It took me 1:15:07 to run the 6.2 mile course at the Harvard Pilgrim Finish at the 50.
The race winds out of Gillette Stadium, into neighborhoods around Foxborough and then back in to the stadium and on to the turf on the 50 yard line.
But, just saying I finished with a time I'm proud of doesn't seem like enough considering all of the emotions I went through leading up to, during, and after the race.
I learned a lot about myself during those 6.2 miles -- what keeps me going, what pushes me to run in the first place.
The course itself was awesome: it was mostly flat (YAY!) and wound out of Gillette Stadium onto back roads in Foxborough. The experience was like nothing I've done before. It was tough and fun. And included a few surprises.
Instead of sharing how I felt through the race, I want to share the things I learned yesterday while running.
First: It takes a village
When I got to the stadium to pick up my bib, I was alone. My friend and colleague, Joe, wasn't due to arrive until later, and my new Twitter buddy UnathleticRunnr and her husband weren't expected to arrive for another hour or so. As I walked toward the bib pick-up tent my nerves were in full swing. I worried I didn't bring enough water. I worried I'd miss the start (totally unlikely but I worried about it anyway.) I worried my friends wouldn't make it on time and I'd have no one to calm my pre-race jitters. Luckily though, my friends all made it, told me I'd do great, that the heat would calm down, and that we would all finish in one piece. Having my friends near me at the start (even though I knew they'd all run faster than me) really helped get me through the first mile and a half. But after the first water station, there I was, alone again. My friends were all running at their own paces, and I was surrounded by strangers.
Right as I started to wonder why I was sweating to death and subjecting myself to running 6.2 miles, I heard someone come up behind me. When I turned my head to see who was saying my name, I saw the smiling face of an old college buddy of mine. I didn't even know she was going to be running the same race. She asked me how I was doing and gave me a big high five as she told me I was doing a good job. She's been running a lot longer than I have, but the fact that she said hello and told me to keep going spurred me. I cranked my music and told myself I could do this. Seeing my friend mid-race spurred me on until at least mile four.
I'm nothing if not consistent
As I was running, I was inspired by the people around me: The 70-year-old man jogging with his wife; the young mom pushing her children in the double stroller; the NAVY recruits keeping pace with each other. All around me I saw people slogging it out in the heat just trying to do the same thing: reach the finish line. I also saw many people stop. Until about mile five, I was following behind a group of people all wearing T-shirts with the saying "not fast, but not last" on the back. Staring at that during my race helped keep me from stopping. My main goal for this race (as it was for my 5K) was to just not stop running. If I had to slow down, fine. I just didn't want to stop or walk. Through the entire race I kept my pace steady. That's one of the things I'm most proud of considering how warm it was.
Running through the tunnel has magical properties at Gillette
OK, so maybe it doesn't but it sure did feel like it. During the final leg of the race, when I turned back into Gillette's entrance and parking lots and could see the stadium, all I could think was how close I was to crossing that finish line. As we got closer to the tunnel, the players cross through to run onto the turf, an announcer said my name over the loudspeakers, and people in the stands at the stadium cheered. I could see myself on the big screen and somehow, even though I was tired and hot, I managed to speed up a bit as I stepped across those electronic mats that clock your time. My buddy, Joe, who finished before me, yelled "Go, Elizabeth." And I could not wipe the smile from my face after crossing the finish. Setting foot on that field was unlike anything I've ever done. And it was incredible.
Don't underestimate the power of water
Since it was steamy during the time leading up to the race (and there was no shade to be found at the stadium), I made sure To drink a lot of water. I also grabbed water at every stop during the race -- whether I thought I needed a drink or not. At the first stop, I needed a drink as my mouth and throat were terribly dry. But at miles three, four, and five, I only took a small sip to keep my mouth from going dry again and then just dumped water on myself. Every time I doused myself, I could feel my energy level pick back up and I'd get the spring back in my stride. I have read over and over how important proper hydration is while running, but I've never really noticed the positive impact water can have on you until this race.
And finally, I learned I'm hooked
I've talked a lot in this blog about how I used to hate running. I used to be afraid of being slow, being ungraceful, being unable to finish. Now, I know what really matters to me is not if I'm the fastest, or the most gazelle-like during a run. Instead, what matters to me is that I hammer through it and achieve my goals. So what if I look like a fish out of water flopping around on land while running? A lot of people running the race with me were no more graceful than me. And so what if I'm slow? As one of you wise readers said, I was still faster than everyone sitting on lawn chairs cheering from the sidelines. I learned I'm hooked on the feeling I get when I cross a finish line. That feeling makes slogging through the heat for 6.2 miles so worth it. And now, running for me isn't just running anymore: It has turned into chasing that feeling.
Now, I'm just looking for the next way to find it.