Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Run- 5/1/16

I've known from the beginning of this journey, that I wanted to write about it. Like with so many other things, I wish I wrote more along the way. But now, almost two weeks after the actual run, I sit here and try to put exactly what the last 6+ months have meant to me into words. (I wrote down some notes about the race immediately after so I would be able to remember it mile by mile.) I had no idea how many people my deciding to run this race would touch. How much it would mean to those who have been affected by cancer. How doing something so small could end up being so big. I am a better person because of it all, and I also proved to myself I can do things I never thought I could do. 

This is my story, my race day experience, told with as much detail as I can remember. To be honest, a few hours after the race, I couldn't even really believe I did it. It felt like it didn't happen, but it the cold, wet, pouring down rain. I ran 10 miles down Broad Street.

Race Day:
5:30am- Alarm goes off, surprisingly I actually slept pretty well. I had the "I have to get to sleep now" anxiety last night. So worried about not sleeping, worried about oversleeping, that I thought there was no chance I would actually...sleep. It could have to do with the lack of sleep over the last week. Whatever it was, I feel pretty good as I wake up. 

6:00am- We're ready to leave the hotel. We stayed at The Hyatt at the Bellevue in Center City. It's an easy walk to the subway so that's good. But yes, it's raining already. It's also cold. I tie two grocery bags around my sneakers and pray they stay dry until it's time to run. I'm thankful I bought the coat on clearance from Old Navy yesterday, but I'm worried I'm not wearing enough warm clothes for the three hour wait I have until it's go time. 

Waiting in the subway station at 6am
6:05am- The subway station is filled with Broad Street runners. Everyone is dressed with ponchos over their clothing, or garbage bags if you weren't lucky enough to get a poncho. Some people have two pairs of sneakers, some of their sneakers duct taped, or wrapped in bags like mine. You can sense the energy building, but also the disappointment that weather is in fact as bad as they predicted. For a short time last night the forecast gave us some hope that the rain would hold out until later in the morning. No such luck. 

6:10am- An empty subway train pulls into the station. I feel immediate relief. I was nervous because several people insisted we were risking it by taking the subway. We were told they are usually full and pass through Center City without stopping. Maybe we were just early enough or just lucky...either way, it was good to know we'd be able to get there with no problems. With Broad Street being shut down, it would have been tough to find a cab. 

6:30am- We get off the subway and immediately see Ben. We hang out in the subway station for a few minutes since staying dry is the goal at the moment. 7:15 is bag check cutoff at the Team Determination tent so we know we have to get moving. With bags still wrapped around my sneakers and ponchos on, we're off to find the tent. As we step outside and I realize just how cold and wet it is, (it was in the 40's) I feel grateful to have a tent to go to. Most people do not. 

7:00am- We find the tent and check our bags. I feel more relief when I see a large box of safety pins (we didn't know they didn't come with the bibs) and Team Determination ribbons (there were none left at the dinner last night.) This is getting real. I pin my bib onto my Team CMMD Broad Street tank top. We find a spot at one of the tables and I start writing out my ribbons. I've kept a list of the people I dedicated the miles to during my training. There really are a lot more than those listed, but at this point this will have to do. I know in my heart I've been running for them all. There are too many, way too many. Too many family members and friends. Too many parents or spouses of friends. Too many children. JUST TOO MANY. It all kind of starts to hit me. This hasn't just been training for a run, or proving to myself I could actually run 10 miles. This has been about the nearly $3,000 Andy & I raised for the American Cancer Society. It's about Andy's cousin who passed away from melanoma at the age of 32, or my two uncles who have battled aggressive forms of cancer in the last year. Or the messages I've received from a friend who is fighting cancer for the second time, and just started aggressive chemotherapy. It's about the messages from a friend who lost her mom, and then her best friend to cancer, all within a few years. It's about so many people, too many, that I can't write this without crying. I started writing out the names on the ribbons and realized there was no way I could give each person their own ribbon. I literally didn't have enough room on my back. So I fit as many names on each ribbon as I could, and I still had 15 or so filled. It made me really appreciate what it means to run for those who can't. Those who aren't here anymore, and would do anything to run 10 miles anywhere, those who have lost their hair and their sense of self as they go through treatment that is literally poisoning them, those who question whether or not they will ever have enough strength to walk a mile again, let alone run 10. I ask Andy to put all of the ribbons on the back of my shirt, and I hope they stay on through 10 miles of running in the pouring rain. 

