Because it’s really all about the beer

All this running I’ve been doing lately is really because of beer. Because when I hear there is a race hosted by a brewery that starts in late afternoon (meaning no getting up at the crack of dawn) and it includes a brewery tour after in the great party city of Athens — well, I’m in. And so is my brother, who until he heard about this race wasn’t entertaining the idea of running races at all. I think I hooked him especially after I told him Chris lives in walking distance of like 100 bars or something crazy like that.

So we will go to Athens in April and run 4.1 miles (a 5K + one, they call it). Kevin has just taken up running – he’s only a few weeks into his “from couch to 5K” podcast (I think that’s what it’s called) so he suggested we run a 5K to practice. I offered up two 5Ks and well, we decided to run them both!

This was all very last minute – we decided most of this while up on a mountain last weekend, and the first 5K was a week later. Not a lot of time to prep but that was ok – this first one was practice, anyway. At least that’s what we told ourselves but when we found ourselves walking to the start line on Saturday, it sure didn’t feel like practice.

I have run 2 races prior to this – the Great Pumpkin 5K in Rock Hill in 2007 and the Cooper River Bridge Run (10K)  in Charleston last year. Kevin has never run a race.

I have never run a race in the rain, however, but we were about to give that a go, too. I was told to wear my “oldest pair of running shoes” but my Mizunos are my only pair of  running shoes, and thus, my oldest. So at 9 a.m.  on this cold, rainy Saturday, we crowded with a smallish group of people (a little more than 200).  The starting gun went off and we collectively sloshed off into 3.1 miles of muddy bliss.

Kevin and I kept a good, steady pace and as we hit the first mile marker he checked his watch. “9 minutes,” he said, and I was pleasantly surprised. My unofficial goal was to do the race in 30 minutes, but I’d been running outside alone faster times than that, so secretly I wanted to do slightly better than that. My other unofficial goal was to not have to walk at all – to run the entire thing.

Right after the first mile marker, Kevin said “all right, I need to walk for a minute.” I debated what to do. Do I stop and walk with him or do I continue on? In the first race I did, the person I ran with ran on without me, and I did not mind a bit. In the second race, the Charleston run with Jenny, she stuck by my side the entire time and it’s because of her I was able to push myself for a better time. Do I be the good sister and walk for a minute and encourage Kevin or do I run on to the finish line and cheer him on as he comes in?

Truthfully, I wondered how much longer I could run without stopping myself, so I thought while I still had the adrenaline in me, I better keep plugging. So I did. I kept running, this time alone, well, alone in a crowd. The path was muddy and slimy at times, and my pant legs were covered in mud. My ipod volume was just a little too low but I didn’t want to break concentration by fiddling with it. I wondered if my GPS was tracking properly but I didn’t want to waste effort to check. I didn’t grab water at the break stand – after all, I usually just spill it on me anyway.

At one point, a huge hill was before me. I made it up the main part without stopping, but when I got to the top and saw the incline kept going up, my sore calves took over and I walked for about 30-45 seconds. Then my resolve to get out of the rain more quickly took over and I started running again.

The race did an odd loop at one point and runners actually have to run near the finish line and then loop around for a final finish. Nothing like running past the finish line to do my last mile and seeing the first runner actually crossing the finish line! No fair! I looked for Colleen, Corinne, David, Brittany and Jeff, my cheering squad, but I didn’t see them and after a few seconds decided to concentrate on running again, knowing I would see them at the finish line. They saw me, though, and snapped this picture:

Me running

It seemed like the kilometer markers were doing more harm than good. I would see one, for example, 4K. And I would think, “yay, I’m 4/5ths done!” and then I would run, and run, and run for what seemed like forever – and then would see the next one: 4.2K. Really? That’s it?

But eventually, I made it near the end and then I could hear Colleen’s voice, cheering me on. Yay! That means I’m almost done! I was so excited to see Corinne and David and Brittany that I gave them a big “hello!” and wave as I ran by, and Corinne said she feared I might stop to strike up a conversation. Believe me, I thought about it. Would have been a good excuse for a break.

But I was within a few dozen steps of the finish line so I kept going. And waited to hear the official congratulations and my finish time. But I heard … none of that. No finish time, no, “hey, you’re done!” from the any race officials. In fact, I kept running until they ripped the bottom piece off my bib, not exactly certain when the would stop timing me … Luckily my GPS worked properly and gave me a reading of 30:19. I was hoping that the few seconds I started it before the start gun and the few seconds it took me to fiddle with it after I crossed the finish line would even out to an official time of 30 minutes or less. We would see!

I grabbed a bottle of water and then made my way over to my friends (true friends, who were willing to stand out in the rain at 9 a.m. on a Saturday!), and we chatted for just a minute or so before Kevin came through! A solid 33 minutes and some change, and I am very proud of him! I’m pretty sure he beat my first race time, and I’d been running a lot longer by the time I did my first race than he has been. Jeff snapped this photo of him and I photoshopped it, then we framed it to celebrate his first race:

Kevin

I grabbed some coffee and we discussed sticking around for the awards ceremony but we decided 30+ minutes in the rain was long enough. And we knew the only chance we had of winning anything was a door prize – we weren’t breaking any speed records.

We headed to City Tavern (first the Flying Biscuit but it was too crowded and we were hungry!) City Tavern was completely uncrowded – in fact, they still had chairs on the tables. The staff was walking around in sweatshirts and I didn’t think this odd at all – I just thought “well, at least I’m not underdressed!” Kevin and I walked in and I said to the hostess “there will be 7 of us.” She took us right to a table and as they pulled the chairs off the tabletop it occurred to me something was off. “What time do you open?” I asked.

“11:30,” she replied.

“What time is it?”

“10:30”

“Oh my! Is it ok that we’re here?”

“Yes, it’s fine.”

Wow, City Tavern rocks. I’m not sure why they let us in an hour early. Did they think we were going to be 7 sweaty runners and they wanted to get us out before the real crowd got in? (Nope, just 2 sweaty runners, 5 muddy-shoed cheerers). Or were they just being nice? Or has the economy hit hard enough times that they didn’t want to turn away business? At any rate, we were very happy, and the meal was yummy and I didn’t feel underdressed in my muddy running clothes in the empty restaurant, even when the wait staff took off their sweatshirts, revealing much more professional attaire.

Jeff showed his appreciation with a $20 tip on a $38 bill (covered me, him and Kevin), in addition to whatever Corinne left. Wanted them to know how grateful we are!

Then I went home, peeled off my gross muddy running clothes, and took a nice hot bath. A day later, I checked the official race results: my time was 30:04.3 (so, so close to my goal, ha!) I am happy with it! 19 of 48 in my age division, 118 overall out of 228 or something like that.

Kevin did awesome, with 33:13.8 minutes as his official time. He cracked me up with this email sent to the rest of the family with our race times: “If you want to, notice in the 20-29 males, I am not last!  Thankfully someone named Sarah decided to walk a lot.  It seems like Sarah has some trans-gender issues, or they messed up and put her down as a man.  At any rate, I am not last!  Woohoo!”

Between laughs I remind him: It’s all about the beer.