Today I ran in my 4th “Ridge Run” 5K race in our neighborhood. Prior to 5 years ago, in 2006, when I trained for and ran in my first 5K race, I had never run for pleasure or exercise before. Beyond that I didn’t understand or appreciate why anyone else would choose to do so. However, a group of women began training together, at the place where I take and teach group fitness classes here in Chicago, and a good friend and I, who had also never run in a 5K before, decided to go for it!
|Sean and me after my 1st Ridge Run 5K (2006)|
It wasn’t easy for me and many of those in our group to learn to run 3.1 miles (5K). At first we would run for 30 seconds and then walk for 30 seconds to build up our endurance. Eventually we increased the amount of time and distance we ran before we alternated with walking again. Over time we worked up to running the entire route of our neighborhood’s annual Ridge Run 5K race held on Memorial Day. My goal that year was to finish in under 40 minutes. I didn’t know what an incredible adrenaline rush running in a race surrounded by friends, family and community members cheering you on could feel like and was ecstatic when I finished that year in 33:28 (a 10:47 pace)! The weather on Memorial Day in 2006 here in Chicago was not unlike how it was today, hot and very humid.
The next year I planned to train for and run in the Ridge Run again, however a knee injury set me back a bit in my preparation. I ended up having to take some time off from participating in and teaching group fitness classes, as well as from running. I was in physical therapy for awhile that winter of 2006-07 trying to get my knee back up to par. Another factor that also played into my lack of training for the 2007 Ridge Run 5K was that in March/April 2007 we started our first In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle. As those who have used Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), such as IVF, to try to build and/or expand your family know, there are times when you are “cycling” when you are not supposed to participate in vigorous exercise. Many Reproductive Endocrinologists (RE) also do not recommend any exercise at all (except for very low impact, such as walking) during certain points during IVF cycles.
|Sean and me after my 2nd Ridge Run 5K (2007)|
So after our 1st IVF cycle was not successful and we were preparing to start our 2nd IVF cycle in May/June 2007, since my knee was feeling a lot better, I made a last ditch effort to train for and run in the Ridge Run that year. I ended up having about three weeks to prepare and thus by the time the race came around I was not in the best physical shape that I could have been and was the prior year. The weather that Memorial Day was somewhat ideal for the race, as it was not very hot and humid. My goal again that year was to finish in under 40 minutes. Though someday I had hoped to be able to run faster and beat my time from my 1st race/5K in 2006, I knew that that year was unlikely to be when that would happen. That year I finished with a respectable time of 35:54 (a 11:34 pace).
In 2008 I did not train for or run in the Ridge Run in our neighborhood on Memorial Day, as I was still recovering physically (not to mention emotionally) from my c-section to deliver our daughter Molly who was born and died on April 17th that year. Though I had always thought it would be fun to be spectator/supporter for the Ridge Run someday, Bob and I have a family tradition of spending Memorial Day Weekend with his family at his parents’ summer home in Michigan and it was a beautiful and therapeutic place to spend the holiday weekend that year. Since I wasn’t running in the 5K race in 2008, we stayed in Michigan through Memorial Day, instead of coming home Sunday evening, as we often do when I am doing the Ridge Run the next morning.
|My family and me after the Ridge Run 5K (2009)|
In 2009, I had yet another excuse (albeit a fabulous one) to skip out on the Ridge Run on Memorial Day. I was pregnant with our daughter Abby! However, that year rather than staying in Michigan through Monday, we came home a day early so that our immediate family (Bob, Sean and I) could participate in the run that year as spectators/supporters. We chose to do this in honor and memory of an 11 year old boy from our neighborhood that had died in an tragic accident two years earlier. That boy’s name was Nate and his mother Kelly had reached out to our family in 2008 after reading our daughter Molly’s obituary in our local newspaper. Kelly had written us a letter telling us about her son and wanting us to know that she was praying for our family.
In the year to come I developed a friendship with Kelly and together we learned about what it means and how to try to cope with being “bereaved mothers.” As it turns out Kelly’s son Nate had always talked about wanting to run the Ridge Run someday. So Kelly decided that year that she wanted to train for and run it in honor and memory of Nate. A group of Kelly’s friends (who I also happened to know and be friends with) came up with the wonderful idea to train for the run together and invite other women (though men were welcome too, it has always been mostly women that have participated in the group) who wanted to prepare for the race to train with this group they aptly named “Team Nate.”
