I ran my first 5k in five years on Saturday. It was the Susan G. Komen WNY Race for the Cure, and I was just as blown away as I was back in 2005. To see so many people congregated in one place to support breast cancer research and funding is so powerful! Lots of pink, lots of flowers and ribbons, several strollers with babies wearing pink caps and waving flags saying “My Mama Survived” made my chest leap on several occasions.
I woke up early (no big surprise there) in a horrible mood (see previous parentheses) and put the kettle on for my coffee, full of trepidation and dread. I hadn’t actually done any running for at least a month. I was gung-ho for maybe a week–“Hey, let’s go to Fleet Feet and buy new running shoes!” “I’m going to run every day this week!” “My groin muscles hurt; they need a rest…” “Screw it, I’m just going to walk for an hour and burn the same number of WW Points that I would with my pathetic ‘jogging.'” In fact, the only thing that made me commit to the race (read: crossing the finish line, whether that be upright or horizontal) was telling myself that there was no shame in running as long as I could, then walking. I could stop whenever I needed to. No worries. No pressure.
So I girded the “girls” in a pink sports bra, put on my $25-donation-funded T-shirt and ancient blue Umbros (shout-out to BCJ, whose Umbros are at least appropriately pink), and tightly laced my running-slash-walking-slash-Michigan-labeled-tennis shoes. I had my iPhone with tunes, earbuds, and sunglasses. I was ready to go.
The picture at right says it all. Not really in the mood. But I was here, so let’s do it.
The crowds helped. Seeing so many people in all shapes, sizes, walks of life, was inspiring. They were just HERE. It didn’t matter if they were trying to beat their previous 5k time, or if they were there simply in honor of their Gramma, who died suffering from breast cancer in 2008. I made my way to the Young Lincoln statue to meet my team from school. I strapped my earbuds on and cranked up Radiohead’s “Fifteen Steps.” I was READY.
The horn sounded. We started moving like a reluctant herd. Start, stop, giggle, start again, stop, some overly-anxious bastard runs into you and grunts an apology. Start again. This time, I’m moving. It feels good. I can do this. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
I keep running.
I am passed by many. I pass many.
I am huffing and puffing. It is hot and humid. At the first water stop, I chug at least four cups of water, and the cups crunch under my feet. I readjust my race number so it is not hitting me in the face as I run uphill, past Gates Hospital, past Canisius High School, right onto a sidestreet through the Elmwood district. Sweat. Switch music, this time to something soothing and comforting. Iron and Wine. Keep going. Pass the Lexington Co-op, pass another water station (THANK GOD–three cups this time), start talking to myself. “You can do it. You can do this. Keep going, Bethie.”
And then suddenly, I’m there. Tori Amos helped tremendously (“Pretty Good Year”).
Red-faced. I accept the McDonald’s sponsored Aquafina water bottles (two, and a third to take home), and sit for a bit, absorbing all that is around me. Lithe men in bike shorts (sorry, eighties reference), women older than myself who kicked my A** and beat me to the finish line, moms with strollers and there’s this woman with a cane and a scarf, and she’s wearing a bright-pink banner on her back that says “Survivor.” And once again, I am humbled.
I ran this race as a healthy woman.
I cannot imagine running any sort of race in the throes of cancer.
I collect my post-race goodies (several bags of Sun Chips, some pita bread, fruit, more water) and call my dear fiancé to pick me up, who is at my son’s baseball game. They arrive shortly thereafter, and I try to suppress my excitement, albeit unsuccessfully. “I ran the WHOLE THING!”
I sound like my toddler daughter. “I did it! I did it all by myself!”
Yet it wasn’t all by myself. For I am never alone.