Today, December 10, 2011 was the inaugural Sally's Run 5k. This run was the brainchild of Sally's close friends and family who wanted to honor her and over the last 10 months, since her death, it went from vision to reality. Who was Sally, you ask? Check out www.sallymeyerhofffoundation.com or www.run4sal.com to be inspired. Inspired by Sally's accomplishments, but also by the legacy she left behind.
For me, the run today was a chance to race an honest 5k, which I have not done in about 3 years. When you focus on long course events, it's rare to be in good enough shape to really race a short distance. But I set this goal months ago as I laid out my fall and winter schedule... and I wanted a PR.
I had all my excuses lined up on why I couldn't run a fast 5k. I'm under-trained, underfed and under-rested. My hip flexors, which haven't bothered me in years, have flared up again now that I'm sitting 2 1/2 hours extra per day during my commute. My husband made me do a core workout yesterday afternoon. (Seriously I'm just searching for reasons now.) Fear is the enemy. You can line up your excuses and execute them one by one. (Who would really blame me if I ran a minute slower today?) Or you can look fear in the eye and call it's bluff.
I watch people sabotage their own races all the time by giving in to fear, or fear's twin brother, doubt. This tactic is not me. I don't want excuses. If I don't reach a goal it's not for lack of trying. I made the decision to go out as hard as I could and just keep going until I crossed the line. I wouldn't look at my watch because I didn't want an excuse to slow down. (If you're running ahead of pace, hey, why not slow down and be more comfortable? If you're running behind pace, well you may as well slow down cause you can't reach the goal anyway. Right?)
We arrived 45 minutes ahead of the start and began our warm-up on the course. The race director told me the only little incline was at mile one, so we ran the course to about 1.1 miles and then turned around. I peeled off my warm-up clothes to reveal my custom Splish swim suit with Sally's motto "Be Relentlessly Positive" across the front. Today, no matter what happened, we were honoring a friend and it would be a good day.
There were a lot of really, really talented runners in the field. Collegiate track and field stars. Olympians. I felt a little silly lining up at the front, but since the race wasn't chip timed, I wanted my official recorded time to be my actual time, since I was aiming for a PR. In reality, once the gun went off, it didn't matter because the really fast runners were off like a shot and I didn't hold anyone up.
A few hundred yards in, I get passed by my friend SMG. She hollers out a breezy "Heeeyyyy" as she struts by, hardly breathing. I (gasping for oxygen) stutter "can't. talk." in response. (We had a good laugh about this after the race). I ran my heart out. I didn't look at my watch. I knew it would be over quickly, regardless of my time. I just needed to get to the finish as fast as possible. I was choking on thick, ropey saliva by the two mile mark but I did not reach for water. There is no time for water in a 5k.
Coming out of the park into the home straightaway with a half mile to go I picked up the pace. There were no more turns. No more inclines. I could see the finish line banner and needed to get there. With a tenth of a mile to go, I heard the announcer give the time. At that point, I knew I would PR and let out a huge sigh (grunt?) of relief. I did not let up. I crossed the finish line in 21 minutes and 9 seconds. 21:09. A PR by 15 seconds. Unlike last week, where 15 seconds equated out to 1 second per mile, 15 seconds over a 5k is 5 seconds per mile. I'll take it!
Sally's sister Samantha high fived me after the finish. My physical therapist from Endurance Rehabilitation was volunteering at the finish and I made sure he knew I ran a PR, thanks in good part to his work with me over the last year. We stayed for two hours chatting with friends and hanging out. It was a beautiful event, on a beautiful day.
Today we honored someone who lost her life, unexpectedly, way to early. She would have turned 28 years old last week. It is a reminder to those left behind that every day is a gift. A chance to love. A chance to enjoy life. A chance to live. No matter what obstacles we face, or life throws at us, any day on this side of the asphalt is a good day. In honor of Sally, I choose to live out loud, relentlessly, positively, fully.