7:59, 8:10, 7:44, 7:59, 8:02, 8:38, 8:29, 8:12, 8:10, 7:59, 7:47, 8:32, 7:55, 8:09, 7:59
On Sunday I raced a 25K, which is about 15.6 miles. It took me about 2 hours and five minutes. I was happy, since I was hoping to come in around 2:09.
Last year at this time, I was only racing mainly 5Ks. While I still can’t envision racing for over three hours—as I will be on marathon day, I can tell you it’s quite an experience racing for one or two hours, as I’ve recently been doing.
There are a core group of runners I’m seeing now at every race who apparently run near the same pace as me, and who have become quite familiar to me. They pass me. I pass them. They pass me again. I pass them again. And on and on. Sometimes, we catch up with one another and run side by side for awhile, each of us focused on the road ahead.
While I don’t know their names nor the sound of their voices, over the course of an hour or two of staring at their backs or running alongside them, I’ve become familiar with their clothing, hairstyle, shoes, running form, and sound of their breathing. In an odd way, I consider these people like my family for this brief period in time.
While I’m racing, random thoughts run quickly through my mind: When will this hill end? Will I ever be able to break away from the man behind me who keeps spitting? I wonder how my best friend is doing right now.
But these thoughts never last long, since I quickly return to thinking about my goal, which is doing well in this race.
You can say a race is an escape from reality and responsibility. And the longer the race is, the longer the escape. A bunch of people of different ages, lifestyles, and occupations are thrown together, and our only requirement is to get from Point A to Point B as fast as we can. That’s it.
Aside from concentrating on our speed, form, and breathing, we don’t need to focus on anything else. Chores, deadlines, jobs, kids, cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking are all put on hold. There could be breaking news taking place on the next block from the race course and we wouldn’t know it. For this brief period in our lives, we have no phone, no Internet access, nor any other connection to the outside world. It’s a wonder more people aren’t drawn to these kinds of competitions for these reasons alone!
The longer I’m a runner and continue to compete in races in my area, the longer I’m sure I’ll see the same people out there on the course with me. Eventually, by studying results, I’ll come to learn their names, ages, how fast they are, and be able to tell whether or not they’re having a good or bad race on a given day.
The majority of us will most likely never end up formally meeting, nor probably never even recognize one another if we actually do meet under other circumstances while wearing street clothes. Yet, for those few hours during a race, we are together in our journey.