7:45am- The "elite athletes" are lining up at the start line. Our tent is off to the side of the start line so we can see everything. The race is starting, it's still cold and raining, and I have while to wait until my corral takes off. I am so thankful to be under this tent, I'm still pretty dry. 

7:50am- Andy leaves to go to his corral (he is two in front of me). I learn that one of the Team Determination captains are walking us over to the appropriate corrals, and things are behind schedule. I decide to wait until they call my corral to line up even thought it's passed the recommended time. My thinking is the longer I can stay dry the better. I text one of the girls I'm supposed to run with and she's already left. I don't really know anyone, but I figure I'll find my group while we wait, once we walk over.
7:55am- I receive this text message from Leora. Her husband passed away from cancer early last year. I dedicated miles to him, but really, I'm running for her too. I love that she remembered it's race day.

8:22am- One of the Team Determination captains yell "Yellow"- that means it's my turn. I don't see anyone I know leaving the tent. As I start to rip the grocery bags off my sneakers, I ask a group of Team CMMD runners if I can run with them since I've lost my group. They tell me they are running intervals and I definitely do not want to do that (I tried running intervals during my training and I am convinced running that way cause my shin splints.) So, I guess I'm running by myself. We didn't even end up going to the actual corral. It was really weird, she just kind of dropped us off before the start line and said "start running now before the next group gets going". I have no idea if we were before or after the actual yellow group, but I was at the start line, so it was go time. 

8:25am- The beginning of the race is a blur. I was disoriented because I thought we were going to be waiting for a few minutes to start. I thought I was going to run with a group from Team CMMD who run at my pace. For the last six months all I've heard about is how much fun it is to run with a group. The laughs, pictures, encouragement, sense of team---everything that makes our team special, that's what you experience during Broad Street, together. I start out with the coat and poncho on, but quickly ditch the poncho. One of the coaches said last night "you don't train with a poncho, don't run Broad Street with a poncho". There was no way I wasn't going to be soaking wet so I just decided to get rid of it in the beginning. I kept the coat until I warmed up and then ditched that too. (All clothing thrown on the streets is donated to local homeless shelters). I don't know if there is a "correct way" to start a race, especially your first one longer than a 5k, but if there is, I didn't do it that way. I felt unsettled, kind of thrown into it, and alone. 

Mile 1- Thank God for good music, but it can/will make you cry. After the first few minutes and ditching the poncho/coat, and realizing I was going to run this thing alone, I settled in. It hit me, I'm running a 10 mile race right now. The last month has been rough, I've been sick and only ran three times (6 miles, 9 miles and 3 miles). I'm thinking "Am I going to be able to do this? It's ok if you have to walk, let go of expectations. Just make it until mile 5 and then walk if you have to. Take it all in! They keep saying take it all in." 

Empire State of Mind comes on (kind of weird a song about NYC comes on while I'm running the biggest Philly race of the year). For some reason that song gets to me, and .6 miles in the tears start. I just can't believe that I am doing this. All of the people standing in the pouring rain cheering us on (in one of the worst parts of the city), women with megaphones outside of a church with their children. All of the names on my back. The whole thing feels completely overwhelming. As the tears mix with the raindrops I tell myself to get it together. There is a long way to go, right now is not the time to get emotional. Right then I decide I'm running this thing, I'm doing what I set out to do. I'm not stopping, I'm not walking. I've worked my ass off to build up to this and I need to show myself I can do it. 

Mile 2- As I start running the second mile, a girl in front of me is wearing shirt "I used to be 280 lbs, if I can do it, you can do it." She looked amazing. I'm actually feeling pretty good and I'm not cold at all. I also feel like my feet are ok and I pray for no blisters. 

Mile 3- I see a sign on the sideline that says "If Trump can run, you can too." You're damn right about that! There are a lot of great signs and they help push me along. I know the crowd is thin because of the crappy weather, but those who did come out really help with morale!

Mile 4- Next sign that resonates, "Pain is temporary, Internet stats are forever." This one reminds me that I've worked for months to get to this point. I can do this, I can do this, I will do this!

Halfway there, in front of City Hall
Mile 5- My exact thought "Holy shit, I'm at mile 5 and I feel great. I can keep going, I don't need to walk." It's raining hard now. I'm soaking wet, but my feet feel good and I'm not cold. I also don't feel like I have to pee, which was another worry I had. I didn't want to have to take time to use porta-potties along the route. Maybe I'm dehydrated, who knows? All I know is I'm halfway done and I'm feeling better than I ever thought could be possible. Since I'm running alone, I don't have any one to take a picture of me in front of City Hall. I stop real quick and attempt a selfie but everything is so wet it's hard to get one. I try to "dry" of my phone with my soaking wet shirt and quickly ask a spectator to snap a picture of me.

