Monday, April 16, 2012

Go tutu, GO!

Today was one of the most important running days of a lifetime for the many who participated in the 2012 Boston Marathon. My magical running moment came a couple of days early but that doesn't make it any less special! On Saturday I participated in the Girls On The Run 5K. First of all, Girls on the Run is such a cool program that I was completely unaware of until a couple of months ago. They encourage young girls to embrace a healthier lifestyle (both mentally and physically) by training for a 5K race. I think they send a beautiful, positive message to young girls and wish I had known about a program like that as a kid! I am seriously considering becoming involved as a program volunteer once I'm more settled with work.

For many of the girls it was their first time running a 5K race. Coincidentally it was also my first time running a 5K! Though I have done all sorts of 5K charity walks, I have never had the athletic ability to actually run a race... until Saturday! Let me first say that after drooling over everyone's Disney Princess Half outfits earlier this year, Knittnerd and I decided we needed tutus for our Girls on the Run debut. We went to JoAnn's fabric store and bought supplies, then had a tutu-making party. That in itself was SO MUCH FUN!

We arrived nice and early on Saturday morning and took in all of the sights. We even ran into Heba from the Biggest Loser season 6, who has a local photography business and was snapping photos at the race! As the clock ticked nearer to start time, we unveiled our tutus and got ready to take off. We got a lot of smiles and compliments on our outfits and that made me so happy and excited, even before the race had begun! When it was time to line up, I got super nervous and quiet and checked all of my gear to be sure my HRM and iPhone were ready to capture my mileage and provide some much-needed background music.

Photo credit: Melissa Brady
Um, how cool are my new running sunglasses?!
Then just as quickly as we had lined up, we were off! It was such a blur that I don't really remember what I was doing or thinking other than "Run bang, run!!" Immediately after leaving the starting line we descended what would become one of many hills on the course (I thought the hills on my neighborhood route were bad... so wrong!) My thoughts kept bouncing from "haha I'm wearing a tutu!" to "holy crap I'm still running, this is so cool!" I ran for a good 5-6 minutes before we had our first uphill climb and I felt like I wanted to die. I drifted off to the side of the herd and started a brisk walk. Let me tell you it is both humbling and motivating to see 7 year old children flying past as your tutu-wearing ass walks.

At the top of the hill was a group of people whom I would later learn were the Pink Pacers. They had on the coolest hot pink skirts that were covered in sparkly stars, and matching pink knee socks. As I walked briskly past them, I heard their chant: "Go tutu, go! Go tutu, go!" They were cheering... for ME! It was all I needed to hear. My feet took off and suddenly I was running again. I kept looking at my heart rate monitor and knowing I was pushing myself a lot harder than I was used to but I kept at it. As I ran I took notice of all of the people of varying age, race and size that were running along side me. It was beautiful to know that for that moment we were all part of the same something.

As if that wasn't motivating enough, there were police officers strategically placed throughout the course to prevent traffic from crossing our path. Hello, I could not amble slowly past attractive cops, right? Every time I saw them, I had to run. If I could do a cartwheel without breaking my neck I'd probably have done that too. Anyway, I digress. At this point it was starting to heat up and I was really regretting not taking my bottle of water with me on the run. There ended up being only one water station along the route and by the time I reached it, it didn't do much good. Lesson learned.

As we climbed what would become our second-to-last hill there was another group of spectators with signs. I have no idea what any of the signs said because all I could fixate on was the wanna-be drill sergeant guy screaming "Move!! Do this! Get up that hill!" I'd have much rather had the Pink Pacers and their tutu chant but whatever, I started running again. The course took us on a trail that was far more narrow than the roads we had been running on. It wasn't overly crowded but it was tough to find and keep a pace because if you wanted to move faster than the person ahead of you, there was bobbing and weaving involved. Bobbing and weaving in a giant fluffy tutu... not so easy. I slowed down.

We ran across a highway overpass and I knew the finish line was close. As we started down the final stretch there were cameras and people everywhere. Every time I heard the word tutu, I smiled and gave two thumbs up. They could have been saying "man, what a shitty tutu" but they still got a smile and two thumbs up. The finish line was also conveniently the starting line, which means that first hill we ran down at the beginning of the race? Yeah, we had to run back up it. At this point I was mentally ready to be done. I beamed as I saw the sweet little old ladies dressed in cheerleader outfits, pom-poms and all. And as I crested over that hill I though to myself, "run as fast as you can... NOW!" And I sprinted my tutu-covered butt off.

I crossed that finish line in 37:50, which may be painfully slow for some but was an absolute best for me. I made a point of not setting any time goals for myself, it being my first race and all, but secretly I'd hoped I could get in under 40 minutes. I DID IT. I stood there in a daze for a minute or two and then somehow found my way to the water and recovery drinks. Once I'd begun to get my wits about me again, I headed back to the finish line to wait for my friends. I loved seeing the looks on people's faces as they crossed the finish line. Some pumped their fists in victory while others nearly collapsed in exhaustion. I screamed and clapped for every single one of them, because I knew how much it meant for me to hear the same.

 I am so proud of how far I have come - from walking a 5K to running almost the entire thing. I hear so many people ask "why do you run?" The answer is so simple for me: Because I can. Because every day that I run, I am doing something that I never believed I could or would do. It's never too late to chase down a dream. You might just catch it :)

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