RAGNAR Relay. Plymouth Massachusetts to Province Town. Two days. Two vans. 11 runners. 189 miles. I’ve been training for this all winter. The day arrived. The race began. I was runner #6 in Van 1. Off we go.
The first leg I had to run was labeled “Easy” and was only 3.5 miles. I wasn’t worried. What I didn’t know was that puppy was straight up. No breaks. Completely, flat out, straight-out vertical gaining 271 feet in 3.5 miles. That was “Easy”? I ran it the best I could, but I worked hard. Really hard.
My next run was 7 miles and labeled “Hard”. I began to panic. If that last one was supposed to be “easy”, what was “hard” going to be like? I texted my husband. I called my step-mom. I began to doubt myself. What was I doing here? With all these … runners? I sought sympathy from my teammates. Basically, I panicked.
When it inevitably came time for me to run again – at 11pm that same night – the stars were shining, the air had cooled, the streets were quiet and peaceful, and I ran my race. Slow and steady. A calm came over me. I trained for this. I’ve been running all along, haven’t I? I AM a runner. I can do this. I will do this. As each mile quickly passed, I became more confident and faster, faster. Steadily faster. It was the best run I’ve had in recent memory. I was at peace with myself. I was honestly enjoying it. I wasn’t trying to win. I was trying to finish … on my terms. Confidently and strong.
As I ran up a hill in my third mile, I spotted my teammates and a van filled with other friends from another team waiting for me on the other side. They cheered. They yelled. They waved flags. They beeped their horns. They screamed “Looking good, Amy! Looking strong!”. They cowbelled me. And then cowbelled me some more. I was shouting back “Wa-Hoo! Feeling great!”. Here was the extra boost I needed. That’s what a great team can do. They can remind you of what you already know – that you can do it. And I had the best team. You are not alone when you have a great team. I kept running with a smile plastered on my face the whole way. I looked at the night sky. I toke a mental snapshot. I talked to my Dad in my head. I savored every moment. I remembered every mile.
Much later, with a mere mile left to go, I passed a runner who I recognized as having passed me earlier. She was winded and completely stopped on the road. I ran past her, stopped, turned and ran back towards her. I gave her my unused water bottle. I gave her the “Blok” energy gummy in my pocket. I gave her an encouraging smile and hand on her hunched over back. I told her I expected her to pass me again. She looked up and smiled. Then, she started moving. I ran on feeling even lighter. And faster. I felt like a runner.
I turned the last corner feeling great. My heart was soaring with adrenaline from the excitement as I flew towards Eric to hand off my baton. My legs were pumping but I didn’t even feel them working. In a flash, Eric was off. I was done, for now. I stopped. I caught my breath. I looked around at all the runners. I assessed the situation. I did it. I did it without stopping. I did it without doubting. I did it to the best of my ability. I was proud of myself. So damn proud of myself. How often do we get to say that? Not often enough. Not nearly enough. But that night I said it. I said it out loud.
I hugged my team. They congratulated me. I thanked them for cowbelling me. They high-fived me. I had conquered my fears. I starred my self doubt in the face and stuck out my tongue. And I rejoiced in finding my “people” – my running “people” – who are just as crazy as I am and just as motivated. I was so filled with joy, it was like an electric current tingling through my tired but happy body.
What were we doing in this crazy relay in the middle of the night somewhere on a dark road on the Cape running with headlamps on and crowds of cheering vans following you? I’ll tell you exactly what we were doing.
We were making new friends. We were pushing ourselves and each other beyond the limits we believed we had. We were standing a little taller. We were proving to ourselves that we are stronger and more capable than even we thought. And, as a team, stronger even still. It was hard, exhausting, challenging, uncomfortable and at times, scary. But it was also life-affirming, bonding, motivational, exhilarating and one of the best experiences of my life.
I can’t wait until next year.
Best team ever. My Sole Shoe Network Cape Cod 2012 teammates. Front row kneeling from right to left: me, Erik, Kelly. Second row from right to left: Nicole, Kristen, Eric, Glenn, Wendi, Carolyn. Back row: Matt. We are minus our fearless leader, Heather, who was bravely running leg #32. We’re tired, un-showered, hungry, sore and loving it. You can’t fake those smiles.Tags: Here's a Thought