Two marines + one mermaid + one kenyan = The best day of racing yet. I wouldn’t call it my favorite race. So far the Vulcan’s Fury trail race sits at the top of the list for this year’s races! Because really who can beat tearing around the woods, getting stung in the ass, and falling halfway down a hill?! In all seriousness, that race was a blast!
But the Loco Half Marathon? That was my best race so far. I’ve been running a lot of races lately, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I have truly raced them. Because letting my heart go there, to that place where I leave it all on the course? That terrified me!
Because I know I will just fall in love with running again. As much as I am in love with life right now, I am also keenly aware that there are corners of my heart that are still a leveled field of ashes where there was a flame. If I allow myself to fall in love with running, what does that imply? That I am capable of falling in love again. If I give my heart to running, what’s next? Giving my heart to an actual human being?! That’s scarier than the Demogorgon in Stranger Things!
Not that fear has ever stopped me. I’m just acknowledging that yeah, this is some scary shit! Good thing I have some friends in my life that would make even Eleven envious.
She’s got her Lost Boys, I’ve got the Kenyan and the two Marines! Otherwise known as Ambrose (Ok, actually from Sierra Leone), Brian and Marty (actual Marines).
In the very short two months that I have known them (give or take) I have gotten caught up in their enthusiasm for throwing their heart into racing. Fearless and joyful. I wanted that back! So I took a deep breath… and signed up for the Loco Half!
“I can just participate. I don’t have to race it” I assured myself.
“Ya know, I’d be happy with a sub 8 pace” I told them. Running faster would mean racing, and racing would mean running with my heart. Not that I would admit that to them. Not that I had to.
In the hour long drive from Nashua to Newmarket, NH with Ambrose and Marty, I was forced to face my own potential. I could and would run a sub 1:40 half. Yes, that was faster than an 8:00. Yes, I had it in me. The plan was to charge into that first mile at an unsustainable pace, then fall into a 7:30 to 7:35 pace.
“It’s a flat course, so that pace will be no problem” Brian declared. When a New Hampshire resident tells you that a course is flat, kindly ask for a comparison. To what? To the Vulcan’s Fury maybe! In NH rolling hills on a country road constitute “flat” so consider yourself warned.
Marty (also my trainer) volunteered to pace me until Mile 10, at which point he would drop the hammer and try to catch up to Brian. This all sounded lovely as we stood on the start line outside a ballroom that I am convinced was the exact spot that legendary scene in Dirty Dancing was shot.
I absorbed the beauty of a quintessential autumn day in New England. I was ready for 13.1 miles of leaf peeping on what was certainly the last weekend to enjoy the colors before the trees shook off their splendor. About 48 seconds after the gun went off (or was it an air horn?) my leaf peeping dreams went out the window. Did Marty believe in all honesty that I could run this pace?! He did. And so began what would be a 90-minute dialog on replay.
“Marty, I’m…” gasp, gasp “fine if you …” must suck in more oxygen! “want to catch up with Brian….” my lungs are on fire! “I’ll just run…” still gasping for air “in with Ambrose.”
To which Marty would say something that my oxygen deprived brain could barely process, but what I knew meant he believed I was capable of this pace. No, that can’t be right. I’m not that runner anymore. I think I actually imagined stomach cramps in a desperate attempt to just fall comfortably into a half-hearted run.
Fortunately, Marty had to take a detour for a potty break, which left me to think. I thought about how I actually didn’t want Ambrose to catch me. And how I wanted to see if just maybe I could hold this 7:30 pace on my own, without Marty pacing me. In fact, maybe, MAYBE I could even catch Brian! Maybe I could win my age group and actually enjoy doing it!!! I was drunk on the possibilities. I was racing with all my heart. Like the scarlet and coral leaves around my feet, I was falling in love with running again. HARD!