Sunday morning Jenna convinced me to get up and run a 5k with her. We met down by the Chattahoochee River where there was a flat gravel path that ran alongside the river that separates in the inside of the city with the metro area. It was 20 degrees cooler than it was at the beach but my skin felt hot from the sun.
I'm in week 6 of my Couch-to-5k training. The real race is in two weeks. The entire group of friends is running and I'm surprised at how seriously everyone is taking it; I'm not the only one training.
Jenna knows I'm nervous about the race and promised to stay by my side. Only when we passed the first marker and started jogging, I heard her breathe harder and harder until she fell away from me, shouting to keep going. This girl ran a 5k every month last year. I kept going, even speeding up in the thrill of being able to run.
Guy with Rib-Cage Tattoo passes me. He's cute. And then I notice that every third or fourth guy I pass on the trail is checking me out. I had no idea that the Sunday morning running trail was such a meat market. Goodbye, treadmill!
That was the exact moment I learned about pacing. I heard the warnings, but now I was on a narrow wooden bridge crossing a marsh wheezing and out of breath. I lifted my arm above my head to stretch out the side cramp that was rapidly forming.
Guy with Rib-Cage Tattoo passes me. Again? Maybe he is running a shorter loop, otherwise he's running three miles to my every one. I'm not going to let Guy with Rib-Cage Tattoo know that I have a cramp, so I lower my arm and take off in a slow jog until he is out of sight. I walk. I walk farther than I should have walked.
Eventually I pick back up in a slow jog. I run against my shadow, noticing my form looks like I know what I'm doing. Whereas my mind wavers, my body remains confident; I'm stronger than I think I am. I need to remember this. I think back to Peter Pan chasing his shadow and I realize I'm doing the same. I smile.
I think of a poem I read years ago:
How do they do it, the ones who make lovewithout love?...They do notmistake the lover for their own pleasure,they are like great runners: they know they are alonewith the road surface, the cold, the wind,the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-vascular health--just factors, like the partnerin the bed, and not the truth, which is thesingle body alone in the universeagainst its own best time.
I am alone, but I'm running, moving forward. I have nothing to do these days but compete against my own time. Guy with Rib-Cage Tattoo passes me yet again, but this time I don't care.
I see the end of the trail and pick up into a full run. Jenna's waiting for me.