On November 13, 2011, I ran weSPARK’s 3rd Annual 10K Run & 5K Run/Walk. Here’s what went down.
My Sunday got off to a bad start. When my alarm rang at 5:30am, I swung my arm to my nightstand, in a blind attempt to shut it off, and knocked over my lamp, which fell and shattered. I couldn’t care less about the lamp, which was a $10 Ikea number that I’d had for 10 years and didn’t match the rest of my room; I was happy to have a reason to get rid of it. But I wondered if a carpet full of glass was a sign of things to come. I had set my alarm for that ungodly hour so I could run in my first 10K race, and if things were going to continue to break today, then what would be next? My spirit? A bone?
I successfully got the lamp out of my mind by the time I pulled into Universal Studios. There was an energy in the air from the second I got out of the car that got my heart beating a little faster. I followed the crowd away from the theme park and Citywalk shopping center entrances, and around to the backlots. I met up with my friends Amy and Tiffany, who were also running the 10K. We headed up to the start, did some stretching and took some photos:
That’s Amy on the left and Tiffany on the right. Check out all the racers, getting ready to run:
One of the telltale signs that I’m nervous is a tightening in my core, which makes me feel like I have to go to the bathroom despite having an empty bladder, and about 10 minutes before the race began, I started feeling that tightening. I couldn’t pinpoint what I was nervous about. I was excited to be there, confident in my abilities, and been given considerable thought and effort into preparing and training for this. I suppose I just nervous for the unexpected: I had never run with more than a couple people before, and here I was, in a crowd of hundreds. I focused on my goal, which was to finish, without stopping.
The actual start of the race was wonderfully unceremonial. We were all milling around, and, rather abruptly, Wayne Brady (host of Let’s Make a Deal) appeared with a foghorn and, 3 seconds later, we were off. Amy snapped a picture of Wayne:
As I started running, the first thing I noticed, and immediately loved, was being in the middle of a thunderous symphony of shoes hitting pavement, the soft thuds echoing all around me. Minutes later, I was reminded of why I picked this race to begin with: the course was So. Freakin’. Cool. We ran through all sorts of movie sets and fake towns and villages – new surprises literally around every corner. I have some pictures of what we ran past, and if you’re curious about why they’re all mysteriously devoid of runners, it’s because I took them earlier in the week, when I was scoping the course out with my friend Chris.
The first kilometer was down a big hill, and then we ran around Jaws Lake, home to the mechanical shark that leaps out at unsuspecting tourists on the tram. The soundtrack to the attraction was on, so there were was ominous music, clanging buoys, and the crackle of a Deputy saying, over walkie-talkie, that there’s no sign of the shark:
We ran through Courthouse Square, the small town set that was Hill Valley in the Back to the Future movies…
…and through the Amblin Entertainment complex, where the Crosswalk sign features E.T. (photo taken by Amy)…
Then after a straightaway along the Los Angeles River, we circled around through Spartacus Square (which looks like an ancient Roman plaza, and had an actor dressed as Spartacus cheering us on), up along a vaguely eastern European cobblestone street (where a guy dressed as Frankenstein urged us on; I gave him a high-five), and up to Wisteria Lane, home to Desperate Housewives (sorry, primetime soap fans, that I didn’t get a picture).
From there, we started up the big hill, detouring to pass by the sets from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which were about to get their Christmas decorations)…
…the Bates motel from Psycho, with the house looking over it (and an actor playing Norman Bates, loading corpses into the trunk of a car)…
…and, finally, the plane crash wreckage from War of the Worlds:
From there, it wasn’t long until we were back where we started, which marked 5K – halfway done! Time to do it all over again!
Time for a confession: It was around the 6K mark that I started crying. The crowd had thinned out significantly: I’m not sure when I got separated from Amy and Tiffany, but they were somewhere behind me, all the 5K runners were finished, and the 10K runners were more spaced out. I found myself heading down Mexican street, and for a little while, I was alone. Couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, couldn’t hear anyone behind me. The thunderous symphony of feet was gone – just the sound of my own two sneakers hitting the ground, over and over again.
It was there that it hit me: I’M RUNNING TEN KILOMETERS, AND I’M MORE THAN HALFWAY DONE, AND I WILL NOT STOP! I thought about how this was not a lifelong dream. In fact, it was the opposite – up until very recently, running a 10k was, simply put, an impossibility. Never would I have had the courage, confidence, or the physical ability to even consider attempting such an event. What my weight loss has done for me is bust down the walls of what’s possible in my life, shattered the ceiling of what I can achieve, and allowed me to dream in ways never before fathomable. As I realized that, on Mexican street, the waterworks began. My eyes swelled up, and tears streamed down my cheeks. My already-heavy breathing transformed into wheezing sobs. My shoulders convulsed.
I embraced the epiphany for about 50 feet, then pulled myself together. I knew that around the next corner was a water station, and I didn’t want the volunteers to think I was injured. Also, as it turns out, it’s hard to run and cry. I don’t recommend it.
The last kilometer or so was all uphill, and I was ready for it. I settled into my pace, kept up my breathing, and I ran. My thighs ached. I was exhausted. And there was no way in hell that I was gonna stop. I started noticing that I was passing runners that I would have guessed, based on sight alone, were much more experienced and in shape that I was. There were runners that passed me long ago that were now walking, and secretly relished every time I passed one of them. When I got to the top of the hill, there was a flat final 100 yards before the finish line. I didn’t think I had anything left in me, but I found something, somewhere, and with 50 yards left, I broke out into a sprint. I passed a woman who cheered me on: “Finish strong!” I turned the final corner, saw the finish line approach, and noticed a clock ticking off the seconds. It hit 59:15 as I crossed the line.
I hadn’t thought at all about any time-related goals, but HOLY SHIT! I finished this 10K in UNDER AN HOUR! Here I am with my finisher’s medal…
…and the after photo with Tiffany and Amy, who finished a little while after me:
About a minute after I finished, I saw my friend Austin cross the finish line, which was a pleasant surprise, since I didn’t know he would be there. Another friend, Carrie, soon emerged from the crowd, and it was fun to catch up with them. My friend Jen was also there, walking the 5K, and seeing supportive, familiar faces made the day even better.
It was around 9:30 when I headed for home. My legs were still burning, and my clothes were still damp from my sweat, but those minor inconveniences didn’t register, because I wouldn’t let them. There was nothing that would detract from the indescribable, incalculable, unmistakable pride that this morning brought.
I did it. I completed my first race. I didn’t complain. I didn’t whine. I didn’t stop. And my bedroom lamp was the only thing that broke all day long.
Does anyone have a megaphone? Because all I’ve wanted to do, for the past 12 hours, is climb up on roofs and mountaintops and scream, with everything I’ve got…