I wanted so much to be able to run with the group that year, but being cautious about our pregnancy with Abby (especially in light of our history of miscarriages and loss), it made sense to me not to. However, the members of Team Nate were so supportive of my decision and encouraged me (and my family) to participate in anyway that we could and were comfortable with. So that is how we ended up watching the race that year from the sidelines and having a blast cheering for all of the runners in the Ridge Run 5K, especially the members of Team Nate!
|My family and me after my 3rd Ridge Run 5K (2010)|
Last year, in 2010, I was very excited to have the opportunity to train and run with “Team Nate” in the Ridge Run 5K on Memorial Day! It was 8 months after Abby was born. At that time I was nursing her on demand and she was just starting to sleep through the night. I was doing my best to get back into shape and lose the pregnancy weight that I gained from carrying her, as well as the weight that I had never fully lost from carrying her big sister in Heaven and the 4 ART cycles that preceded our pregnancy with Molly. So not unlike the year that I had knee problems and was in the midst of our 2nd ART cycle in 2007, I did not go into the Ridge Run in great shape. Also the weather last year was similar to today and my 1st Ridge Run in 2006. (Excuses, excuses… I know!) So once again my goal was to finish in under 40 minutes and that I did. I beat my 2007 race time by a mere 4 seconds, finishing in 35:50 (a 11:32 pace). I was pleased with my time, but certainly wished I could have done better. However, the awesome experience of running with Team Nate overshadowed any disappointed I might have felt about not beating my personal best that year.
Which brings me to this year… It was an honor and a privilege for me to get to train for and run in the Ridge Run 5K again today (on Memorial Day) with Team Nate! I knew going into the race that the weather forecast was not great. I reflected on my experiences running in such heat and humidity in 2006 and last year (in 2010). I was intimidated and tried to manage my expectations for how fast I might be able to run/pace myself for 3.1 miles this time around. I had been doing fairly well in my training runs in recent months and weeks, however heat and humidity has always been my downfall. Even the times when I have been able to withstand such weather conditions during miles 1 and 2, by mile 3 I have often found myself with nothing left to give and slowed down a lot at the end. But for some reason today was different. I had researched and calculated going into today the pace that I would need to maintain to beat my own personal best. I knew that given the heat and humidity I just might not be able to make it happen, but I tried to go into the race with optimism and a positive attitude that just maybe I could do it this time.
My goal today was to beat my finish time from my 1st Ridge Run 5K race in 2006, 33:28 (a 10:47 pace). Someday I believe that I will be able to break 30 minutes running a 5K, but I in light of the weather conditions, I didn’t think that today was going to be that day. I knew that to be able to finish in under 33:28, that I would need to maintain an average pace throughout the race of about 10 minutes and 30 seconds. To finish in under 30 minutes, I would need to be closer to a pace of 9 minutes and 30 seconds. As the race began I took off with many of my fellow Team Nate runners. I am always amazed by the adrenaline rush that I feel running in an organized race, especially when there are so many people I know running along side me, as well as cheering for me and the other runners. Also being a part of Team Nate, we have/wear matching green shirts on race day. These shirts have Nate’s initials “ND” inside of a baseball, which he loved to play, and the words “Always Remembered ~ Never Forgotten” encompass the baseball. Our green shirts serve as another awesome source of motivation. For this reason it is easier to spot other members of our team also running the race to pace with at times and it also alerts those spectating and supporting the runners along the race route to cheer for us, even if they don’t know us but know about/have a connection to Team Nate.
For the first time this year my parents came to watch the race and cheer for me along side Bob, Sean and Abby which meant a lot to me. Passing them a few blocks into the race, seeing and hearing their support felt so great! During that first mile today, I was proud of myself for being able to keep pace with many of the “elite” runners in our Team Nate group. I kept reminding myself that I needed to pace myself, as I knew that it was unlikely I would be able to keep up with them for the entire race. I was excited to see on my GPS running app on my iPhone that I had run mile 1 in 9:18! According to the stats my fastest pace at one point was 7:18! WOW! Holy adrenaline!!! I started to wonder if maybe I could break 30 minutes today after all, but again tried to manage my expectations and not get ahead of myself.
As mile 2 came and went I felt the heat and humidity more, I lost sight of the fastest runners in our group and focused in more on the motivating music that I was listening to and the cheers from the crowd along the race route that I encountered. As I finished mile 2, I saw on my running app that I had been running for about 20 minutes. My average pace had slowed down to 10:43. I was okay with that and knew I needed to “stay the course” (pun intended). It was cool to look back at the stats on my app tonight and see now that my fastest pace during mile 2 was 8:26!
During mile 3, when I often surrender to my exhaustion, especially in weather conditions like we had today, and slow down, I told myself not to give up. It was also around that time that I felt somebody reaching out to me (literally) from the pack of runners behind me. It was my friend and Nate’s mother Kelly! She was tapping me to feel a brief and special connection, knowing that both of us were running as much for our children that had left our families much too soon, as we were running for ourselves on this Memorial Day. Kelly is typically a faster and more consistent runner than I am, so I was surprised that she had not passed me prior to that moment. My initial instinct was to cheer her and one of her close friends that she was running with on to the finish, but maintain the pace that I was running at. However, something moved me to “kick it up a notch” and try to run/pace with them as long as I could. I lasted a few blocks and it was so very special for me to be able to run along side my friend, who I have learned so very much from about grieving, healing and coping with the loss of a child.
