I flexed my abs and tucked my bootie to make myself look like the other runners at the front, then did all of the pre-race jumps and strides that I thought an elite runner should do. These are the nervous ticks that used to keep me calm when I was nervous about my race performance. This time I was nervous about finishing.
I later counted that it had been 694 days since my last 10mile+ run and yet here I was attempting a half marathon. It’s been a long time since I toed the line with the confidence of an elite athlete. The miles and workouts of a fine tuned body. The track-record that says I belong here at the front.
I want to be here. I used to be here. I think I can still be here. But December 2011 was a long time ago and let’s face it, lots of women have a hard time coming back after their second child and/or into their mid-30s. My comeback training had been hampered by bruised bones and an unusual number of friends & family deaths (4 in the last 5 weeks). Needless to say, I wasn’t finding any source of confidence on which to draw.
But the gun went off, the adrenaline kicked in and my muscles seemed to know what to do. I cruised a 6:15 pace for the first nine miles, with an occasional 5:55 thrown in, and felt great. I ran with a pack and didn’t let them drop me at 7 miles. I ran the tangents, tucked in when the wind picked up, and stayed positive. It’s amazing how the racing mindset is just natural; easy to repeat the well practiced patterns.
Through the neighborhoods, I maintained contact with pack of women but felt the loneliness of the dark streets. Then the course began to climb- ever so slightly- and the women spread out. Miles ticked by more slowly and I felt the flat tire coming. I am proud of the effort I maintained, but I know this is the difference between my best performance and my strength building performance. I am in the strength building phase and it shows. However, I maintained my pace and kept myself mentally in check to finish in 1:24:03 for 5th place. A few years ago that may have been disappointing but today it felt amazing! I know now that I still have what it takes and a few good weeks will produce better times. A few good months will have me back, better than my old self.
Man it feels good to be a runner again!