 – 3.5. You are feeling so great at that point. Flat course, shaded by buildings and then the hill from hell! It never seems to end. BUT, I trained in some of the hilliest parts of Atlanta. I managed to move my body up that hill and didn’t feel like I needed to stop at the top at Piedmont Hospital for the defibrillator! I remember a big smile forming on my face as I reached the top of Cardiac. It’s all downhill to the finish line from here…well, mostly.
I RAN with huge crowds! It was a sea of people lumbering down Peachtree Street. You couldn’t avoid anyone. There were very few pockets to squeeze through. The pack surrounded you at all times. It was literally a game of dodge and weave. BUT, although not trained for this, I tried to enjoy the people on the course and those in the crowds cheering us on. Many in silly costumes or running for someone or a cause or simply enjoying a stroll down the busiest street in Atlanta with a few friends just to get that all-important t-shirt. It’s all about the t-shirt in this race. I think the crowds both running and cheering are what I will remember most about the Peachtree. It is a jovial mood created by 60k runners and thousands of cheering fans. Those “fans” come out to support friends, family, and total strangers. They bring music, food, beer, wine, costumes and the spirit of America. You can’t help but smile while you are running.
I RAN…period! I used to run all the time when I was younger. I ran Cross Country in High School, I ran a bit in college. I ran a bit before my children were born. However, due to numerous knee injuries, I was told by an Orthopedic Surgeon to stop running all together or I would be looking at surgery before I was 40. So I stopped running. Fear of injuring myself was so powerful. I missed it. After the death of my first husband, I began to realize, life is short. Fear can’t rule your life. If I want to run, I WILL run! I began my training by walking and working out my legs on those dreaded leg machines at the gym. I knew if I just strengthened my muscles and got my endurance up, I could run eventually. I worked out 5 times a week, walking for 9 months (as fast as I could) on the treadmill. Walking soon turned into walking for 5 minutes, running for 5 minutes, then walking 5 minutes, running 15 minutes, and so on and so forth. I felt strong. The real test would come when I put on my shoes and ran outside. Could I do it? Would I be ok? The answer, yes! I had patiently and carefully trained my body for this moment and it all paid off. And while I still have aches and pains and a chronic IT band issue, I know how to stretch it all out and listen to my body. So running this race was not only a FIRST but also vindication that I can still RUN!
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind at this point that I will reach my next goal…to run and finish my first half marathon. 13.1 miles in hilly Atlanta. It will take place Thanksgiving day. I am so excited to run this race. This will truly be a first for me. I have never run this distance before. My husband and children will be there to cheer me on. The best part, eating all that turkey and PIE afterwards and not feeling an ounce of guilt! As many have said before, running is my addiction. Is there a marathon in my future? Who knows. One goal at a time.
I RUN because…it’s challenging, it’s competitive, it keeps me fit, it helps me think, it keeps me sane but most of all because I LOVE IT!