My eyes focused on the red glowing numbers floating beside my pillow: 7:03. The time slowly registered in my brain in reference to what day it was. I shouted a few expletives, threw off the covers, and shot out of bed like a rocket.
"IT'S RACE DAY!" I announced, barely disturbing my snoring husband. "I was supposed to be at Lisa's at 6:45!" I dressed quickly and checked my phone, dismayed that I missed two calls and two texts from her. As I brushed my teeth, I listened to her messages via speaker: she left without me. I quickly dialed her number, "Guess who overslept?"
I miraculously arrived 10 minutes before the race started. Proud to be a member of the "back of the pack" crowd, Lisa and I allowed the crowd to thin out before we joined in and started up the first torturous hill. "The first hill is the steepest, baby you know! The first hill is the steepest!" I sang a-la-Rod-Stewart. A man wearing a bib on his back with "666" passed us. Lisa and I looked at each other. "Now THAT is one number I wouldn't want to have!" We laughed as we trudged along Juniper Loop. At around the second mile, the "Devil," as we fondly dubbed him, slowed to a walk. "Get thee behind me, Satan!" I said as we jogged past him.
I liken myself to the "Tortoise" after Aesop's "The Tortoise and the Hare," thanks to my slow and steady pace. Lisa, a seasoned runner with long legs, has affectionately been dubbed the "Hare." However, because she is recovering from painful shin splints, our strides matched on race day. I insisted she was slowing down to accommodate me, but she insisted she wasn't cutting me any slack. Whatever the case, I was grateful for her companionship as we conquered hill after hill in the Garden.
The Devil reared his ugly bib as he kept trying to run fast and pass us. Each time he was forced to walk, we in turn, passed him, and I couldn't help but smile. I confided to my running partner, "I'm determined to beat the Devil in this race!" We laughed as we applied the analogy to other circumstances in our lives. By mile marker 4, we had passed him for the last time, a feat I was very proud of.
Coming down the home stretch, "Shout" blasted through the loud speakers and I threw my arms up in pending triumph. "You know you make me wanna shout!" Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized I was going to finish. I grinned at Lisa, "Mad dash to the finish?" She shouted, "Yes!" so we bolted down the hill with our last reserve of energy.
As we approached the finish line, I felt like all the clapping and cheering of the spectators was meant just for me. My heart was bursting with pride when the timeclock beeped my finish time. Lisa and I slowed to a cool off pace before we snapped a few photos and attacked the bagels and navel oranges.
This is only my second race since I started running in February. I know I'm not going to win any trophies or break any records, but in my book, simply finishing is winning. The feeling of accomplishment I get at the race's end, knowing how long and hard I've trained, is reward enough. I wish everyone could experience the exhiliration I feel when I'm outside running, breeze blowing through my hair, birds cheering me on, waterfalls urging me forward. Nothing else compares.
Next stop? The Bolder Boulder. Look for me in the Tortoise costume. Lisa will be dressed as the Hare.