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PostHeaderIcon Finishing is Winning

Finishing is Winning

Taken me a minute or two (or weeks) to write this about half #57. Not sure why. It wasn’t the worst finish time or the best. But it’s a significant race for me – aren’t they all?

I guess it’s significant because it’s starting to feel like every race could be my last. I don’t know how many more I can do – regardless of doing one or 10 in a year.

But to get back to #57 – in my hometown. That’s always special to me. A year ago, the Seattle race couldn’t have been better. An article I’d written for the Seattle Times had just come out two days after I landed in town, I ran my fastest Seattle time (by a lot), enjoyed the race, got some good quality time with my mom who was a rockstar and even got to celebrate over dinner with a good friend. It was pretty much the perfect race weekend for me.

This year – not so much. I was able to come up to town early, but not for fun reasons (other than extra time with mom), to see some doctors and figure out why I”ve had a cough for 2+ months. It was scary. The doctor appointment was somewhat inconclusive, which with autoimmune crap they usually are initially, and the chest x-ray – just the act of doing it – was scary. I went home after those appointments and slept for a couple hours. I was wiped out to say the least. And then felt paralyzed in the “I know something is wrong” fear, but also dismissing it and pretending everything is fine, to keep folks around me calm. But the next day the tears came and went. I rallied, in a daze, to do things and get prepared for the race. I once had a friend years ago when I was in the hospital say “oh it’s just Gretchen, I’m sure it’s just something weird” which didn’t exactly make me feel supported and also makes me want to hide my health crap more than share it. Hell, I can’t imagine having a guy stick around to be able to ‘deal’ with me or my health, since it hasn’t happened yet, so it’s easier to just stuff it. Fake it till you make it – the most common advice I’ve ever received.

Went to the expo the day before the race, and all I wanted to do was grab my number and be invisible. Absorb into the walls. Hide. Got my samples, shared some laughs, and hightailed it out of there to, yup, get some rest. I no longer feel brave or resilient, I don’t seem to have strong days really. I feel like an imposter, someone just getting by. I still run, I still try, but the rally has faded somehow, the body issues fucking with the mind. And vice versa.

But the race. I didn’t do my typical race prep morning of, but pretty close. I wondered how I would do, with the cough, and the laboring body. One thing was clear – I’d had three important conversations prior to this race. Once in person with my mom, one on the phone with my sister on Friday and one on the phone with my brother on Saturday – all promising them I would take it easy and not over do it. Now, I could not make this promise to myself. I might try but I’d push somehow. But when all three made the effort to reach out and make this request, it felt different. I wasn’t doing it for me, I was doing it to respect what they asked of me. I did what I needed to do to prep for the race, and then I promised I would take it easy.

The start was pretty awesome – I mean, I had to get there ridiculously early, but we started right by Husky Stadium, my alma mater, with the finish at the Century Link Field. And in getting there early, I got to rest inside Husky Stadium, which felt special. To be in there and take some photos of the new Husky Field itself, well what better setting could I ask for? And then to run across Montlake Bridge and through the Arboretum, down into Madison Park – couldn’t be more quintessential Seattle than that.

Did something I’ve never done before – I stopped every two or so miles. I recall some of them, heading up Madison, and a few others. Somehow I lucked out and they usually came as a hill was starting or at a turn where it made sense to walk a bit. Sometimes I’d push past the mile marker but not too much – I really did stop and walk every two-ish miles. I held my end of the bargain. It wasn’t easy. Not because I actually wanted to keep running when I said I would stop, but it wasn’t easy because it was hard to run at all, and be out there for that long. One perfectly timed walk-break came as I took a right up a hill when they were splitting the half and full marathoners – those poor runners had another 18 miles to go, meanwhile I only had five. That was a nice realization on that walk.

Did another thing I haven’t done before – forgot my music. Now, one time, also a Seattle race (2011?) I thought my nano was charged and it wasn’t but that time I actually still ran with the earphones in, because that’s the feeling I knew. This time I left the nano and earbuds at the house, forgetting the entire contraption. And so, I was forced to be aware and awake the whole course. I noticed my breathing, of course, and the footfalls. I noticed more around me than maybe I normally would, but then again, I pride myself on picking up stories. I will say, that seems to be easier when I”m feeling healthier and stronger – running when it’s this tough, really I’m just trying to get through each step, each mile so the focus is different, perhaps more selfish and I feel somewhat guilty about that, that I’m not focused more on others.

