When my alarm went off at 6am I promptly hit the snooze. Then again 9 minutes later, then again, and by the 3rd time I just turned off my alarm all together. My throat was scratchy, I was coughing, I certainly wasn’t getting up early to get my act together before this race. Minutes became hours in my warm toasty bed. When I awoke again I realized I had about 30 minutes to get up, get dressed, eat and then drive to Concord. What a sight it would have been to have been a fly on the wall as I darted around trying to find my unorganized running gear.
Red Shirt, Check. Santa Hat, Check. Jingle Bells, Check. And off I speed down 202 towards Concord. Every time I drive on 202 now I think of the miles I got to share with the fella’s running across the state. It brings a smile to my face as I drive down what the locals know only as accident alley. The sun is out, it’s a brisk 30 degrees, and it’s actually going to shape out to be a great day to run. I’m pretty pumped, feeling good about things. Proud that this is my 32nd race of the year, glad that I’m still able to do these kinds of things. That A, I’ve got the health to do the races I do, and B. I’ve still got a job so I can afford to pay for the entry fees!
When I arrive at the Middle School on South Street the parking lot is PACKED, yet somehow I find a prime space, the last one (or first one) in the lot. I’m actually pleased with it as it’ll make my exit that much smoother. It’s the standard road racing crowd. Everyone seems to know one another and are chatting about the temps, the economy or busying themselves with their pre race routines. I on the other hand, know no one. It’s something I’ve become accustomed to at these events, but i’m starting to enjoy the people watching. I grab my number, and more jingle bells which I pin onto my shoe. No sign of Jules my coworker who organized team VHB at a couple of corporate races throughout the year in the gym so I made my way to the starting line. I chatted with a few other racers along the way. It still amazes me the people that come out to these. One woman said she has done the race every year since it’s started (hindsight tells me I should have asked how many that was). Many other racers had a look of terror on their face, as if they were unaware of what lied ahead. While doing my pre-race people watching Julie and her husband Brian walk up and say hello. My spirits rise as now I know I won’t be running this alone. They both joke that she was also in the dumps because she hadn’t seen anyone yet either. Brian, still nursing a nagging knee injury will be sitting this one out so he wishes us luck and makes his way out of the mass of runners. It’s quite a scene. Many runners dawn costumes from just Santa hats like Jules and I, to what I believe I saw was a woman in an elf costume with 1’x1’ present that I’m assuming she was going to run the whole way with.
With a loud pop of the starting gun perhaps 300 of us (all wearing jingle bells mind you) made our way down South Street and into the surrounding neighborhoods. Julie and I set our pace and chat away the miles. We don’t really chat too much at work, so it was a nice change of pace. First mile in 8:22, not too shabby, both still in good spirits decide that this is the pace we should stick with. A few more turns, a water stop and then a little climb that forces us to slow our pace just a bit. We let gravity do its thing on the backside of the short hill and knock the second mile out in 8:30. Now running into the sun I smile, open my arms, look to the sky and welcome the warmth. It feels so good to be outside. I count my blessings that I’ve been given the gift to be able to just go out and run a 5k without even batting an eye. I wonder that if someday I’ll be on the other side of the table, accepting donations for the arthritis foundation because I can’t move anymore. I let that thought pass quickly as I notice Jules is falling off her pace. She mentioned she’s run 3 times this week and done some strong core work. I can only imagine that her body is a bit tired and we are just going at a face a bit faster then she is used to. I glimpse at my watch, and then yell over my shoulder, “Common Julie, we’re so close, 24:45!” She grits her teeth and matches my stride. Stride for stride actually, until we crossed the finish line together. At the end of the shoot we high five, we did what we were aiming for, somewhere around 26 minutes and change.