Last Sunday was the Shamrock Shuffle, otherwise known as the official kickoff to the running season.
It’s been a tradition for me since 2004, when I ran the race, my very first, as the result of a bar bet. After crossing the finish line that day, I decided I wanted to run the marathon. I did, indeed, go on to run the marathon that year proving to myself I could do anything I put my mind to. My friend Peter still finds it humorous my running career began as the result of a bar bet. Who says beer is bad for you?
I like that the Shuffle has always been the launching point to whatever fitness or running goals I have set my sites on for the year. Because I walk three mikes a day just getting to and from the train, I’m usually not concerned about my ability to run the 8k, even without training. So after a lazy winter season of little to no running, I run the race to kick off my own running season and begin training for whatever race I have set my sites on for the year, usually a marathon or half marathon.
As much as I needed that shot of motivation this year as it’s been a particularly lazy winter for me, I was this/close to bailing in favor of continuing on my lazy, non-active, chocolate-eating journey.
After reading one of my new favorite blogs which is authored by someone who has, literally, been sick for a year. I got to thinking about how there are plenty of people in this world who would love to even have the option to to run a race like that. I thought about what a huge accomplishment I thought it was seven years ago to run and how motivated I was to get fit and to become a legitimate runner.
I ultimately decided to do it, even though I knew I wouldn’t like it. But, like most things that require physical exertion, I was glad I did it in the end.
First off, I didn’t realize the toll my laziness had had on my body. In years past, I set new PRs every year even without training. Even though I hadn’t run much those years, I had continued to do strength training, something I did not do this year. Running five miles after several months of no physical activity, besides the walk to and from the train each day, was – I’m sad to admit – freakin’ hard! I’m a marathon runner, dammit. It shouldn’t be that hard!
The first two miles or so were especially hard as I struggled to get ahead of the pack at the start. Once I got ahead I didn’t want to get passed up by those I had just passed myself so I continued on, slowing my pace only to get water or gatoraid.
The last part of the race, always the most brutal due to the incline of the last 1/2 mile, I forced myself to be headstrong and continue running, even if I was running slower than I wanted. Just keep moving, I told myself over and over.
Once I turned the last corner and was able to see the finish line, I decided to not just finish but finish strong. I wanted to prove something to myself.
I set my sites on a blonde girl in a yellow shirt ahead of me. She was a good 20 paces ahead but I knew I had to beat her. I pretended I was a contestant on the Biggest Loser, playing for immunity, or a new car, or $10,000. Besides the (make believe) prizes, my reputation was at stake here, people! I gave it my all and ran as fast as I could with my eyes focussed on that damn yellow shirt.
As soon as I crossed the finish line a good five steps ahead of her, I realized I still had it in me – the motivation that led me to become a marathoner. The motivation that got me through 16 miles of mountain running. And the motivation that got me in the best shape I have ever been in last summer.
It may not have been the best 8k I have ever run, but it was the most gratifying comeback I’ve ever had.