There are some things I really want to remember, though, like how nervous-excited I am about tonight. It's New Year's Eve and tonight I'm running a 5K! I've run one before. A few, actually, but I was 14 years old. At least one of them sucked, BIG TIME. The one that was really awful I ran as the slowest competing member of our high school cross country team. It was at a nearby school with a confusing course. It was like, "go around the track twice, through the nature trail, over that bridge, around the band field, back through the nature trail, around the school..." I can't find my way out of a wet paper bag. Damned if I can remember a bunch of detailed instructions when I am busy just trying to get enough oxygen to my muscles so I don't collapse. I lagged behind the other runners, and with no one to follow and no volunteers directing I had no idea where I was going. It was so sad. I cried. I'm not sure if I ever finished that one. If I did, it took me a ridiculously long time.
The races got better and eventually I was keeping up with the others. When the season was over I realized what good shape I was in. It was awesome. I didn't go back the next season because I wanted to devote my time to Junior ROTC activities instead, and I haven't run a 5K since.
So here we are now. I am 27. I have had three babies and gained about 30 pounds since I was 14. If you had told me last year that my final act of 2011 would be to finish a 5K... No. That wasn't on my radar. I started running at the end of September because of a local running group called First Flight. The wonderful volunteers come out and run with us for free at a local track, leading us through a program similar to Couch to 5K. The first time I went was week three of the season. The longest we had to run without a walking break was three minutes, and I could barely do it. I started having bad knee pain, and though I finally did finish a 7K walk/run at the end of October, I had to take a long break after that. The chiropractor helped me get back to normal and I started back the next season. Two days ago I went to the track and ran almost exactly the length of the race, 3.1 miles, in under 36 minutes. Not fast. But when I think about what a struggle it was three months ago to run slow for just three minutes without stopping, this is a mountain I have climbed.
I want to do it so I can keep up with all the fun my kids want to have. I want to run with them someday. I want to be one of those 70-year-old women who is still running. It's also a challenge, something to be proud of, and a healthy addiction to replace the junk food that was there before. I've lost five pounds and a jean size since I started, and that's nice too, but my children are my main inspiration.
When I ran at 14 I had no frame of reference. It was pretty much the hardest thing I'd done up to that time. Now when I run I think about birth. I think, this is really hard. My legs are burning and my heart might beat out of my chest. I could just stop now and it would be a huge relief. But then I look at my watch. I remember the intensity of waiting for my babies, the amazing work looming ahead of me and not knowing how long it would last. I gazed off, zoned out, got it done. If I could do that, I know I can finish a run.
The race starts at 11:00 tonight. At the finish line there will be Jordan taking my picture and Baby Bobber ready to nurse and once I get home we will drink champagne and celebrate resolutions begun before the ball ever dropped. I will have done it and it's going to be amazing. Deep breaths. I can do this. And I'm not going to get lost this time, either.