I had originally planned on running the Surf City 5K as my inaugural race at 10weeks post-partum. It seemed like the perfect race length to introduce myself back into running. When I found out they weren’t going to run a 5K this year as part of their Surf City Marathon weekend, I was sorely disappointed.
Blinded by the craziness that comes with sleep exhaustion and motivated by the idea of the original Team Sparkle together again exactly one year after we conquered our first marathon at Surf City, Kelly and Elise convinced me to join them in running the 1/2 marathon instead. There’s nothing like the fear of failing to get you motivated to kick your training up a notch.
Unlike a year ago, Kelly, Elise and I started in different waves based on our projected finish times. So there I was, alone in the crowd, knowing the longest I had run since having The Baby was 6 miles, less than half the distance I needed to run that morning. I couldn’t have many expectations, but I could set a goal: finish without walking.
The first 2-3 miles of any run are always the hardest for me (save for maybe the last 1/2 mile when I push myself so hard, I puke). This race was no exception. By the one mile marker, I was seriously questioning my sanity. The old man sitting on his porch gruffly yelling “You’ve got a long ways to go!” at mile .75 didn’t help either.
At mile 3, I started settling into a nice rhythm after passing my awesome cheering section and scoring a high-five from a panda bear. Then, the 2:04 pace group came up from behind. For the next 2 miles I anonymously ran with them, testing my ability to keep up.
At mile 5, I made up my mind to finish under 2:04. But, I knew I wouldn’t be able to it as an anonymous racer tagging onto the heels of a pace group. I caught up to the pacer and stated in my most determined voice: “My name is Carrie. I want to finish under 2:04. I think I can do it, but I’m going to need your help.”
Denise (the pacer) did not let me down. She had her eye on me for the rest of the race, never letting me fall behind, reminding me to breathe and encouraging me when I needed it most. She nicknamed me “Sparkle” (go figure).
At mile 12.5, right when I knew I would reach my original goal of finishing without walking, I looked up and saw Todd cheering me on with The Baby strapped to his chest. I couldn’t look at them too long for fear of my milk letting down (I felt like I grew an entire cup size that last mile). But that site gave me the burst of energy I needed to finish strong. As I pulled ahead, I could hear Denise still cheering me on from behind. I came in at 2:02:47 (9:22 pace), fighting the urge to puke and hoping the sloshing pain of my “down there womenly parts” would dissipate quickly once I crossed the finish line.
I couldn’t have met and exceeded my post-partum race expectations without her. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to pay it forward.