I recall the first mile or so, boing through the Arboretum and the Seafair pirates offering rum, a live band with a singer crooning “Fly Me To The Moon” and the taiko drums prevalent at nearly every RocknRoll race course now – although I will say having them in the first few miles doesn’t offer as much “oomph” as having them at mile eight or 10.

Wearing a Seahawks tank top for the race was purposeful and it brought on the desired result – every so often, a runner, a spectator or a volunteer handing out water would yell “GO HAWKS!” which was incredibly inspiring and motivating, even if just for a fist pump and a step or two.

Miles four and five were interesting…first, a guy with a speaker in his backpack was weaving around many runners. Not entirely uncommon, usually at least one runner in a course has a speaker and ‘shares’ their music with everyone, whether they want it or not. (riddle me this: it’s always a guy.) This guy? Oh, he was also singing at the top of his lungs along to whatever song was playing. As loud as he could. Sharing the love of his music. And scattering people around him as they tried to get out of his way. It was a certain age, for sure, that liked or disliked what he was doing. He was an older guy, and those older runners who liked his music laughed, the rest turned their own music up.

And then the guy who actually made me cough. As in, he was smoking the biggest fattest joint I’ve ever seen, while running, and with his speakers (it’s a thing) blaring. Ok, I think he’d stopped to be able to inhale as much as he could, but it was insane. Giant clouds of pungent smoke didn’t just drift across the crowd, it was like they aggressively sought out all the people passing him. Yes, some people laughed “yeah, dude!” and all that but I actually thought it was kind of a dick move. Yes, it made me in particular cough a lot which isn’t cool, but it was aggressive to a group of health conscious people who didn’t ask or invite for that to occur. It’s a choice and you’re allowed to choose to smoke pot in WA, without a doubt. But to force it on a group of people like that, beyond rude and arrogant. Bay To Breakers in San Francisco? Sure, it’s expected. An RnR race where the half and full courses are still running together? No thank you.

Speaking of coughing, first time running with the new steroid inhaler I have. You know you’re inhaling something intense when the pharmacist say “make sure to brush your teeth and tongue after every time you use it.” Ugh.

Running through Madison Park area – um, okay, yeah, I see where the 1Percenters live in Seattle. Holy mansions and fanciness.

This was another new course (last year was too) and I don’t know if it’s because of construction on I-90 or if it’s going to be a new one for Seattle RnR, but I liked it. I mean, it’s tough – tougher than last year and easier than the ones before that. But there was something cool about it. Half of the course was actually the same course, but running the opposite direction on it – like Martin Luther King Boulevard. That was kind of interesting – a course I’ve run a number of times, but almost felt backwards.

Getting to the finish line – that was an effort. There were moments in the last few miles where I felt capable and other moments where I felt like my feet would fall off, my head might roll off and my whole body might shut down. But I kept running. Or shuffling really. In fact a few times, I could barely keep my feet up and the toe of my shoe would trip me up a little. Pick your feet up! I would think to myself, and I would, for a few steps, and then fall back into a sloppy-just-get-there run. And yet again, something about being close to the end can inspire you to keep going, and so I did. I ran until I crossed the finish line, and then felt that familiar need to throw up. (anytime I run more than a mile or so, it happens) But I did it. And my mom was there to say congratulations, you made a good time! And I took a few pictures, got my medal, got some foods and my gear bag. And then within about 15 minutes of finishing, we were on our way back to the car, to head back home and grab a nap. Before I had to jump on a plane and get ready for one of the most intense weeks of work.

As I lay my head down for my nap, knowing I could only sleep for maybe 45 minutes, I thought about the race. I thought about all those steps I took. I felt pride for honoring what I said I would honor to my mom, sister and brother, I felt pride for doing it at all, I wondered and quickly dismissed if I could’ve ran it more or faster. Because I realized, in this case for sure, no matter my time, that for me, for this race, finishing is winning.

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