The run starts off slowly (well, in the back anyway….LOL), because it takes quite some time for all the runners to make it over the Starting Line. The official clock read 3 minutes+ by the time I stepped over that magic purple line, and hit the start button on my Garmin watch. I laughed to myself, because I knew (already), 3 seconds into this thing…that 3 minutes wasn’t going to mean a thing. Not a darn thing! I had 2 hours and 40-ish minutes ahead of me. “Take care of yourself Diane. Enjoy it!.” That’s what I was saying to myself as I stepped over that line.
The first three miles were divine. Energy was high, lungs were full of fresh air, the rain was holding off, and all the people around me were happy, and skipping, and chatting with each other. It was like a roaming party through Central New Jersey. But…..this was just the beginning. And that’s how the beginning of anything hard feels. All the excitement, and nervous energy was just burning off. Something changed as we passed the 3 mile marker. I think we all realized, around that same moment, we’ve got 10 miles ahead of us. This thing just got a whole lot more serious. It got quieter out there. The large wilding groups of runners began to break down into pairs, maybe trios, and a whole bunch of singletons, just like me. We each had to run this race for ourselves. While it’s been fun hanging out so far…..we were each on our own. This knowledge settled down on us, and the tone changed. It was both eery and wildly interesting to feel it happen.
I kept an eye on my Garmin. Relatively speaking, I was running too fast. The pace of my first 4 miles was around 11:10. I felt great, but this pace meant I was using up the energy I would need later on. That’s the HARDEST thing to actualize while you are running. There’s what you KNOW you should do, and then there’s what you DO. The difference is PRACTICE. Practice closes the gap between knowing and doing. This race began with my experience at a Solid level. I had practiced alot of great running behaviors, but there was alot I had to learn. So even though I was running too fast, and trying to use my music to find my groove….it eventually settled down around the 5 mile mark. At 5 miles I had been running for an hour. At 6 miles, it was an hour and 12 mins. These times were right on mark to my 12:00 minute mile pace. I was in my groove, finally! And good thing too, because I was just a half mile shy of the Half Way mark. There’s alot left to this race. And my legs were starting to feel it. I began to hear my inner thoughts say the words I could NOT allow. “This is hard.” Yet, just like involuntary breathing, my mind went looking for an old friend. One I had not seen in a long time. And she came in, and took over my thinking right in time. “This is good…..this….is….good….thisisgood…..thisisgoodthisisgoodthisisgood. Ahhh, even though it had been a long time, there she was…..a trusted friend from hard days gone by, and as effective as ever. The same way she helped me climb that hill all those times back home (Diane vs The HILL)…..miles went by with her by my side, and I was grateful to have her with me.
CGI distributed maps of the entire course. I didn’t even attempt to memorize where we were going. This run wasn’t scientific for me. I was just gonna “follow the white rabbit down the rabbit hole” on this one. I was a lemming. Where the crowd of gazelle went, I went. So I didn’t realize that the first half of the race was set up so that we’d run the first 6.5 miles on the Livingston Campus side and come back to run through the same point where the Starting Line was. Two meaningful things happened right at this point.. The first was psychological. In all my training runs, I followed a course where I ran to a certain mile point, and then would turn around and Run Home. It helped me psychologically to think about the second half as j.u.s.t. g.e.t.t.i.n.g. h.o.m.e. I had to mentally set myself up for that same thing during the race, knowing that the course wasnt actually gonna do that. There was no big turn around. So, I told myself when my Garmin hit 6.5 miles, that I would repeat a mantra to myself. Ok Diane, Run it Home girl. Run Home. Run Home. Run Home. It worked to a degree. I’ll talk more about that later. The second thing that happened, was emotional, and wonderful. The huge difference running back through the Start Line tunnel was……all the people were gone. Well, most of them anyway. The spectator crowd that was there to see us off at the Start, was gone now. They had headed off to the Finish Line….ready for the end game celebration. But for me, that celebration was still an hour and 20 minutes away! Yet, just ahead of me, at the corner by the light pole, stood a familiar figure. It was my husband, Peter. There he was, waiting for me at the half-way mark — smiling, proud. He waved, he smiled, he told me I was doing good. I slowed down to give him a high 5, and kept running down the street as I hear him say, “See ya at the finish line baby”. The lady in front of me laughed, and said “Easy for him to say”. We both had a laugh together over that, while we ran down the street. I suppose it was easier to be a spectator than a runner that day. But, when you consider that this wonderful man was standing in the rain, in 52 degree weather…..waiting for me, with his camera in hand. I just felt lucky, on so many levels. My heart was full, and he elevated my energy, and gave me a dose of happiness that would help me knock off the next three miles.
Somewhere around mile 6, it began to drizzle. By mile 9, it was full on raining. Somewhere between these two marks, I needed to use the port-o-potty. Luckily I found one without a line, which enabled me to get in and get out without much time lost. It was here that I lost the 12 minute mile Rabbit Family — the Pace team. They were just ahead of me a little bit, so as long as they were in sight, I felt OK.
Mile 10 came, and the people around me had become a familiar bunch. This was my pack. The pink camelbak lady, the girl in the blue Aetna T-shirt, the two guys in the blue sweatpants, and the girl in the purple shorts. Sometimes they passed me, sometimes I passed them. This is how it went during those exhausting miles between the 10 and 12 mile markers. This was the hardest part of the race for me. My legs were becoming rubber, I was clearly tired. My pace was dropping to a 13:00+ minute mile. This is when I had to dig down and Fight. FIGHT. F.I.G.H.T. Mile 10 to 11 was bad. Mile 11 to 12 was worse. There were bands playing along the route, and the Frats and Sororities along the way cheering us on. The water stations were like an Oasis in the middle of the Desert. I wasn’t alone out there, not by any means, but mile 11 to 12 was a looong, lonely mile. It’s the mile where I thought...”Um, I’m just gonna fall down here……and you folks can just pick me up and take me home please!” But, quitting was not an option. Besides, there was only one way to Get Home, and that was by my Own Power. So — Run Yourself Home Diane, Run Home, Run Home, Run Home! That mantra carried me from mile 11 to 12. I’m not sure I remember much about that mile. The asphalt looked about the same as any other mile, but by that time I wasn’t running on the pavement, I was running in my head. Everyone else disappeared. It was Me and only Me, and we were in agony. I had to dig down deep for every bit of Purpose I possessed to get through that mile. When I looked up and saw the 12 mile marker…..my mind began to come out of the inner cage I had created for it. Only 1.1 miles left. This was IT. This was the sprint to the finish. Wake up — Here we go!!
More to come…..
Ciao for now…..Diane