Two weeks after hiking a mountain with my brother Kevin, I decided to run the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K with my sister Jenny. My siblings keep me in shape, that is for sure! Jenny has run a million races and I have run one 5K, so this is a new experience for me.
What did I do to prepare for the race? Um, nothing really. I was already running on a regular basis, so I just didn’t change much … probably not the most brilliant strategy, but I didn’t know what else to do …
I talked to Jenny and told her that she was more than welcome to leave me in the dust on race day. “No way,” she said. She had run many races – and this one wasn’t about speed for her. It was about doing it with me. Aw …
The day before the race she and her husband Chuck surprised me with a birthday present – a sweat-wicking shirt and some new socks. We went to Wal-Mart and bought funky hair pins from the kids’ section so that we could match … Jenny assured me it is race tradition to have a fun outfit.
After a restless night of sleep (did I mention I’m an extremely light sleeper?) we were up at 5:30 on race morning. I had a protein shake (my usual breakfast). We drove to the parking area and it was packed full of runners. How exciting! The sun wasn’t even up yet and there were people milling about, stretching, jogging, etc. We went inside the grocery store to use the bathroom one more time before the race started, and there was a long line of runners ahead of us.
Statement overheard while waiting in line for the bathroom:
“Last night, at the bar, we thought it might not be the best idea that we were out drinking before the race. So every time I drank a beer, I drank a glass of water. Every time I did a shot, I drank two glasses of water.”
I am a terrible stretcher, so I followed Jenny’s lead – stretching when she said stretch, jogging to warm up when she said to. Jenny is a former softball, volleyball and track coach, so she’s my perfect trainer.
We lined up according to what we thought our time would be. Both Jenny and I signed up in the “more than an hour” category. The logic is, when the starting gun went off, the fastest runners would start first. Then the next fastest, and so on. So the fast runners, in theory, weren’t tripping over the walkers. The whole area was packed! When it was our turn to run, we all started as a collective group. This was so thrilling! I didn’t even put my iPod Shuffle in at first – typically I have to hear a beat to run, but today I was running on adrenaline and the fact that I was running beside my sister and beside strangers, but we were all in this together.
There was a huge crowd watching us. Some were cheering, some were still half asleep. “Let’s rile them up” Jenny said, and we ran to the sidelines and cheered and high-fived people as we ran by. They started cheering back – this was so much fun!
Then we hit the bridge. Ugh. Uphill. This was terrible! My goal was to run the entire way, but my legs felt like mush. Around 2.5 miles, my calves were so tight and I knew it was a mental block I was having, but I was going so slow. “Let’s stop and stretch,” Jenny suggested. Of course, this was all for my benefit, not hers. Had she been on her own, well, she probably would have been finished by now!
We ran over to the side to stretch. It was at that moment we noticed the photographer, lens pointed at us. “Run!” Jenny said. “There better not be a picture of us in the newspaper stopped!” Oops …
Around the 3 mile point, the bridge started dipping downhill. I was running with the wind! This was amazing! I could do this all day. The race was so easy! We were running around people and picking up speed – making up for lost time stretching. Then the bridge ended – level ground again. Someone was handing out Red Bull. I grabbed one, took a sip or two, then threw it down (I still felt bad for littering!)
Around 5 miles, I felt I had to walk again. I was so angry with myself – I know this is mostly mental! Jenny was patient with me and we walked about a tenth of a mile. Then we ran again, and this time we were in downtown Charleston. Music was playing, crowds were cheering! We started to see runners who were finished … maybe we were almost done! We even had our picture taken – and we were running this time!
That last stretch seemed to take forever. I could see the finish line, but as fast as I was sprinting, it wasn’t getting any closer. I just stayed with Jenny and took assurance in the knowledge it was almost done. We saw Chuck cheering us on and waved at him. We held hands and crossed the finish line together. How amazing!
All in all, it was a great race. We finished in about 64 minutes. It was a time I was happy with – and also a time I knew I never would have gotten alone. For the record, I beat Jenny about a 100th of a second – a fact I feel badly about because I know she waited on me the entire race! Next year, I pledge to run the whole way – not walk! – and do it in less than an hour. Oh, and we’re dragging my brother along too, whether he knows it or not …