One of the things that I’ve enjoyed very much while in the States these last few months is taking advantage of the running race culture here in America where there are races nearly every weekend with nearly every distance you could want to do! My first race, five days after arriving in the States, was the 12 mile Nutri-Run (Ft. Wayne) and my last was the Huff 50k (Huntington, IN). So far I’ve done three 5k, a 4-miler, a 10k, a 12-miler, one half-marathon, a 25k, one marathon, and two ultra-marathon 50k races! I have won some first prizes, and even a whole turkey!
I’d like to highlight a couple of those races here. On 1 November I ran in the Indianapolis Monumental Half-Marathon and with a PR time of 1:35:01, which was good enough for a personal record, first place in my age group, as well as qualifying for the NYC marathon! My friend Jeff Steinberg (pictured at left with me) was the key to me accomplishing this goal – could not have done it without him! He had just qualified for the Boston Marathon (hooray!) a couple weeks prior and ran the half marathon just to help me get a qualifying time for the New York City Marathon. He paced me, shouted encouragement, and pulled me all the way in. Jeff is an avid runner and has his own blog dedicated to the sport called Miles to Go… – check it out! Jeff is one of those perpetually enthusiastic and upbeat people who loves to run, and loves people even more. He is the guy with the camera at every finish (and even during the race) snapping photos whether you like it or not! Which is good because later the rest of us really glad to see them posted, even if we felt like puking at the time!
The Huff 50k Trail Run was held this past weekend on 27 December. Originally, I was
going to do it as a relay where teams of three complete one loop of 11 miles each. The team never materialized and I decided to do the whole 33 mile race 5 days before the race! It would be one last SHA-BANG before returning to China, and I figured I could at least finish it. It might hurt, but I would have no regrets! When I told Jeff he immediately volunteered to be my crew! Race day came and Jeff was true to form – holding drinks, clothes, and (of course) snapping photos! He ran the last loop with me – he helped with the pace and blocked the wind on the exposed bridges. He did a super job and we had fun sploshing throught the mud on the last loop. I was super tired by then, but knowing he was right there helped me maintain focus and not let up. About 3 miles from the finish he saw another woman ahead – he ran up to see if she was relay or full. He reported she was a “full Huffer”, and our competitive spirits were ignited! “You haven’t come all this way to let her beat you! I’m not gonna let that happen!” I was supposed to be doing this race “just for fun” but in the end I couldn’t help it. I had enough strength left and having someone ahead of me, and then behind me when I passed her, helped fuel the engine all the way to the finish. That I finished second was just icing on the cake. I had more fun on this race than perhaps any other I have done. The warm temperature, the mud, the friends, the lack of pressure to win, and knowing it is my last race here for a while all contributed to the good feeling.
We are all called to run our own race and to run it well. Although there are times when we are called to run alone, there are also times when we are blessed with partners. There are also times when you might think you are alone until you turn around or come around the corner and there are people who have always been there for you. A running group is microcosm of this. We might run at different speeds or be on a different training schedule, but there is always someone who has run where you are and will be there to help you get through it and do well – whether you are training for your 25th marathon, or your first 5k. Sometimes the “running” seems little more than a crawl at times, but if we keep moving, and keep believing, we will make it. Having others around to run with you and share the joys as well as the burdens can make all the difference!
Thanks to all my new friends at PR Training! I look forward to more training runs and races with you, even if it means doing it “virtually” over the internet!