From that moment on, I was literally in the home stretch. For those familiar with the Ridge Run 5K race route, I was heading down the hill on 103rd Street onto Longwood Dr. and from there it was a straight shot North to 97th Street to the finish line. All I needed to do was try to pace myself, not give up and get to the finish line as quickly as my mind and body would allow myself given the weather conditions. Somehow I managed to maintain an average pace of 10:45 during mile 3 and even clocked a fastest pace of 8:05! Definitely one of my most consistent pacing experiences in my short, but momentous, running career. Some very moving and motivating songs came up via “shuffle” mode on my iPod “Ridge Run” play list and I found the strength and determination to hang in there during those final blocks of the race. I ran a few blocks with another Team Nate member, who I recognized, but don’t know well. I think both of us found some inspiration in being able to see and pace for a little while with each other. As I neared the finish line I got to pass Bob, Sean, Abby and my parents again! This time they were holding and ringing cowbells for me and the other runners, which was so cool! Seeing my immediate family cheering me on at that moment was incredible and gave me that extra boost to hang in there for those last few blocks.
Usually, at least the other three times I have run the Ridge Run 5K race, I have been coached and tried to sprint at the end, for the last block or two to try to finish faster/earlier. However, today as I reached that point, I just didn’t have it in me. It was okay though, as I knew that I had managed to pace myself better in a race today than ever before and even if I couldn’t push myself any harder, my goal of beating my personal best was within in reach! As I approached the the finish line I saw and heard other Team Nate members, who had already crossed the finish line, cheering for me, which was awesome! As I crossed the finish line I felt a rush of emotion and at that moment also became very aware of just how hot and humid it was. I was handed a water bottle by a race volunteer and moments later my friend and Nate’s mom Kelly saw me and gave me a big hug and a bag of ice to cool off with! In the following moments I connected with and congratulated other members of Team Nate for finishing the race. I joined the others who had completed the race in watching for and cheering on some of those who were still on their way to the finish line.
|My family and me after my 4th Ridge Run 5K (2011)|
Not long after that Bob, Sean, Abby and my mom had made their way to Ridge Park, near the finish line to find me. It was wonderful to see them and celebrate my big finish, which I soon was able to confirm had been just over 32 minutes!!! My official race finish time today (and my new personal best) was:
32:08 (a 10:21 pace)!!!
WAHOO!!! YIPEE!!! YAY!!! I was very happy with myself and those results! Reaching my goal of beating my previous personal best today, especially in light of the weather conditions, was an incredible feeling of accomplishment and one of many perfect moments that I experienced on this Memorial Day 2011. There is a lot more that I could share with you about this wonderful day in my life, but I realize that this post is already approaching marathon length and I typically try to be more concise when I write my Perfect Moment Monday posts. Oh well… 😉 I clearly had a story to tell today and I appreciate those of you who stayed with me and continued reading through to this point.
Also, as some of you know, Lori from Write Mind Open Heart (you can read more about her and follow the link to her blog towards the end of this post), has decided to take a summer hiatus from hosting Perfect Moment Mondays. Being that today was a holiday, I had contemplated not even participating this week, but when I saw Lori’s announcement to this regard last night, I knew that I wanted to get “a good one” in before the summer break. Lori has encouraged us, as she always does, to continue to be open to and aware of the perfect moments happening all around us, even if we don’t share about them formally on our blogs in the weeks and months to come. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to participate regularly in Perfect Moment Mondays over the past few months and look forward to doing so again in the future.
I will leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite songs to run to. It was one of those that I was very excited to hear when it came up via “shuffle” mode during the race today. I first learned about and heard it back in college the year I met Bob, when were were dating. As many of you may be familiar with, this song is played every year (since 1987) at the end of the NCAA Basketball Tournament after the final game is complete. The producers/editors make a fun and moving video montage of highlights from the tournament that year set to “One Shining Moment” written and originally sung by David Barrett. It has been remade by other artists over the years, most notably Luther Vandross. When I first started running to “One Shining Moment” I found the lyrics to be so fitting for anyone working hard to achieve a goal in their lives. It encompasses the feelings that I have experienced every year (regardless the circumstances of my life at that time) that I have trained for, ran in and finished the Ridge Run 5K race in our neighborhood. I hope that you find some of the inspiration in these words that I have enjoyed over the years.
One Shining Moment
The ball is tipped
and there you are
you’re running for your life
you’re a shooting star
And all the years
no one knows
just how hard you worked
but now it shows…
(in) One shining moment, it’s all on the line
One shining moment, there frozen in time
But time is short
and the road is long
in the blinking of an eye
ah that moment’s gone
And when it’s done
win or lose
you always did your best
cuz inside you knew…
(that) One shining moment, you reached deep inside
One shining moment, you knew you were alive
Feel the beat of your heart
feel the wind in your face
it’s more than a contest
it’s more than a race…
And when it’s done
win or lose
you always did your best
cuz inside you knew…
(that) One shining moment, you reached for the sky
One shining moment, you knew
One shining moment, you were willing to try
One shining moment….