The Lonely Racer

Yesterday, I finished my 4th half-marathon. Not only did I finish, but I shaved 10 minutes off my finish time, which I never thought I’d do. I’m pretty proud of myself (I say as I break my arm patting myself on the back!)

Throughout the race, though, I realized that being a walker and not a particularly fast walker, is a rather lonely experience. Within minutes of crossing the start line, I’m already at the back of the pack. The space between walkers grows and grows as the miles are walked. I would say that the latter half of any race is the most difficult, as the water stations are packing up as if there’s no one left to serve. (In one race I was in last year, the water stations were basically gone by the time I came by … no water available at all.) Yesterday’s race was nice, because even though they were cleaning up, they had people who still poured water and handed it out. The cheering groups are usually gone by the time the slower walkers are passing. Roads are starting to open up and I even had to wait for a stoplight yesterday, which runners didn’t have to.

By the time I got to the finish line, the grand cleanup had started and most of the race personnel were gone. I was very lucky because the photographers were still there, to take a picture of me as I crossed the line. I actually only saw photographers packing up their gear throughout the race because apparently, walkers don’t feel the need to have their picture taken. I would hazard a guess that when I see the pictures from yesterday’s race, I’ll have one from the start line (because I purposely waved at the photographer) and at the finish line. There will be no during-the-race photos, because the photographers were already gone.

There were no people at the end to congratulate you, except for the folks cleaning up and they happened to  notice you were crossing the line. The area was really quite empty.

After yesterday’s race, there was a Post-Race Expo … except when I got there, all the booths had already been packed up. There was nothing for me to look at or buy. Thankfully the company that hosted a “PR Challenge” (PR means personal record, in case you didn’t know) was still there, so I could get my PR medal. That was so important to me.

It’s times like these that I realize one of the main reasons I race with Team Challenge is the camaraderie. No matter how slow or fast you go in the race, there’s always someone in an orange singlet cheering you on. You walk by cheering groups at the side of the race course, comprised of team managers and mentors who have noise makers and pom poms, whooping and hollering as you go by, giving you that extra boost to keep going. Coaches that you don’t know stop and walk with you, making sure you’re doing OK. My coach, Coach Ken, has walked with me for the last few miles in every race last year.

I don’t mind walking alone; in fact, if I have to be honest, walking alone makes me walk better because I can concentrate on the beat of my music, which keeps my pace up. If I walk with someone, I find I talk too much and end up slowing down ;-). However, walking alone doesn’t mean you want to be a solitary walker. The cheering, the “atta girl”, the “you’re doing great” and “you’re almost there!” is inspiring to me. It keeps my spirit up. A running club coach once said: “I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.” That support is what helps my heart finish the race.

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