As the sun came up today, I was hoofing it with around 2,600 runners in downtown Moncton.
It was the Legs for Literacy event, and I was running the 10-K.
We ran through city streets, from Moncton to Dieppe, then across a beautiful trail that runs along the Petitcodiac River. The morning light made the tall, riverside grasses golden, and the city was almost glowing. It was a warm October morning – about 15 C. I was fueled with a delicious pasta dinner from Saturday. I was well-rested thanks to an early night in a king size hotel bed. I felt good.
I pushed myself to keep up with the runners ahead of me, but saved enough energy to push it through to the end. The course was delightfully flat (I’m used to the big, plentiful hills of Saint John), and running somewhere new is always a welcome distraction.
I haven’t done many long runs since this summer’s half-marathon, but it’s amazing how after you’ve run a half, 10-K doesn’t seem so long at all.
Before I knew it, I was pushing it through the final 2-K. Crowds, kids and supporters lined the trail’s end. We crossed a wooden footbridge and I passed the girl I had been trailing for several kilometres (yes!). I kept going along a riverside boardwalk and crossed a parking lot toward the final stretch. A part of me felt too tired to go on, but when you get this far, you have no choice but to dig in and go for it.
As I came closer to the time clock, I squinted my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. 53 minutes! That was more motivation to push through to the end. And somehow, I sprinted across the finish line, at 53:26. So much better than I could have dreamed. (Going in, my goal was to come in under an hour, best case scenario, around 55 minutes.)
It was my second 10-K race, my fourth race this year, and my sixth race ever.
My head swelling with pride, I couldn’t have imagined the day could get better, but it did. And that was when I felt pride for my fellow runners.
Mark, my partner in life, love and everything, also achieved a personal best, coming in at 24:29 for the 5-K. It was his first 5-K race ever. He has only ever run two other 5-milers. And he doesn’t even run regularly. Mark placed 36thout of 732 runners. Amazing.
Then, I watched complete strangers finish their 10-K, half-marathon and later, full marathon races. It’s so inspirational to watch the perseverance on their faces, to see it in their muscles, as they press to the finish. Runners know those emotions, because we know those moments when you’re not sure you can keep going. Maybe that’s why runners are such a friendly bunch, cheering each other on, patting each other on the back, even if we’ve never met before.
Then, we watched Kevin, my friend from the Telegraph-Journal, finish his first-ever full marathon. I stood with his family as they anxiously awaited his arrival around the last corner. We were watching the horizon for his yellow shirt. Then we saw it, and I watched his wife and daughters scurry to the sidelines. My heart leapt into my throat and my eyes filled with tears. I know Kevin has been training so hard for this run, just because he wanted to. Just to prove to himself that he could. I can only imagine how difficult – both mentally and physically – those last 10 kilometres (of 42!) would be. And he did it, finishing strong as ever. It was so inspiring to see.
“We should run this half-marathon next year,” Mark said to me as we walked back to the car.
Yep. That’s what running does to you.
And on the drive home, every autumn leaf seemed brighter, every song sounded sweeter. Life is just better when you run.