It’s race day. I’m in the crowd at the starting line and they are counting down to the blast of the horn. I feel a lot like I did when I went into labor with my second child, knowing that I was facing something excruciating and there is no way out except to do it. I’m worried about turning on my music, that I won’t hear the horn. I waver between songs, which should I start with…This Girl is on Fire, a good song for pacing and channeling Katniss, or Lose Yourself, an old favorite? I am deeply regretting making my goal public. I’ve told too many people that I was going to be under 30 minutes and I don’t think it is possible for me today, or any day. My sister is jogging in place, my mom is giving me a pep talk, my stomach is in knots and there goes the horn. We’re off.
I quickly press play, Lose Yourself it is. I’ve already lost sight of my sister who is aiming to be under 25. I’m about a hundred yards from the start and I realize I never turned on my stopwatch. Runners stream past me on both sides. I cannot let myself be swept along. I make a promise that I may pass some of them later if I keep my own pace.
I listen to Whistle, Wild One, and by the time I’m on Shake It Out the race is well underway and I’m approaching the halfway point. I turn the corner at 13:30 and scare myself that my pace is too fast. Negative talk takes over until I start my mantra, “I’m okay right now, I’m okay right now.” And for the moment, I am.
The second half is tough, a few hills, a stretch along the lake, a brief section through the camp grounds. Spectators sip coffee, hold plates of breakfast and clap for us. I’m so jealous of their pajama pants and lounge chairs I could cry. I check my time and know I won’t finish in less than 35 minutes. There are no mile markers but I’m pretty sure the finish is just too far away. I ponder the ethics of writing a dishonest blog.
GnR’s Sweet Child of Mine is too slow, I forward to You Could Be Mine and pick up the pace. Finally, I turn the corner and see the finish line far ahead. I glance at my watch: 26:40. Trouble by Pink begins at just the right time. I start to sprint…or my version of a sprint at this point. And suddenly it is possible, I know I will make it. I can see the timer as it turns to 28:00. I run harder. My sister is on the side yelling something I can’t make out. I give my last bit of effort and cross the finish line. I’m dizzy and afraid I’ll pass out. I’m afraid I’m hyperventilating. But I’m not afraid that I haven’t met my goal.
Official times are posted and I see it in black and white: Stacie Angel 28:34. My parents, brother and sister-in-law all earned first place medals in their walking divisions. My sister achieved her personal best in the 5k run with a 24:09 and earned third place. I came in twelfth. They don’t give medals for that but I don’t need one.