I've always marveled at the parallels that the sport of running draws across the broad spectrum of humanity. Yesterday I read about an 80 year old man who ran a 3:15 marathon and the day before yesterday I came across an article about a woman who, apparently oblivious to traditional pre-birthing methods, ran the Chicago Marathon while 9 months pregant, began feeling contractions within minutes after the race and promptly popped out a healthy baby girl.
In what other sport do the elite and the novice stand together on game day, feeling the same emotions, preparing for the same pain? On Superbowl sunday, you will never see an 80 year old man or a severly pregnant woman standing in the pre-game huddle with the professionals. The TC Ten Mile championship race is the perfect example. The same surge of adrenaline that pumped through my body was, I'm sure, felt by a "weekend warrior", 6,000 people deep in the starting corral.
My new teammate Chris Clark and I traveled west to the beautiful twin cities in Minnesota to test our legs against some of the nation's best. Especially exciting for me was the chance to wear my vibrant, creamsicle-colored jersey in my professional debut as a ZAP Fitness/Reebok athlete. What follows is a timeline of raceday, sort of "a day in the life" of a ZAP athlete at an event: 4:16: Wake up four minutes before my alarm goes off, nervous as heck. 4:56: Depart hotel on foot for starting line shuttle at host hotel, 1 mile away. 5:01: Chris asks me if I have everything. I don't. Realization hits that I've forgotten my Racing bib and timing chip. 5:02:Sprint back to the hotel to gather missing items, sprint to host hotel 5:45: Arrive at starting line, pace anxiously and use the bathroom aproximately 47 times 6:15: Warm-up, jog 3 miles and "get in the zone" 6:45: Approach starting line, feeling like a little bit of a badass walking with the elites, but also like I'm about 5 years old and don't belong here. 6:58: Four minutes to race time, hold Chris's arms in a death-grip and tell him I feel like I may barf, he assures me I'll be fine. 7:02: The gun fires. This is my job... and I love this. 7:07: First mile split 5:28. Relax and roll. 7:11: Eventual winner Janet Cherobon is running directly in front of me at the first aid station. She grabs a cup of blue Powerade and tosses it back. About 2% of it lands in her mouth. About 98% of it lands in my face. 7:12: My face is sticky, my hands are sticky. Everything is sticky. 7:29: Halfway in, girls are starting to fade and I find myself moving closer and closer up front, stride for stride with women I've idolized since high school. 7:50: There is light at the end of the tunnel, every step brings me closer. I am running side by side with last year's champion fighting for the 4th and 5th position. There is nothing better than this feeling, and nothing worse. 7:57: Last hundred meters, throw my head back and do my best to catch her. Closer, closer, closer, too late. She crosses the line 1 second before I do. I fall to my knees and dry heave. I am satisfied. I have nothing left. A woman gently taps my shoulder and tells me I have been selected for drug testing. Fantastic. 9:20: I finally convince my body to pee and am able to leave the tent and cool down after an interview with Runnerspace where my powerade-smeared eye make-up gives me a racoonesque appearance. I also call my fiance and tell him the news. I wish he was here. 12:30: Chris and I attend the after party. I have two beers and enjoy the moment of feeling like I've finally earned the spot at ZAP I've been offered. (Chris was classy and waited until the airport to enjoy a glass of Zinfindel)
I honestly feel like the best part of the weekend was returning to ZAP. I'd only arrived a month earlier, but I felt like I was going home. All I needed was ten miles to give me the trust I needed to be sure that this program and this group is where I want to be for the next several years of my life.