On the Unlikely Subject of Running

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I ran my first 5k recently. It was an amazing experience. For me, it was the return of…something. A break-through of some kind. One of the small victories that reminds you of the achievements you’re capable of. If you push yourself. It’s a sense of accomplishment I can’t say I’ve felt in a long time.

The first race I selected was in my neighborhood. It seemed like the perfect inaugural run. No transportation or chaos in order to get there. I walked to the starting point, wearing my shirt and number, people running past me wearing theirs. (We get it. You like to run so much you’re running to the starting point of the run. Sheesh.)

The atmosphere in the neighborhood was electric. And intimidating. I’d only run 5k three times in the couple weeks leading up to the event. Two miles was (and still is) my current minimum run. Additionally, I run alone with music. So running in a group of thousands was both scary and exciting to me. I never expected to be a runner or love it as much as I do. Unlike the epic fails of my youth. It’s true that it’s an addiction, of sorts. If the weather is decent, I get itchy to get out and get in my run in.

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Once the pistol went off, it took a while for those in front to get moving so those of us in back could do the same. It was immediately different from my runs before. Though it was me alone, it wasn’t. I was part of something bigger. A trite metaphor for life but a needed reminder. We all the same goal: to run and have fun.

As I started running, my head burst with thoughts of Ken. About how much he would have loved to run. About how he would have found a way to run with me—and make it look somehow so easy. About how he would have cheered me on and how proud of me he would have been. And how all of that, in fact, happened. Because he is a part of me. With me, he was a participant in this undertaking. My journeys are shared with him. My triumphs are his, too. Always.

As my run progressed I focused on the ground before me and the people around me. It was a fun, new experience to sprint around slower moving groups as our path weaved around the streets of Ravenswood. (That happens rarely when running alone.) Likewise, it was a little humbling to have moms and dads whisking past me, pushing baby carriages. But the pervasive feeling of the run was so joyful. The streets of the neighborhood were lined with people cheering us on. I have to say, it really helped to spur me forward. It made it an “our” thing and not a “my” thing. For someone who can still hesitate to be social or join, I found it freeing.

I didn’t push myself on the run. I’d been advised to take it slow and enjoy it–which I did. Until the end. When I saw the finish line and pushed hard to get there as fast as possible. It was an exhilarating way to end my milestone first 5k.

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Crossing the finish line was surreal. I couldn’t believe I’d actually spent the last half hour running to finally make it to the end! Beyond the finish line was chaos. Thousands of people milling around, celebrating. I’d met my quota for excitement for the day. I grabbed a bottle of water and banana from one of the free stands and walked home. Slowly. Very slowly.

Next 5k is June 11!

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