After completing my very first two 5Ks in August and September, I lost momentum and needed something to focus on. Recognizing my need for goals and setting aside time to achieve them took me way longer than it should have, but once I figured it out, I began the process of setting little goals for myself to keep me focused.
Running a half marathon is one of my long-term goals, so when I heard about a training group for the Berry races, I thought it would be good for me to get involved. Usually, when I challenge myself, I aim a little higher than what I think I can do – and then convince myself that I can do it! The half marathon is still a goal for me, but I recognized that it was a little too ambitious, so I focused on completing a 10K, which was still a challenge.
Signing up in the early fall with mild weather seemed like a good idea, but by the November kickoff those Saturday morning temperatures at 8 a.m. were in the 20s! I struggled to get out of the house, but Nike and Under Armor (among others) make excellent clothing for running in cold weather! As it turns out, the only time I even noticed the temperature was while the groups were assembling before stretching and starting our run. Once the running started, I was so focused on my breathing and stride that I was warm and toasty before I gave it a thought.
Experienced runners from the three sponsors – Berry College, Harbin Clinic, and the YMCA – participated with beginners through experienced runners to train for all 3 race distances, 5K, 10K and Half Marathon. These trainers shared tips and offered suggestions, providing lots of encouragement. Friendships were forged and old acquaintances were renewed, and we all bonded based on our common goal of training for and completing an event. Some days were tough for me, and it helped tremendously to hear a funny comment or a word of encouragement. There were times when a trainer or experienced runner ran beside me, offering tips or light conversation to help me get through the hard parts.
At other times it was up to me to search within myself for the strength and determination to continue. Sometimes it felt good to be on the trail and I thanked God for good health and the ability to once again experience the same joy for running that I remember from my childhood.
In between the sessions, there were plenty of other “real life” things that came along that could have sidelined me, and I struggled to stick it out. Knowing I had made a commitment to this group made me more determined than ever to see it through, or as Coach Mark Richt would say gave me the desire to “finish the drill!” There was com-fort in knowing that we all were going through our own “real life” experiences, but we had all made that commit-ment and were in this for the duration.
There is great camaraderie in spending time in healthful pursuit in the magic of the Berry College campus. Those mornings were golden, and I wouldn’t trade one sweaty, gasping-for-breath moment! How better to start a Saturday morning than training to strengthen hearts and muscles. If not for this running group, those moments for me would most likely have passed unremarkably. The running group was so much more than a training group for a race – it was an opportunity for each of us to search our souls and to push ourselves to do more than we would ever have done as individuals.
By race day, we were ready to use our skills and muscles to see our goals to completion. Although the day was overcast, the rain held off and was a comfortable temperature. The start for our race was fast and my pace was quicker than normal because I got so caught up in the excitement! Around mile 3 a young woman began running with me, explaining that she was only there with her boyfriend and that she was not a runner. She was struggling to keep up with me and said that either she was doing poorly or I had picked up the pace – and then asked if I would mind slowing down!
This was a woman who was half my age (or less) and had not trained for the race. She was not my daughter, a friend or a running group member and was in fact someone I did not know. I considered slowing down but only for a moment, then smiled and shook my head, and kept plodding along. Apparently, I do have a competitive streak because the first thing that popped into my mind was, “Hell no, I’m 56 years old, I’ve been training for this race every week since November, and I am not going to slow down!” While I’m sorry that I wasn’t more com-passionate, at the time I made the decision it seemed appropriate!
I hope that one day this young woman finds a running group to train with. At that point I’m confident that she will understand the sense of fulfillment that comes with hard work, commitment, finishing the drill and not slowing down.
Note: Our running group disbanded after the Berry race, but I’d like to reconnect, either to train for the Peach-tree or on the local trails. I believe there is plenty of interest in an organized running program in this community, for all levels of runners, and I’m hopeful the opportunity to train together will be available one day soon!
Ellen Garrard was one of the Top 10 performers in last year’s Health Quest. During the 2011 initiative, a few of the alums will take turns blogging here each week.