One of the most beautiful things about our human experience are opportunities to push ourselves beyond the limits of what we think we are capable of. If we don’t have these opportunities, how will we ever know what we can accomplish? There are people who are constantly pushing the boundaries of their existence beyond the normal. Beyond the safety of the little bubbles we create for ourselves. I am proud to say that now I know without a doubt, that I can do hard things. Things I never thought I could or would do. I will no longer let my mind tell me that I don’t think I can do something.
I never thought I would ever call myself a “runner”. Yes, I run to play frisbee, and I am SO in love with that sport! I would only ever run to get better/faster at frisbee. Never just for fun. When Marnie asked me to be on her Ragnar team, I thought she was crazy. When I heard myself say “okay, I’m in.” I thought I was crazy! I had pretty low expectations for myself… and the women on my team all reassured me that it was all for fun, and no one cared what time we finished. I knew I would definitely finish… but I had nightmares about being the last one to cross the finish line, and put so much more pressure on myself than anyone else was. If you are not familiar with Ragnar, it is a 200+ mile relay race that is spread out over 36 legs run by a team of 12 (or 6… or even TWO) runners. You split up into 2 vans, and drive the next runner to the exchange, while stopping to cheer for the runner who is on the course. It was such an interesting, crazy, and incredibly FUN experience. It is hard to put into words how much fun it was. The challenge of battling the elements, the fatigue, exhaustion, and sheer distance involved was what makes this race so rewarding. To an outsider, it sounds silly. You dress up in costumes, cram yourself and all your stuff in a van, get out and run in the heat of the day, or in the middle of the night up hills with cars whizzing by, then go sleep for 2 hours on a gym floor with 200 other crazy people, and get up and do it all over again. I’ve heard friends talk about this experience and how much they loved it, and it always sounded crazy to me. And now I know for sure that it is! And that I loved it, too!
I got to be runner #12. All of my exchanges involved a hand off from Van 2 to Van 1, so everyone on our team was there. And then for the best part, I was the one who got to run the 36th and final leg of the race and cross the finish line. Overall, my distance was one of the shortest of anyone on the team. This is the nice part about the Ragnar race, because runners of all levels can be on the same team. One leg was 13.5 miles – over a half-marathon! Another runner totaled 23.1 miles. I was surrounded by some amazingly fit ladies and it was such an inspiration to have them tell ME that I did a good job.
My last leg was the longest, at 5.7 miles. I’ve never run that much in my life at one time, let alone after nearly 6 miles over the previous day and on top of no sleep and pretty hot weather. I knew the distance was not a problem, what I was most concerned about was my speed. Adrenaline was a huge plus to the race environment, and my nerves were just on fire. The leg started out about a half mile from my house, and I run a lot of that course often. I had the home-field advantage! We had heard at a previous exchange that only about 40 teams had gone through ahead of us. They stagger the start times to minimize traffic congestion at the exchanges, and we were among one of the first groups to start. But it was kind of nice to know that we were keeping pace with most people, and even ahead of quite a few teams! It also meant that there weren’t too many people running near me, so it kind of took a little pressure off, that I wouldn’t be trying to keep up with others and wearing myself out too early.
I started off strong, and felt pretty good. There were a LOT of people out on the greenbelt that day, so it was hard to see who was part of the race, and who else was just out for a jog. I saw a woman on the path jogging ahead of me and I could see the Ragnar bracelet on her wrist. Desperate to add one more kill to my total, I ran past her. Then I took a walk break and she passed me! I did not want that to happen again, so I took off, and made sure that I could no longer see her behind me before I took another break. I had my runkeeper app going on my phone along with some tunes to keep me going. It was nice to look down and see that my average pace was on track, even with my walk breaks. I knew I was about halfway through, and actually a little ahead of schedule! I had told Marnie that I thought it would take me 1hr15min to complete it. I knew with the heat, I was going to have to take walk breaks. My fears of finishing the race in last place, joyfully turned into fears that my team wouldn’t be there waiting for me at the finish line, so I texted Marnie on my next breather to let her know where I was, and I’m glad I did! I got to the “one more mile sign” and saw the orange finish line across the lake at about the same time. I got a new surge of adrenaline and excitement and really pushed it for that last mile. I knew my teammates could see me from the other side and they were cheering for me. Two little kids were playing under the Mill Ave. bridge and I smiled at them as I went by. “You’re almost there! Keep going!” they said. It was so sweet! Everyone on the bridge was cheering for me, and when I finally saw my teammates, I just broke out into a sprint. (which probably looked like a quick jog at that point, but I felt like I was running 100mph!) I crossed the finish line surrounded by these awesome women, who were all telling me I did a good job, and that I KILLED it! You know what? I DID kill it! I finished faster than I thought I would at just 62 minutes, and we beat another team in our division by just a few minutes to get first place.
I’ve never felt as high as I did at that moment. I couldn’t stop smiling. The endorphins were so high, I felt like I could do it all over again! Even now, I am re-energized just by typing it all out. It was one of my proudest achievements. So many of my friends and all of my teammates knew that I could do this, and I had just proved it to myself as well. Man… moments like that in life are priceless.