Monday, April 29, 2013

3rd Annual Relay and Running with Mowgli

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I'll tell you about Mowgli. Mowgli, dubbed by "Jungle Book" fan Silas, is our unborn child. Mowgli is of course the interim name for our third addition, as we're obviously not allowing our toddler to name our baby. He or she is due December 19, giving us the greatest Christmas gift we've ever had! BJ and I are thrilled; we wanted three children and we wanted them close together, and so far we've been extremely lucky! Sharing the news about Mowgli seems appropriate in the timing of our marathon relay run yesterday in order to explain the large discrepancy between my publicly-stated running goals and my ultimate contentment with my actual performance. In this post dated February 19, I proclaimed that I would run my 5K leg of the relay in 29:59 or less, and I have to defend myself by saying that I was most definitely on track to make this goal. I had picked up my turtle-like pace and was easily clocking nine-minute miles in early April, which was exactly where I needed to be. My biggest accomplishment was jogging 2.5 miles in about 23 minutes, and I knew for certain that with race-day adrenaline and sideline support, my goal would be accomplished.

Then on April 11, I found out I was pregnant. Joyous news for our family! Within a few days of that, utter fatigue had set in. I, a girl who literally takes a nap about once a year, was so exhausted that I was napping about every other day and crying on the days when my schedule wouldn't allow it. My usual running routine went from being easy to being a horrendous debacle; if I could even drag myself out there, I could only go a mile and that was with some major self-encouragement! In the last two weeks before the marathon, I ran only three times...a slow two miles with Chanda, and then two one-mile runs on my own, each with the strong belief that I might perish somewhere around the fourth minute. My running goals for yesterday went from "finish in less than half an hour" to "get out of bed, make it to the race, and run/walk your leg in whatever time need be." Melodrama is my middle name.

The race itself was wonderful, as always. There is just something magical about the OKC Memorial Marathon, and I am always so proud to run in a race that day, even a short one. The relay is particularly fun because you have teammates depending on you and likewise for you to cheer for; shuttle buses take you from stop to stop so that you can see various hand-offs and hang out with each other in the meantime. The sideline support is absolutely unbelievable and makes me proud to be an Oklahoman.  Supporters range from high-fivers to shouters to holders of signs, both motivational ("You can do it!") and hilarious ("Don't look now, but there's a zombie behind you!", "Shut up, legs!", and "Smile if you're not wearing underwear!" were among our favorites.). BJ's favorite supporter was an older gentleman sitting on his lawn in an historic neighborhood, reclining in a lawn chair near the curb, clad in a suit and fancy hat while smoking a cigar and sipping a martini. I always notice that there are times when I'm running and the support in an area is so overwhelming and loud that I actually forget what I'm doing, which is sweating and grunting my way through a running course with 26,000 other runners.

The runners and supporters alike know that there is an underlying cause for the enthusiasm on the morning of the race. It's impossible to forget that we're running in remembrance of 168 lives lost to the act of terrorists in 1995, including the lives of many children; the target was originally chosen because of the "collateral damage," as McVeigh defined it, namely a daycare center on the second floor that was alongside the street where McVeigh parked the truck. I don't need to remind anyone of the heartbreak; it is still felt among Oklahomans, especially in April and especially on the day of the race. Imagine the meaning that the Boston Marathon will take on for its city next year and the coming years, and you can imagine what this race means to this city. 168 seconds of silence are always observed before the start, and many runners choose a person, whether angel, survivor, or rescue worker, to run for. This year I chose Anthony Cooper, this precious two-year-old who was in the daycare with his mother at the time of the explosion. They both lost their lives. I chose Anthony because I have a two-year-old also, and it really hits home.

This is the first of the three years that I have dedicated my run to an angel, and I didn't consider tying my race bib onto his memorial chair until we had already gotten in the car and left. I have decided to now though, so we'll head back downtown in the next couple of months so that I can find Anthony's chair and leave my bib for him with a note on it, in case that kind of stuff makes it to his father.

 Race day was sunny and beautiful this year. I ran in my tennis skirt and a thin hoodie, but by the end of my leg I was down to a yoga tank top. Absolutely lovely weather. My leg was second, and it began not well to say the least, which is what I expected. I struggled so much in the first ten minutes; it was only the shame of walking within single-digit minutes of my start that compelled me to not stop jogging. By the time I was partway through Lady Gaga's "Just Dance," which was the third song on my playlist, I had definitely found my groove though. The downhills seemed more noticeable than the uphills, my songs felt like friends to me, the support was strong, and the sights of this leg were all new to me. Before I even really realized it, I was 2.1 miles in, and at that point I knew I could make it. At 2.5 miles, nothing besides a torn muscle or a sign from Mowgli that we were done would have stopped me. My leg was 3.3 miles and I finished it in roughly 36 minutes, not a step of it walking. In honor of Anthony and Silas.

After my leg, I took the bus to Chanda's end point, which was Matthew's beginning point, and hung out with Matthew and BJ until Chanda arrived. We were at the mile-20 mark, and I served as sideline support for the marathoners that were running by. Watching them is so very interesting to me. During the period of time that I was at mile 20, we were watching the pacers of 3:50 to roughly 4:15 go by, and those people were hooked. We recognized some of them as neighbors, coworkers, and even the Lt. Governor. I thought then and there, I have to do more sometime. Not next year, since Mowgli will still be young and the exhaustion of newborn times will undoubtedly be seeping into those critical spring training months, but the year after that I am making it official: I'll be joining the ranks of the Half Marathon. I think I can do it. I had at least 10 friends that did it this year, plus many in years past, and I think if they can do it then I can do it too. I really want to, and I feel that same sense of determination coming on that I have felt with every hard thing I have ever done and accomplished: graduate school, breastfeeding on a no-dairy/no soy diet, and pretending to like the horrendous meal "ship on the shingles" for years so as not to hurt my mom's feelings (sorry, Mom).

In memory of the 168. We'll be back next year.

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