I remember snorkeling in the Caribbean once. I was swimming around searching for fish and coral, sponges and things, but I couldn’t see anything. All I could see was sand and the occasional rock. I was bored and annoyed, but I kept searching. Then I gave up; I just floated there in the water, breathing slowly and thinking, “what a waste of time.” Then, as I was floating there, barely moving, I realized I was surrounded by fish. The coral was there, right below me, and maybe it was there all along. I didn’t move; I just stayed in the moment, letting everything else happen around me.
What does this have to do with my Nashville Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon recap? I’ll explain.
Here’s how I race: gear up, fuel up, line up, run. I’m head-down, focused, and always, always at the threshold of pain and suffering. By the end, I’m dizzy with adrenaline and exhaustion. It sounds awful, but I assure you, I love it. I rarely deviate from this, partially due to habit, but mostly due to ego. I want to do my best; I have to prove my worth, and to do this, I have to run my face off.
For Nashville, I wasn’t prepared to race the way I normally do. Deep down, I don’t think I really wanted to; otherwise I would have trained harder. There are a million reasons why I didn’t (aka excuses), but I know me — if I had wanted to run hard, I would have trained hard. What I really wanted was to run with my friend, Anthea, the way we used to run. Where we talked, we laughed, and we went long stretches without saying a word because just being near her was enough. I didn’t realize what would happen when I just let go and ran. Just like when I was floating in the water, everything just appeared around me.
- There are spectators lining entire race in Nashville, and they’re rowdy!
- There are a lot of recording studios in town.
- There are a lot of BBQ joints in town.
- Belmont might be a university my daughter could look at. Surely it’s not as expensive as Vanderbilt.
- Seeing our husbands on the sidelines was fun. They could have yelled louder, though.
- Running next to Anthea was exactly the way I remember. Comfortable.
- People who volunteer at races are the best of humanity.
- They hinted at canceling the race due to the weather forecast. It ended up being a cool, sunny day.
- I wondered how our other friends are doing, I hope they are having a great run.
- There is a HUGE farmers market in Nashville. I want to go there someday.
- I was able to help others make it over the top of the biggest hills because I was running comfortably.
- I was probably annoying because I was so happy and chipper (as Anthea put it).
- Helping fellow runners might be more rewarding than a PR. It certainly felt that way when people thanked me. That’s right, this IS the last hill, and you CAN do it.
I’m not comparing my race to floating in water; it was much harder than that. But for the first time, maybe ever, I looked up. I lived in the moment. I had one of the best races I can remember. At the end, I crossed the finish line with my friend, turned off my watch and wiped away tears.
This is why I run. To feel alive, to accomplish something great, and to be part of a community of badass people. It can be lonely at the finish when you run with your ego; it’s nothing less than restorative when you run with your heart. — Amie