I did not feel like racing on the morning of the fourth of July. Something about the way I rolled out of the bed in Megan’s soon-to-be trendy guest bedroom (renovations underway!)…something about the humidity that I could already feel creeping on my skin…something about the way I threw my hair in a ponytail and, painted some makeup on my face…it just didn’t feel right. I tried talking myself out of this feeling. Come on, Annette. It’s race day! Get pumped! But, it wasn’t working. We made the 30 minute commute to the town of Canonsburg, where the second largest 4th of July parade in the state of Pennsylvania would take place, an hour after our 5k. It was hot and sticky out. When we got our bibs, some nerves got to me. There were so many high school and college athletes at the event. I really don’t feel like racing today. A woman handed me my number and a flag bandana which I twisted and tied into my ponytail in an attempt to bring some excitement to my demeanor. Snap out of it. The race started with the walkers going first. Who starts a race with the walkers?! The horn went off and we left the track starting line and made our way through a gate and onto the road behind the high school that was hosting the event.
This course felt very much like a high school cross country route. The adrenalin finally starting flowing and I pumped my arms and lifted my knees with as much muscle memory as I could muster. My mind was not thinking about competing, it was thinking about survival. I tried to dissociate myself from the heat and, from the hilly course. This will not break you, I said to myself as I climbed up a giant hill in what I thought was mile two. I had forgotten my Garmin at home and was not paying attention to spotting any mile markers. It was then that I realized that the first pack ahead of me contained only boys, most of them being of high school and college age. I was in the lead. Dammit. I was not indenting to do that. Surely at any point, some speedy high school babe would whiz past me and claim the Canonsburg 5k female title. As I ran by a sidewalk lined with chairs that claimed the spots of soon-to-be parade spectators, I heard footsteps behind me. I thought this is it. My lead is over. It was a male passing me. Darn. I finally came to the conclusion that this race would play out the way it was meant to. I could either embrace this opportunity and give it my best or, wallow in discontent and be upset. I chose the first option and started my grind to the finish line, back on the track where we started. I have not run a 5k in the 20’s in a really long time but, I didn’t care. I crossed the finish line in 20:13 really thankful to be done. I watched a ton of people finish and at the awards ceremony, we found out that Megan placed third overall!
We both got to accept awards, which is a special and rare moment! At the end of the day, I was thankful to have the freedom to wake up every day and train and compete. While my emotions may play with me, my appreciation for the simple act of running will never go away.