There was no starting gun, but there was a preacher, so i was obviously prepared to run. I surveyed the group that had assembled behind the starting line and noted that not everyone looked like a runner, so that helped calm my nerves. There were people of varying degrees of fitness, the young and the old. As I became more relaxed, it was easier to make polite conversation with those around me. Pretty soon, much to Terry's chagrin, I was telling everyone it was my first 5K.
The preacher stepped in front if us, mic in hand, and proceeded to yell, so that the loud speakers magically transformed into eardrum busters. There was some yammering about something, some glad-handing and a prayer. Not one single word registered because I'd just realized I never made it to the little girl's room. My self doubt was now being overshadowed by my bladder, filled to the brim with an orange Gatorade.
When the preacher hollered "GO!" , I sprinted away from the group, not to showboat, but because I have an irrational fear of being run over from behind. I find it very nearly impossible to run while wearing ear buds. How would you know if a Suburban filled with children, all poking Chik-fil-a in there pie holes, was barreling down on you? I can't imagine being one of those souls, waiting outside the Wal-Mart for the Black Friday sales, that pour through a single door like cattle through a chute, much less being at the starting line of the New York Marathon. I'd have a shingles outbreak before the damn thing even got started.
Terry trotted up beside me and said "Hey, Carl Lewis, reign it in a little. Don't burn yourself out too soon."
Other than that, he kept quiet except to advise me on my time, where we were along the route or to run off a kid that was trying to "ride my draft." That last one could've hurt my feelings if I hadn't been so focused on not peeing myself or falling down. There I was feeling all svelte, never imagining myself large enough to leave an actual wake behind me.
I knew I had two strong miles in me, but I wasn't sure about the third. I decided to think about the children. Yes, i said children. See, this event was planned as a fundraiser for a summer camp for children with disabilities called Hope Hallow Believe it or not, there were a few of these kids participating in the run. I decided to adopt the "if they can, so can I" mindset. Right then and there, I claimed that race, my very first 5K, for the children. The sun shone brighter, the breeze blew cooler and the birds sang me a sing that lifted my spirits.
As we came upon the halfway mark, Terry suggested I have some water.
"Nope." I quipped and kept on going.
As we doubled back, facing the morning sun, I realized my all black outfit had been a poor decision. Earlier, I'd paraded around in my William Wallace Salon T-shirt like a prize winning rooster. Now, as the sweat trickled down my entire body-and my bladder cramped-I was all too thankful that I hadn't been able to find my black bandana.
At the two mile mark, having just started to consider letting loose a stream of urine mid run, Terry eased up close and uttered with a cautious tone "One more thing, when you get to the finish line, your first inclination will be to stop. Don't do that."
"Okay." I quipped.
"Just keep on moving." he went on, "Sometimes, even experienced runners have heart attacks after stopping cold."
"I'm sorry, WHAT?" I blurted.
So, on the verge of wetting myself, my hips aching a bit and my throat increasingly sore from throwing up that morning, I now had to keep check on my heart, lest it rupture during or immediately after completing the run.
"Did ya hear about Eddie?" they'd say, "He finished that 5K then dropped dead by the porta-potty!"
I won't lie to you, good people, that last mile was a booger. All things considered, I only kept going because Terry was there. All of my mind games were failing me. I was no longer a leaf in the wind, I didn't give a crap that I'd finished a three miler before and, as embarrassed as I am to tell you this, I wanted to punch the gals that were showing off by pushing toddlers the whole damn race. And those children, the ones that this race was for, i no longer cared. I was in pain, hot and sweaty, and was on the verge of wetting myself in public. This, my friends, is where my pride took over, like some sort of survival mechanism, and dragged me to the very end of this ridiculous show of stupidity. I was now dog-cussing myself-in my head, of course-for even agreeing to do this in the first place. And that's when I saw the finish line.
It's true, what they tell you about the end. No, not the tunnel and the light, I'm talking about the burst of energy near the finish line. Just ahead I could see members of Action Jxn, all cheering me on, even Diggy, Terry and Meredith's little black dog, seemed happy to see me.
"Okay, Eddie," Terry said from over my shoulder, "it's all you." Then he veered off to the left, leaving me with the wide expanse of asphalt to savor by myself. My feet, heavy as lead a moment before, now had wings. I pounded that pavement as hard as I could, making wider my gate with every footfall. As I crossed the finish line, I told myself I deserved real running shoes from Fleet Feet for finishing this, and I would be fitted within an inch of my life.
Y'all, I did it in under thirty minutes, beat my average mile and came in third in the "barely middle-aged" category and I have a medal to prove it. You know what else I got? The bug to try a 10K the next time, like I have absolutely no sense whatsoever.