Saturday, June 7, 2008

0 Race Report: National Race For The Cure [Run 1, Week 1 (BOHR)]


As many of you already know, I'd originally planned to run the National Race for the Cure from the outset, but then later changed my mind after the captain of our corporate team encouraged me to walk the race instead, as almost everyone from our group was walking it (save one person, who on race day was apparently either a no-show or had also changed her mind about running!) & it was also a good opportunity to get to know people better from work.

However, the funny thing is that, I actually ended up running it (rather unexpectedly!) with 2 other runners from our corporate team!

Here's how it happened: The day began with all of us waiting around for the rest of the corporate team to arrive at our designated meeting spot. While we were waiting, of course, all of us began, quite naturally, to introduce ourselves to each other. And, as it happened, through the course of conversation about the obvious events of the day, the runners of the group had found each other & begun chatting about their training. And then, only moments later, we all began walking in one big procession towards the start line, (joining the existing crowds of people moving towards & converging upon the National Mall), but then somehow got separated from the rest of the group. Our group broke into 3 segments -- There was one bunch of people from our corporate team ahead of us, & another behind us. Amidst the noise & confusion, we looked around everywhere for the rest of our teammates & tried to catch up to the first gaggle of people, but since our group didn't have a banner, or an exact, pre-determined location in which to gather once we'd walked from our meeting place to the National Mall, & we also weren't given our corporate race-day T-shirts before the start of the race, it was nearly impossible to find the rest of the group in the massive throngs of people congregating on or near the starting line.

After the three of us runners turned around to find ourselves separated from the rest of the pack, we decided collectively at the last minute, "Oh what-the-heck, let's just run this thing!" I initially entered as a runner anyhow, so it was probably Fate giving me an unexpected-but-fortuitous present. ;-) Just from looking at the facial expressions of my other teammates who were running the race with me, it was clear that I wasn't the only one who really wanted to run the race from the outset but then had acquiesced to the idea of walking in order to bond with the group. ;-) Regardless, I was happy to be running it with teammates from our group after all.

At that point, my only potential concern with this last-minute switch-a-roo was that I hadn't really prepared to run the race, because I'd of course been expecting to walk it instead! I hadn't really run that many times in the preceding two weeks, nor had I done any serious race-training. Also, it was also deadly hot & humid outside (98 degree + 100% humidity!), & I wasn't sure how my body was going to handle the combination of heat + humidity + zero race-training! ;-)

But thankfully, all turned out well in the end: There were several water stations along the route, which were certainly a welcome relief in the 98 degree temperature, & the two teammates with whom I ran the race were very supportive & nice.

There were moments towards the second half of the race when my face began to get really flushed & hot, & the rest of my body felt like it was burning up from the heat & humidity, but after all was said & done, I made it to the finish line & felt surprisingly good after it was all over. Considering the heat & humidity -- not to mention the potential for some serious dehydration (!), I was very thankful to have recovered so quickly afterwards!

The other two runners I ran with were extremely nice & thoughtful, & it was really a pleasure to run with them. Both of them were tall, long-legged, physically-fit men in their late twenties & early thirties (respectively) who ran a much faster pace, so it was definitely a challenge to keep up with them throughout the race. However, they did slow down for me, & kept looking back several times to make sure we were all together, which was very thoughtful of them to do. In fact, we all looked out for each other at various points during the race, which was a really wonderful feeling. We got refreshments for each other at the water stations, & gave each other extra bananas & waters at the end of the race. These kind & thoughtful behaviors definitely contributed to the feeling of team-spirit, not just of our own team, but of the larger mass of people participating in the race that day. That feeling of unity, that we were all in it together for the same purpose, was definitely the big theme of the day & pervaded the atmosphere everywhere we went on the (National) Mall.

Speaking of which, throughout the day, there were a few groups performing to psych up the crowds. In fact, after the race was over, I was on my way back, walking in the direction of the metro, when I heard some music that made me turn my head & stop right in my tracks. The music was really great -- very exciting (!), & so of course I just had to go & check it out! I walked over & saw some people dancing in formation. When I got closer, I saw it was this amazing hip-hop dance troupe performing to music being pumped out of a loud-speaker -- I think they were DC high school students. It was fantastic! A lot of people in the audience (myself included) were dancing. It was very hard to sit still.

I don't know exactly why but all of a sudden, during their performance, a few post-race tears ran down my cheeks. Thankfully I was wearing shades, so no one could witness the tears; I didn't want to be mistaken for being upset about something, because I really wasn't. You know how that can be, when people start to assume things from the expression on your face, but it's totally wrong & you don't feel like explaining yourself. ;-) I was just feeling moved; that's all.

Either I was very moved by the words & sentiment of the performers & the audience's participation & reactions, or it was part of the anti-climatic feeling of finishing my first race in a long while. Probably a little of both.

It was one of those in-the-moment, you-just-had-to-be-there, sort of things.


The race was so crowded that the sheer number of race entrants made it virtually impossible to run faster in certain portions. (Frankly, this is why I hadn't run this particular race in a very long while. Truth be told, after the first time I ran it, I vowed to never run it again, because I ended up walking large portions of the race, but certainly not by choice! I couldn't maneuver past the large crowds! Back then I was a much faster runner, & was also a heck of a lot more competitive about my running. I also didn't realize at the time that I wouldn't be able to run it the whole way through. In any case, The Race for the Cure is definitely not a race you run to get a PR! The only reason I did it again this year was because it was a team event done for charity, & so I wasn't really concerned with my finishing time. This time around, I knew what to expect, & anyhow, the event in general isn't really about one's finishing time. It's about raising money for a good cause & participating in the infectious, positive energy of the day.)

This year, I have to say that I was secretly thankful for the crowds while we were running the race, as there were several points in the race in which the pack ahead of us would slow & literally block the way, which prevented us from moving faster. I used those moments to recover my breath!

While I was struggling at times to keep pace with my two teammates during the actual race, I nonetheless was really glad to have done the race.

And while it would've been nice to chat more extensively with the rest of our group during the actual racing event itself, I did get to know 2 people from the team a whole lot better, through our pre- & post-race discussions, & of course through the race itself. We exchanged email addresses, & it looks like we might even enter/run more races together in future.... (Hopefully, I'll get a lot faster the next time the three of us decide to enter a road race together as a team; I don't want to be the slowpoke holding the rest of the team back!)

Not only was it great to meet & chat with my teammates, but it was also a very illuminating experience on many different levels.


My previous perfectionist mentality of wanting to wait until everything was perfect (& I was perfectly trained!) had kept me from entering races in the past, but I've obviously chucked that old attitude in the bin, where it rightly belongs!

As the saying goes, "Life is what happens when we're waiting for it to begin."

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