When I attend an organized event, I usually expect a bit of organization or even some direction, but the 2010 Louisville Race for the Cure seemed to have neither.
As a newer runner geeked for my first 5k race, I knew going in that I wasn't among the elite. Surely, I'm faster than a walker, but without knowing how fast I'd actually be because of the excitement of an event (versus the plodding annoyance I feel when running through my neighborhood as silly men shout things like, "Kick it, girl!") I knew I'd be starting sometime after the real runners.
Since the race was scheduled to begin at 9:00 with the fastest runners starting first, and the walkers 9:15, I thought I had some time to kill, so I stood in line with at least 100 other people waiting for a stinky port-a-potty. When I emerged, I was shocked to see that race had already begun without the sound of any official start, and wouldn't you know, there were a thousand walkers who'd started walking.
(Hey, thanks guys!)
If ever there were an inadequate beginning to someone's first race, I kind of wandered over the start line trying to figure out what was going on, sort of like I'd just lost my mommy.
I was lost in a sea of bodies shuffling along like they were with their girlfriends at the mall. Only, they were with their girlfriends talking about things like going to the mall. I dodged people when I could, and at one point, paced myself behind two high school girls who weren't at all shy about running between people. But, in a split second decision of either rudely cutting someone off or politely waiting my turn, I chose politeness and got stuck behind a wall of a team of people positioned perfectly for a game of Red Rover the entire street wide.
Halfway over the Clark Memorial Bridge, I accidentally spouted, "I give up," and may have sounded like a Tourette's sufferer to the women walking around me.
At last, at the end of the bridge on the Indiana side, the walkers dispersed enough (perhaps because of the hill back up the bridge) that I was able to start running again. It felt great to run, in part because running feels easier than walking, and because it was what I was there to do.
I passed a couple on the side of the bridge who'd stopped for a cigarette break, which left me reeling inside about why on Earth they were there to fight cancer.
I kept running. On Brook Street near Washington, cheerleaders yelled and hollered and clapped for those of us running or walking, encouraging except for the few who were obviously bored, or cold, or both.
Finally, I rounded onto Witherspoon and saw the finish line, but it felt like I'd just begun. I spotted my family, my husband and kids, cheering for me, and I was so excited that I grimaced a horrible face that made for a quickly deleted digital picture--the only photo of the end of my first race, thankfully gone for eternity.
With all the blood sapped from my brain for the use of my legs, I was disappointed that the clock showed 47 minutes and some change as I crossed the finish line (only to realize the next morning that the clock counted the time since the race began and not my personal time.) I accepted a bottle of Louisville Tap from a volunteer who'd left remnants of her hand lotion smeared on the plastic, and then I went off to stretch my calves.
"Well, that was a bust," I thought, managing to keep that one in my head, but giggling at the pun. I also thought that I'll never do this event again.
Balancing my own goals versus running with breast caner in mind was difficult. Ultimately, the Race for the Cure is fantastic, and it gets friends and family exercising while banding together for an important cause, which is ultimately love for those who are sick, and those who've been lost.
The most inspiring and humbling moments of the race happened while I was catching my breath, when Survivor after Survivor crossed the finish line, each name announced emphatically, the crowd cheering, as if they'd each just won. It was the Survivors who were the reason for it all. And, without a doubt, each of them is a winner.
Congratulations to everyone who participated!
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Photo: Rachel Hurd Anger