This morning, I ran in Join the Voices, a five-mile race in Central Park benefiting Voices Against Brain Cancer.
New York Road Runners organizes a number of races throughout the year in collaboration with charitable organizations. Heartfelt speeches are often given at the start. But the ones that really get to me are the ones benefiting health-related charities. This morning, as runners stood in their corrals, they cheered and applauded when Mitchell Kent asked how many of us were running for our 9+1 marathon qualifier.
Then he told us that just two years ago, he did the same. He qualified for and ran in the 2011 ING NYC Marathon. But two months later, after suffering a massive seizure, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Since that time, he has been undergoing treatment. Running is just one thing that Mitchell and I have in common. He is also a lawyer, and (probably) Jewish. His team’s name is Mitchell’s Minyan. So his story resonated with me. I don’t know him personally, and may never meet him; but I wish him good health and a long and happy life.
It should then go without saying that I stood in my corral, bouncing around to stay warm, feeling fortunate and grateful and healthy. Those are some of the best feelings in the world.
I had other feelings, too. My successful performance in a race that I ran two weeks ago resulted in my placement in a faster corral. I was going to be running with the orange corral. I do not know all of the corral colors that NYRR uses, but I am learning them. I ran my first and second half marathon starting in the purple corral; my summer 10K’s and first 5-miler in the pink; my recent 4-miler in the light blue; but today I was in the orange.
But that’s where they put the real runners! These people were decidedly in better shape than the people I usually share my corral with. I really had to wonder why I was there. Me, the girl who always got picked last in gym class. Me, someone who for months has referred to herself a “slow runner”. Me, someone who ran her last race at an 8:48 pace…just about the same personal best as everyone else in her corral.
Yet, in spite of that last fact, I still spent most of the race thinking of myself as someone who was merely “hanging on”. I did what I usually do at the start of a race: I took note of the bib colors of the corral ahead of me (green) and the corral behind me (light blue). I chose the girl standing beside me in my corral as someone that I could use to pace myself. She was wearing a bright purple jacket and would be easy to spot. But I passed her after the first mile. Then I chose a girl in a bright blue jacket, who I also saw in my corral. I was a few steps behind her the whole race. I never saw any light blue bibs. It was just orange and green all the way to the finish.
I had thought it was impossible for me to finish this race at the same pace as my four-miler two weeks ago. I had convinced myself that I only succeeded because it was a short course. I passed the girl in the bright blue jacket as we turned on to the 72nd Street transverse toward the finish line; and as soon as I saw it, I sprinted. Net time: 43:31. Pace per mile: 8:43.
I am a real runner. I was before, but I know it now. I can attach a number to it. Something about attaching a value to something makes it more real. This afternoon, I stood on my corner, savoring this morning’s PR with a soy chai and each time a runner ran past I felt a twinge of envy. I love running. I actually miss it when I’m not doing it.
To read more about how I get ready for race day, check out this post.
(Other thoughts: running in the faster corrals is so much more civilized. There was less crowding at the start and way less at the finish line. I didn’t have to contend with the same issues that had bothered me during my last race. I plan on staying speedy. I heart the orange corral!)