Warning, really long post!
Yesterday, I ran in the Marine Corps 10K as a part of the Run for Vocations team for the Archdiocese of Washington. This was my first real race in, well, it was my first real race. I was nervous to run in it. I am not sure why. I had been running well over 6 miles for a while, but to actually run 6.2 miles in a race was a little different. A few days before, I realized that this was a RACE. You know, where you actually try to run faster than you normally do. Where you "leave it all out on the course." For some reason, I had deluded myself that a nice easy pace would be fine, that I would be fine with my finish if I ran how I normally do. Then it hit me, "Katie, you are running a race." I started worrying about times. How fast could I really run? Could I finish in my goal time? The nerves set in.
The day before the race, we went, as a family, to the Marine Corps Marathon Expo. I just wanted to see what it was like. The, we headed to the Run for Vocations vigil mass. Monsignor Panke, the Director for the Office of Vocations gave a great homily on the Year of the Priest, Priesthood Sunday, St John Vianney, Patron of Priests. After mass, all the runners gathered and Fr. Panke spoke to all of us and gave us a blessing. His words really struck me and reminded me why I was running. He spoke of how we were all running to Glorify God. It may not feel like it when you are in pain, but what we were doing was bringing glory to God. He then spoke of how this was for the seminarians, both current and future. We were to offer up our pain, our discomfort, our suffering, to strengthen those men called to the priesthood.The meaning of this race for me finally hit home. The nerves went away. And suddenly I knew, I needed to run HARD. I needed to do my best, and anytime I felt like I could not go faster, or my legs were too sore, I would say a prayer and ask God to strengthen those men called to be priests. What made it even more meaningful was when I realized, I may actually be running for one of my boys! That made me want to run even harder.
Sunday morning, my husband and I were up early. I put on my shorts, Run for Vocations T-Shirt and a sweater, ate, drank a little coffee (and water), and we headed out the door. The race started at 8:05 AM. While on the metro, my hubby had a great idea to write my goal split times for each mile so I could see if I was running a good pace, needed to speed up, etc. Well, I did not want to do it. It was a good idea, but really, write my split times on my arm? No. Not happening. The he brought the pen out. I am so lucky he can deal with my stubbornness. OK, all set. Split times on my left arm. My own personal cheat sheet.
We were downtown by 7:15 AM. It was COLD!! I was freezing and regretting that I did not bring a pair of sweatpants to wear, at least before the race. We met up with some of the other Run for Vocation folks. I hit the port-a-potties (the lines were HUGE), and then warmed up. By the time I finished my short warm up, it was time to line up. They had the start well marked and you were supposed to line up by projected finish times. My husband kept on telling me to line up with the 50 minute group. But, we had seen a bunch of Run for Vocations people crammed in the back of the 60 min + group, so we went over to join them. Right before the benediction was going to start, my husband, who knows better than I do, and is so lovingly persistent, called to me from the sidelines. I knew he was trying to get me to move up in the pack. I ignored him. He called to me again, and one of the other Run for Vocation runners, said "Your husband is calling you." I guess I could not ignore him any longer . . . I went over to the side and he helped me to find a good place much further up in the pack. A moment later a gun shot off and we had started. As I crossed the start line, I almost started to cry. This was my first real race. The first time I was actually ready to give it my all and not allow any negative self-talk to get the best of me.
The run itself was pretty nice. We started right by the Smithsonian Castle and then headed over the 14th Street Bridge, with a beautiful view of the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial. Right before we went over the bridge, I saw the mile marker for mile 1. I had my timer going on my watch. My first thought was, "Oh, my Gosh, I am over a minute ahead of my goal time." I guess being surrounded by thousands of runners, and being placed in a pack of faster runners (thank you, Sweetie), just naturally made me run faster. My second thought was, I need to slow down a bit. I wanted to make sure I had enough energy at the end, so I slowed down a little. Miles 2,3, and most of 4 were a blur. I felt great, stayed minutes ahead of my goal times. I was having fun. Then I started to get tired about half way through mile 4. During mile 5, I made the mistake of trying to drink water. I was passing through a water station, where people are lined up with cups of water. Runners gracefully grab the cup, drink the water and throw the cup down without breaking pace or missing a stride. Well, that was not me. I purposefully slowed a bit to grab the water. First mistake. I could feel pain in my legs. OK, forget the pain, just drink the water. I actually did get some water in my mouth. Not enough to make any difference. Most of the water spilled on my shirt. I threw the cup down and tried to regain my pace. My body was not having it though. The rest of mile 5 was tough.
But, somewhere, a little before mile marker 6, the street was lined with Marines. Hundreds of Marines. Clapping. It was kind of cool. Then the music started. I knew I was getting closer to the end. I saw the mile 6 marker and decided to speed up a bit. The last .2 miles were fine, oh ,except for having to run up a HILL that takes you all the way up to the finish. So much for trying to sprint through the finish line (Right near the Iwo Jima Memorial). When I crossed, I looked at my watch . . . I was over 2 minutes below my goal time! I was so excited. From the finish, I walked down and had a Marine place my finishing medal on me (my losers' medal as K likes to call it . . . in his mind you either win or lose, no gray. If you did not come in first, you lost . . . he's 3). I did not get my official time until I got home and looked it up here. 55:42
I had a great time and I now know that I have the running bug. There truly is something about challenging yourself like that. And not only challenging yourself, but then allowing that to be used, by God, for His Glory.