Race Day Report
I can see the starting line. Never have I been this close before to the starting line. In past races I have found myself a mile back from the starting gate. Today I stand less than 50 feet from the front.
The guy in front of me is a small Asian man with extremely large calf muscles. Next to him is a guy wearing a T-shirt from his last 100 mile race. On my right I overhear a conversation between two ladies about running a seven minute mile and hoping to qualify for the Boson marathon next year. I am surrounded by runners...real live actual runners. Not Sunday morning joggers, not people who are out for fun; these people are going to be running and fast, very fast, and I am stuck in the middle of them.
The national anthem is sung, the shotgun goes off and I run.
Mile 1 -2
It starts off on a hill. No problem; I trained on lots of hills. I am doing my best to keep up with the Asian man with the giant Popeye calves. He is twisting and turning his way through the crowd and I am keeping pace with him. We make it to the top the of the first hill and then he blasts off. That would be the last time I would see the small Asian man with the large calves.
Running through the streets of Squirrel Hill is great. Fans, friends and supporters line the sidewalks as you run by listening to their cheers. I see mile marker one in my sights. Eight minutes. Did it read 8:00?? I just ran mile one in 8 minutes. I just shaved one minute off my normal time.
Next is the first down hill of the day and also the dreaded mile two. Mile two is always the hardest for me. Mentally and physically hard. I talk myself through mile two. I say things like 'Run your own race and think about how far you have come.' A year and a half ago I started running for the first time in my life. Seven years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic disease. I am not going to be writing much about the disease here in this post today (if you wish to read about it you can HERE). This is what I think about while running mile two. It's like having Dr. Phil and Oprah coach me on in my own head...slightly maddening but it helps pass the time. Mile marker number two. It reads 17 minutes.
Mile 3 - 4
It starts to rain. I hate running in the rain. The temperature drops and I get cold. It seems that I am the only person that can run, sweat and be cold all at the same time.
We turn the corner onto 5th Ave. in Oakland and to my left is one of the buildings that they filmed Batman Dark Night Rises at and to my right is Saint Paul Cathedral where I have shot many weddings. Next up is the first aid station. A kind person hands me a cup of water. I notice the rain drops splashing into and out of my cup. The rain is coming down hard. I run straight through the college district of Oakland; this is the flat part of the course. I tell myself to keep the same pace for you know what will be coming up soon.
Mile four: Boulevard of the Allies. This is one long grade up hill for the next mile. One year ago this hill killed me. It was my first race ever and I had no idea that this rising monster of a hill would have been so hard to run. You see I have driven this road a thousand times before never paying attention to the grade of the road. This year I trained for this hill. This hill was my race. I knew if I kept my steady pace on this hill that it would help my overall time and help to heal the wounds of last year. So here I go. I lean into the hill and start swinging my arms faster, chin up and keep breathing at a steady a pace. I start passing lots of people. I am dodging, twisting and turning my way through the crowd of runners. It was not that I was running faster at this point of the race, it was that I was not slowing down. I am feeling good. Slightly surprised that my training was paying off. Top of the hill all is good. I am wet and cold but I conquered my Everest. In the words of James Brown...I feel good!
Mile 5 - 6
34 minutes into the race and only two miles to go. I start thinking that I should look around and enjoy the goings-on. This is my first race that I have ever listened to music while running and I realize how much of my surroundings that I have missed. But a very special thank you to Mr. Jack White for providing the soundtrack. It was much appreciated.
This is what I see: a man, or what I think is a man, dressed in a bright orange body suit. Yep, bright orange body suit. This is not your everyday running suit; it is a body glove that completely covers his face, hands and feet. I catch up to him and give him a long look. I am sure by this point in the race he was used to strange looks from the passersby. I ask him what his story was and he just gives me a wave of the hand that I took as a sign of 'this is not a good time to talk buddy...running a race here.' If anybody out there knows the story of the orange-body-glove-running-man be sure to tell me.
Final leg: I run into downtown Pittsburgh.
The rain is still coming down but it has lightened up a good deal. The roads are filled with puddles and I am splashing my way through the street. People line the streets and they are cheering, waving and holding up signs of encouragement for their loved ones. I love this part. I love seeing all the supporters out and I am grateful that they are here in the rain.
I rounded the corner into Point Park and cross the finish line.
Let's end with the stats
43 years old. 10K (6.2 miles) in 51minutes. Sixth race completed in one year.
Lessons Learned: Do the work. Run your own race. Enjoy
To those living with NMO thank you for all your e-mails and kind words that you have shared with me over this past year. I hope to run with each and everyone of you.