This past Saturday, I competed in a first for me - a 20K race (that's about 12.4 miles, if you were wondering.) I did this race last year, but I participated in the 4 mile version. I remember looking at the folks waiting for the start of the 20k and wondering if they were all crazy for running that far. Now I know the truth. Distance runners are crazy.
The course started in Downtown and wound through a neighborhood called Forest Hills. Yes, hills was accurate for the first 5.5 miles of this course. The ups and downs were exhausting, but soon I was past the pretty houses and on the American Tobacco Trail. The trail has a slight rise in one direction, but otherwise is a pretty flat, nicely paved trail. We finished the last section of this race on the trail - going out, then turning around to finish back downtown.
I finished right when I thought I would. I knew I could run a 10K in 1 hour, 20 minutes. I actually finished this race in 2 hours, 40 minutes. Yes, I was near the end, but I did finish.
Usually, I would be upset to have finished so far in the back. I know there were no more than 10 people behind me. In past races, I would have been feeling sorry for myself and wondering why I run so darn slow. I didn't feel that way on Saturday. I actually liked where I was. I ran quite a bit of the course by myself. It was nice just to be out and enjoying the day. It was like a really long training run - peaceful and steady. I felt less pressured than I had in past races. People would pass me on the out and back course and say things like"Good job - keep going!" I would just respond "Thanks - you, too!"
Maybe I am coming to terms with my slowness. Maybe just being there is half the battle. Or maybe I need bigger races so I will never be the back of the pack.