#7: The mile

Posted by Megan on May 13th, 2011

I’m hopeless at baseball even when using a big bat.

I’m terrible at sports. My coordination is laughable, I have no agility and my ball handling skills are pitiful. (Insert joke here #1). Despite my many efforts, I remain absolutely terrible at all ball related sports (#2). I can’t serve a volleyball, I’m a terrible dribbler, I’m hopeless at baseball – even with a big bat. I also manage to become an anxiety ridden mess when I know “the team” is counting on me. I don’t perform well under pressure and essentially enter pure panic mode when I’m on the spot. This combination of poor athleticism, team anxiety and ball fear (#3) left me hating sports. Growing up I lived in constant dread of gym class. While my classmates looked forward to the opportunity to play and take a break from the classroom, I would watch the clock in terror, painfully enduring the 50 minutes of torture. If I didn’t get hit in the head with a ball (#4) I would consider the day a success. The absolute worst day of the year was always the mile. Each year we would have to run a timed mile in gym class, and each year I would experience overwhelming anxiety and several sleepless nights. While I was no athlete, I was also no quitter. I simply couldn’t walk or jog slowly. My brain was hard wired to give it my all (#5). The five laps inevitably played out like this:

Lap One: Start out in a dead sprint. Running strong, feeling good.
Goal: Win this race!

Lap Two: Heavy breathing turns into heavy wheezing.
Amended Goal: Be in the top few girls to finish

Lap Three: Lungs are burning, legs are hurting, significant slowing down is necessary
Amended Goal: Finish in the top 50 percent

Lap Four: Inner dialogue shouts “I want to quit, I want to quit, I want to quit.” Begin regretting the poptart I ate for breakfast.
Amended Goal: Don’t die

Lap Five: Totally gassed and desperate to finish without walking, an onslaught of classmates pass me. The silver lining: I get to taste that frosted strawberry poptart for a second time as I yack it up in the finish area.

NOT the breakfast of champions.

I distinctly remember feeling an overwhelming sense of relief when I completed my last timed mile in 11th grade. I remember thanking God that I would never ever have to run a mile again.

Flash forward ten years. I now run about 30 miles per week and have completed dozens of races ranging from 5Ks to marathons. I’ve learned to embrace exercise and get incredibly antsy and cranky if I do not work out. Running works for me because I’m only accountable to myself. If I have a bad day, I’m only letting down me. Since I’m overly stubborn and easily frustrated competing against myself works well and provides amble motivation. Additionally, you can’t really mess running. You just need to keep moving forward – no complicated skills necessary.

Even after years of practice I’m still not very athletically gifted and am only an average runner. I focus on longer distances where training and grit come into play much more predominantly than with shorter races. I’ve intentionally avoided running a one mile race. Reliving the scarring experiences of my youth on a bigger stage in an actual race never seemed like an appealing way to spend an evening.

When a co-worker asked me to join our corporate team for the TC 1 Mile, I racked my brain for an excuse – then abruptly realized it was time to face the mile.

The TC 1 Mile is the second largest timed one mile race in the country. About 3,000 signed up to run the race including several elite athletes vying for the One Mile Road Championship title and significant prize money.

Susan, David and I prepared for a rainy one mile race.

 

The race waves began at 6:50 p.m. on Thursday. My pals David, Susan and I ventured downtown together. The weather was dreary and cool, perfect weather for running. In order to accommodate so many runners and minimize bottle necking, the race was run in six waves all starting about 15 minutes apart. The first wave was the friends and family wave. This was basically an open category with mostly recreational runners. There were lots of kids, families and costumed folk. I love being at the start area of races. Being around thousands of people who are passionate about health and wellness is intoxicating. I watched the fist wave take off and was instantly inspired by the overwhelming spirit of positively that radiated from the group.

Wave one lined up on the starting line. I contemplated faking a leg cramp to get out of my impending doom.

This photo captures the sprit of the race for me. The older gentleman is smiling as kids and runners of all abilities rush out of the starting gate.

My wave was up next and I was overwhelmed with a mixture of dread, anxiety and a touch of queasiness. I’m not a sprinter; I’m a grinder (#6). Usually I have a very detailed plan of how I’m going to execute the race. Since I hadn’t made any attempts to practice pace I had no idea how fast to start or how long I could maintain vigorous speed. I felt uneasy and naked without a plan (#7). I had no choice but to start running and see what happened.

I was trapped in a sea of red in the start corral. This seemed fitting.

I’m a chronic overanalyzer, but when the horn blew I just let my brain go and ran at about ninety percent my max. By the quarter mile marker I was winded, but feeling strong. I slowed down a bit in the middle section but was instantly rejuvenated when I heard “Go Megan” screamed from the sidelines. One of my long lost college friends spotted me in the crowd and gave me the shout out I needed to keep running at max velocity. Another minute down the road and I saw a sign that read “Beat the guy behind you.” It was like gummy berry juice – I found a little extra energy to push me to the finish line. The race was over before I knew it and as I crossed the finish line I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I had conquered the mile. Not only did I conquered the mile, I actually sort of enjoyed it. I was smiling while mile-ing. I crossed the line with a time of 6:38.

I wandered over to our designated meeting area to watch the rest of the waves finish. I cheered relentlessly for friends and strangers alike. I got to cheer on David and Susan as they both achieved personal records in the masters’ wave. Then it was time for the elite athletes to run in the US Road Mile Championships. The women ran first. It was absolutely awe inspiring to see them darting at full speed towards the finish line. Sara Hall won with a 4:31. The men were up next. David Torrens won the title for the third year in a row with a 3:59. Both winners took a victory lap down the plaza wearing American flogs draped over their shoulders they gave high fives to the cheering crowd. It was by far the most impressive display of athleticism I have ever seen live.

The women's winner Sara Hall celebrates her victory by greeting the crowd.

 

After a quick trip back to the car to acquire some additional layers of clothing we met our team at a local bar to celebrate our successes. Wearing yoga pants to the bar is heaven. If you look like you’ve just run a race, all dress codes are off. I think I may start wearing a bib number everywhere I go thus allowing me to wear my yoga pants 24/7.I only knew a few people on our team but we all became fast friends. I’ve learned that nothing brings people together faster than a shared experience and a beer. I had a wonderful evening and am proud to mark this one off my list.

Cheers to an awesome race. Everything is better with a beer!

 

I know all you dirty minded readers have been giggling through this entire post. I graciously numbered the sections with easiest joke making potential. Leave your joke in the comments section with the corresponding number.   The best comment will win a super special prize!

  • © 2011 Megan Steil