5:40am: My eyes flew open. I realized I still had five minutes to sleep and refused to move until my alarm actually went off.
5:45am: The alarm sounded. Still dark, I dressed wondering why the heck I was awake. I considered crawling into my bed until noon. I decided to walk to the kitchen and see how I felt after I was awake for a few minutes.
I drank a pint of water with multivitamins. Outside it was dark. Middle-of-the-night dark. I was not liking this. I sat down at the kitchen table, considering. I don’t HAVE to do this. Just because I signed up doesn’t mean I HAVE to run…
I ate my whole wheat bread and banana sandwich, slowly. As I ate, I gained more clarity.
If I don’t run this thing, I will regret it. I need to do this. I’m up, I’m ready – I never have to run another race again. This can be the last one. I mean, this is crazy!
After bundling up, and heading outside, I was still wary. By the time I drove into Center City and parked, I felt toasty warm and wide awake. I can do this. I just need to get through it, and then I can sit inside the warm house all day.
Walking to the start line, the energy and excitement of the crowd hit me. Thousands of others woke up in the middle of the night on their Sunday to do this very same crazy thing. And I was ready for it; I knew I could run it. I cracked a smile as I realized how cool this was. So many people were so pepped up and it was 6:30am! Unbelievable! That’s it; I’m going to rock this thing! Suddenly, I was ready to fly. I couldn’t wait to cross the start line.
The Rocky music was playing. Philly loves to play the Rocky music before a race. Probably because it charges everyone up and causes the crowd to erupt into loud cheers.
As I approached my corral, the grey corral, along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 7:00am on the dot (I like to be very punctual – not super late, but never early), the gun blasted and the elite runners took off. I caught a glimpse of the starters – to me, it looked like they were sprinting. I stared in awe as they zoomed past like it was just a 400 yard dash.
Suddenly I was exhilarated. Let’s DO THIS! I couldn’t wait to get out there.
I entered my corral and a friend recognized me. While waited for the grey corral to be called, she pointed out my shirt was on backwards. Oops.
“I got dressed in the dark, half asleep!”
“Hey, at least if you forget the course, you can look down at the map,” joked the guy behind us.
Everyone around me was laughing, stretching, bantering – all in a great mood. It was race day!
I love this! I thought. Within one hour I had gone from never running a race again to loving the pre-race energy.
Once I got out there, I realized that what fellow runners had been telling me for months was true: a 40 degree clear autumn day is the best day for a run. It was shocking how much easier it is to run with gloves on than sweating from heat and exertion.
Fast forward to the finish line – I was warm, awake and feeling great. That’s why I do this. I realized as I finished. The feeling of accomplishment, of knowing I achieved a goal I had set for myself. The rare complete guiltlessness devouring a delicious carb-loaded Philly pretzel that can only exist post-run.
Those just might be worth another middle-of-the-night wakeup or two. We’ll see.
A shout out to my dad who met me at the finish line with a sweatshirt and a bottle of water. It was great to have support at the race – Thanks, Dad!