The sun is hiding behind the clouds on this Sunday morning, despite that, the humidity seems to be at its utmost, while I stand with hundreds of others waiting for the gun to go off and the running to start. I am nervous, not about the running or the hills that I will encounter, but more about the pain that might slow me or stop me. I worry if this will be the race that burns me out or be the one where I have to be carried off on stretcher.
I shake those negative thoughts off as I stand idly, looking around me, taking in the crowds that I am surrounded by, all waiting patiently and hoping to finish running 13.1 miles. We may all be strangers, but somehow the common factor of running brings us together. I am typically not the friendliest person, but on days like this, my friendly personality comes out of hiding and I strike up conversations with those around me about where we are from, have we run this race before and on and on it goes. It gives you a sense of belonging that is hard to describe, because those who are there with you, understand the adrenaline you feel when you are done running and sipping on that beer at 9.30 in the morning.
The start gun goes off and I hit play on my music and my garmin to track my time and distance. I really don’t need reminders of the distance considering there will be big flags waving in the air at every mile.
When I get to mile 4, I realize that the pain has not hit me and I have run at an almost normal pace without wincing in agony at every step I take. This makes me want to pick up my pace and run faster.
Considering I don’t have to try and focus my mind away from the aches and pains I feel, this is turning to out to be one of the best runs I have had in a while. If I needed motivation, I had plenty in the form well toned men who seem to have forgotten their t-shirts running ahead of me. I pretend that I am running after them or I look behind me and there are more of them and I can pretend they are running after me. (A girl can dream :D)
The course takes us through neighborhoods, where everyone has come out on a Sunday morning to cheer those running. Around mile 8, we run past photographs of fallen Marines all lined up in a row and after that around 50 people lining the streets with the American flag. At that moment I felt an emotional tug at my heart-strings and felt proud to be an American. Having said I must confess most often I don’t feel American and it is for obvious reasons. No matter how many years I live here, most often the question I get asked is where I am from ? No one ever calls me an American. I don’t feel offended by it, my skin color, my accent, is probably a dead giveaway that I am not an American, in true sense of the stereotypical word of ‘American’.
By mile 10, we come upon a hill, I try to push myself to keep running, but eventually I had to cave in and walk part of it. As I always say, my goal is to cross that finish line. I finally see a flag waving in the wind at mile 13 along with a huge American flag. That last point one mile somehow seems to be always the hardest and the longest. Whenever I hear my garmin whisper in my ear mile 13, my legs and my brain automatically wants to shut down, but I have to force it to keep going.
I eventually cross that finish line, where more Marines stand in line to put that medal around your neck. I am proud at this moment, not just about being an American, but that I finished the race in 2 hours and 22 minutes.