Thursday, June 12, 2014

Galaxial Fables

Fern fronds frolic across the carpeted terrain of a deep-space merchandiser, the writhing corpuscles announce their unbiased censorship, and the earth sheds her misgivings like a sub-Saharan stargazer. My darling, your nonsense vaporizes my retina in a cranial conflagration reminiscent of a red giant: the hitherto hidden hope for nebulaic stardom.

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Friday, June 6, 2014


Last Friday I read an article outlining the upcoming Dexter-Ann Arbor Run. I found out I could still sign up for the 5k, 10k, and half marathon races even though they were only 2 days away. After reviewing the route maps, I saw that the 10k started and finished right next to my work place, where I could park ridiculously conveniently and for free. The weather looked decent, I felt in good health, and I could think of no further excuses for why I shouldn't attempt my first 10k race.

As I've only ever once run that far without stopping, I didn't want to make a big deal about it and freak myself out. I've been running at least 3 miles/week for several months, but my legs sometimes feel like rigid planks the entire time, and I never know if running is going to feel good on a given day or not. Matthew thoughtfully looked up race day advice on the internet and made sure I packed protein bars to eat before and after as well as dry clothes to change into. I almost succeeded in not getting myself too nervous except for the dreams I had the night before about being late to the race and having to cover the ground with words as I ran (a conflation with NaNoWriMo, no doubt).

When the time came to finally awake on Sunday morning, I felt so excited to get out there and start running. I wanted to challenge myself, and I came ready to battle with God the whole way, struggling with the mental and physical pursuit. I arrived right on time to find over 1,000 runners lined up to run the 10k with me!

At the start, most people stood in groups chatting with friends. I felt a pinch sad that I had come alone, but extremely glad to not be lining up with my friend Yuri at the half-marathon start, her daily training having better prepared her for such a feat (Perhaps another time I can talk her down to the 10k...). Eventually, we runners in the back noticed that someone was singing the National Anthem and quieted down just in time for "the land of the free..." Not long after, the group began walking forward, and I couldn't tell if the race had begun or we were crowding to the start line. Perhaps both. I crossed the starting line about a minute and a half after the race had officially commenced.

Runners took up both lanes of the road as we headed north on Main Street. I started out slower than my usual running pace, partly out of fear of the miles to come, and partly because of the difficulty of running amongst so many people. By mile 1, where a volunteer band sat playing the Rocky theme on repeat, we started to spread out and the running got easier without as much jockeying for position. Just after mile 2 is where the guy in the lead passed me on his way back to the finish line, almost at his 4th mile. Some people in front of me clapped and cheered for him while the rest of us pressed on further north.

It wasn't until I made it to mile 4 that I gained complete confidence that I could make it the whole way, at which point I picked up my pace to at least the 10 minute/mile pace at which I train on the treadmill. I knew it would be uphill at the end (one of the features for which the Dexter-Ann Arbor run is known), but the finish would be nearly in sight, and I would manage. I realized I hadn't had to coax the steps out of myself the whole way like I sometimes do when I'm running at the gym, and it felt amazing. With so much to look at and so many people to watch, I was happy with my decision not to listen to music or carry a phone to check the time. Some people chatted while running, and I enjoyed hearing snippets of their conversations. But it felt so free to just be me, my legs moving like running was my modus operandi, nothing to carry, following the herd towards triumph and the rest of a beautiful summer day.

As I ran toward the finish, I took a moment to thank God for all the parts of me that work. My flexible ankles keep me from falling when I take a misstep, my leg muscles contract and release to pound the pavement repeatedly for over an hour, my healthy heart pumps blood to and from my extremities, and my lungs take in the fresh air to supply the blood with oxygen as the whole machine that is me motors on down the road.

I finished with an energizing sense of accomplishment in just over an hour with a 10:04min/mi pace, placing 559th out of 1,147 runners. The rest of the day as I wore my finisher's medal around the house, I felt something akin to invincibility, and when I met up with Nick, Yuri, Matt, and Andrea at the Taste of Ann Arbor for lunch, I felt like I could eat anything because I'd run 6 miles and gotten over 10,000 steps all before 9am. I'd do it all again, and I fully intend to. As I continue to run for fun and exercise, as well as strive to keep myself in good working order, I hope I can remember the unexpected joy I found in completing that 10k. I won't get a medal for my efforts every day, but I do daily get a chance to choose perseverance over resignation and adventure over fear.