My 9-year-old son and I participated in a 10K Road Race yesterday. Originally, it was to be my husband and I, but that didn't work out, so my son took his number. Our day began very early, when my husband and daughter dropped us off at the subway station. We navigated the crowds (about 60,000 runners participate in this event) and held our ground as we were all jostled and thrown around the speeding tin can.
As we disembarked the train, I immediately encountered a friend from college - what are the odds? She saw my son and said, "Oh, is he running it too? You have to be 10 right? My oldest wants to do that next year."
So now, not only was I anxious about the massive crowds, the heat, and surviving the race, but I also was scared that we were going to be publicly humiliated and kicked out of the event for age-cheating. We tried to blend.
Once at the race location, we moved with the other lemmings, not questioning direction or destination, just hoping for the best. It took about 30 minutes to find our assigned starting point (out of A-Z, we were "U"), and then an hour to wait for our heat to begin. My son and I enjoyed the people-watching - there were men dressed in nothing but American flag Speedos, several Supermans and Batmen, and plenty of booties jiggling in Spandex.
After what seemed an eternity, the race began. My son and I started off well - an easy pace, which was made easier by the fact that we were crammed into a sweaty human sandwich. After about ten minutes, we moved to the slow side and began our pre-planned walk/run strategy.
We were doing very well, taking breaks when we needed, figuring out how to get in good position for the water tables and the spray stations. We must have been almost 4 miles into it when the bubble burst.
On the horizon, in between the spots in my vision, was Mile Marker TWO. Two miles in 30ish minutes is not really good in the running world. Especially when you are already going partially blind and your back is in spasms. And you haven't even hit the hills yet. I started to re-evaluate my strategy. Do I need to finish this race? Will my husband hear the phone if I make the rescue call? It wouldn't be the first time he has had to pick me up by the side of the road.
But then, I looked at my kid, and the 80-year-old man with osteoporosis who was passing us, and the people in wheelchairs watching us from sidewalk of the hospital, and realized that I was being an ass. So, I just accepted the pain and plowed on. My son and I celebrated each cup of water and spewing hydrant as if they were gifts from God. I only lost hope two more times - once when I saw the runners from the earlier waves headed to their cars, and second when I saw a priest on the side of the road throwing holy water on everyone.
I just kept talking to my son, welcoming the rushes of adrenaline when I yelled at a woman for pushing into him at the water line, and also, when a man who clearly has a small penis, remarked to another runner - "I'm in no rush. I've already run this twice today."
May he rot.
Towards the end, we got our second wind, passing both our personal cheering section and also what we thought was the finish line. They trick you in a very cruel way with a fake finish line, which is actually just a photo op. But we kept going until everyone else stopped running, and, holding hands, we crossed over. We placed 48,663 and 48,664. And we wore those damn race t-shirts to sleep.
We are sore and have thigh rashes, and will hopefully regain mobility soon, but we feel like we did something great together. And I can promise you that next year, without a doubt, I will be absolutely celebrating the first anniversary of me never doing that again.
Until next time, keep crowin' and mark something off your bucket list today!