When my alarm went off at 6:15 this morning, the outdoor temp hovered in the mid-30s, and a steady, cold rain sounded like a waterfall in my backyard. Of the 619 runners registered for the Charlotte 10 Miler and 4 Mile Run, 164 stayed home.
But I pulled on my wicking socks, UnderArmour tights, three layers of tech t-shirts – purple on top for Taylor – water-repellent jacket and wicking baseball cap.
I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and Gala apple and drank a glass of water.
I laced up my Brooks Glycerin 9s – shoes that served me well for 500+ miles in 2012 but that are balder than a tire on a junkyard car.
I posed for the requisite pre-race, pre-soaking photo.
I climbed in the car with my husband, drove three miles to the starting line and shivered in the rain for 20 minutes until the horn for the 10-mile race sounded. When it did, I discovered that in an effort to steal a few dry square inches beneath the starter’s tent, I’d found a puddle at least a couple of inches deep. Needless to say, my nice, warm, cushioned socks were soaked through.
I didn’t have time to worry about it, though – I had a race to run! I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so whenever I run a race, I want to set a new personal record (PR). My PR for any 10-miler is 1:25:27; my PR for the Charlotte 10 Miler, in only its second year of existence, is 1:26:10.
I’m a pretty consistent runner, which means that if I have any notion of setting a PR, I have no margin for error. I stuffed my iPhone in its double-Ziploc-bag fortress, stuffed that into my jacket pocket, pulled on my gloves, kicked up my water-logged, no-tread shoes and kicked it into high gear.
Two miles in, I entered one of south Charlotte’s greenways and met up with a friend who’d offered to run with me throughout a good portion of the race. Andrew competes in ultramarathons, so my rainy 10-mile race probably felt like a walk in the water park to him.
I usually run with an app that keeps me informed re: my distance and average pace, but today, I traded in my headphones for my running buddy. Andrew paced me, watched out for the wannabe lake-puddles on the greenway’s boardwalks and helped me stay motivated. He talked me through the killer hill on mile eight. I wanted to walk that hill last year, but I jogged it; this year, I RAN it. A few times, he coached me on when to pass people. In the last mile, he scoped out a runner who most likely fell into my age group; I smoked her.
Somewhere on the course, Andrew told me that running’s mostly a mind game.
I believe that.
When I heard that horn sound at the start line and saw the Boston Marathon jacket on the runner next to me – a runner probably in the 30-34 females group just like me – I thought about how I ran my first organized race of ANY distance barely five years ago, and how soccer chewed up my joints and spit them out, and how those joints probably belong in a trash can, not on a race course. I thought about the rain and the bald tires on my feet. And I figured I wouldn’t be setting a new PR. Not today.
But I did.
And out of the 179 runners – male or female – who actually braved the rain to run the 10-miler, I finished 27th.
I don’t know why my sister has to have Batten disease. I wish she could will her broken body to fight off the monster the way I can will my broken body to run long races, rain or shine.
But I do know this: we know how to dance in the rain. And after a good rain, the sun always comes out to play. There’s a monster called Batten disease in our midst, but good things are coming just the same. I can feel it.