 This is the only time in my life, other than when I played softball, that I can remember wearing a baseball cap. This was given to us the week before the race during my company trip to the Bahamas. I never even thought about wearing a hat during the race but it was recommended last night to help keep the rain out of our eyes. While it may not be the most fashionable accessory, I am so glad I had this hat. I kept it on until mile 8 and then donated it by tossing it onto the street. 

Mile 6- As I'm trucking along, a man comes up to me and asks me about the ribbons on my back. With everything being so wet it's hard to see and he was wondering what they were for. I told him about Team Determination and Team CMMD. I told him about the ribbons and the fundraising we've done since November. He then tells me he's a survivor, and that he never thought he'd be able to run another Broad Street again. He's happy to be back. I give him a hug and tell him I'm glad he's back too, and that Mile 6 is now dedicated to him. What a moment, as I tell myself "no tears."

Mile 7- Somehow I'm still feeling pretty good, it really is a miracle. I knew Ivo (one of our Team Determination coaches), and a bunch of Team CMMD cheerleaders would be on the left side cheering us on. I cross over so I'd be on that side and give them all high fives. I start to believe I'm really going to do this without walking. I'm almost there! They say Mile 7 is when it starts to get hard. The crowd thins out and there are still 3 miles to go, but I'm ok. 

Mile 8- Ok, I'm ready for this thing to be over. My feet are starting to hurt, they're soaking wet but thank God I still do not have blisters. I'm starting to feel pain, nothing specific, just an all over kind of pain. There are large puddles everywhere and I finally land in not one, but two of them during Mile 8. Let's just say I'm glad I've avoided doing that until now. I keep telling myself "just 2 more miles" but it does seem like an eternity. 

Mile 9- The end is near and I know I've got this! The crowd starts to thicken as we approach the Navy Yard. I text Andy and tell him I'll be finishing in about 10 minutes.  I try to pick up my speed a little knowing it's just one more mile and I want to finish strong. I've only had a couple of sips of water so far and I grab Gatorade from a volunteer, take a gulp and throw the cup down. I can't even find the words to explain what the last quarter mile felt like. I could see the finish line, and I remember running faster, passing people, just trying to finish as strong as I could. 

The Finish Line- Bam! You cross that thing and the world stops. There are people above you taking photos, people yelling "keep moving" trying to help with the inevitable bottleneck. All I know is I crossed the finish line alone, just like I ran the whole race. Most of my training I did alone too. I did this thing, and I did it (mostly) on my own. It was a little disappointing to finish without anyone around cheering for me. However, it was also a very empowering moment for me. I realized it didn't matter if anyone was watching me finish, I know I finished. I know I ran that whole thing without walking at all. I know I did something I NEVER thought I could do. I know the training and preparation I put into this for five months is what got me through, even when the last month was concerning because of my being sick. I carried all of those people I've been running for in my heart, their names on my back, as I ran across that finish line. If you would have told me year ago I'd finish running Broad Street in 2016, I would have called you crazy. 10 miles down Broad Street, thousands of dollars raised for the American Cancer Society, and countless precious moments throughout it all. What an incredible experience this was. 

After- No one tells you about after. How you can actually feel almost numb during the first few hours after the race, or how you can feel a depression of some sort in the days after. I felt both. We had a pretty long and wet/cold walk back to the subway from the Team Determination tent. When we got back to the hotel, I took a hot shower. I'm not sure I've ever felt more thankful for warm water. For the remainder of race day, I kept saying and thinking "I don't even feel like I just ran that race." I really didn't. It was so weird, and still is to me now. 

I took the day after the race off, not knowing if my body would hate me after running 10 miles in the cold rain. It was the right thing to do, because I mentally needed the day to recover as well. I found myself in tears more than once, overwhelmed by the fact that I did actually accomplish this goal, and kind of sad it was all over. I wrote down the key memories I had about the race so I could, at some point, write this story. I know there will never be another Broad Street run like my first, because now I know I can do it. Next time, I'll aim for a better time, and maybe to have a little more fun. Because now that I've ran this run once, I'll definitely be doing it again. 

Thank you to everyone who donated, you helped Team CMMD donate almost $300,000 to the American Cancer Society this year! Together, Andy & I raised almost $3,000, well beyond our initial goal of $1,000.
My certificate from ACS- the other half of our fundraising $ was in Andy's account.