Today, I ran what would be the first 10k of my life, and the last of my twenties. I realize that I could start referring to every mundane act this week as the last “fill in the blank” of my twenties. Hey, Georgetown Valet, this is the last load of laundry I’m dropping off in my twenties. Hey, comic book store guy, this is the last time I’ll buy comics in my twenties. Hey, bubble tea lady, this is the last time I’ll order a mango slushie bubble tea in my twenties. The possibilities, they are endless!
I arose from my slumber around 6:40 a.m. this morning, threw on some acceptable jogging apparel, and metroed to Union Station to pick my racing bib for the Capitol Hill Classic. The race was a 10k (6.2 miles) through the Capitol Hill neighborhood, around RFK Stadium, down Independence Avenue past the Capitol and then back up that beast of a hill, with a finish where the race started. Approaching the school being used for check-in I ran into my friend, Bryan, and shortly afterwards met up with my racing buddy du jour, Tim.
As the starting time of 8:30 a.m. approached, several thoughts went through my mind. “Don’t go out too hard in the beginning”, ”Should I go to the bathroom one more time?”, and perhaps most importantly, “Why the hell am I doing this instead of sitting on my balcony reading the paper?” Yet, there I was, looking to spend the last days of my twenties doing something new and challenging. Not really sure of why though.
The race started a few minutes after 8:30. We were near the first third of the 3,000 plus people registered for the event. As I started out, I kept my first half mile somewhat slower than normal. My main concern was feeling the competitive streak and going out way too hard in the beginning. Lord knows my competitive side can take over to race people who don’t realize I’m racing them, only to land me with some serious fatigue by mile 3. This was a 10k though, and not a 5k, and I was damned if I wasn’t going to finish.
Still, I found that initial mile a little slow, and well, there were some guys passing the main group. Perhaps I would pick it up a little to a regular pace. “You’re going to regret this, Joey DeSanto”. As RFK Stadium neared, I was staying strong at a regular pace and falling into my groove. “This isn’t bad at all. I wonder how far we’ve gone.” Just as I think this I pass a sign reading 2 Mile Mark.
“Wait, a second. Does that mean I just ran two miles or I’m starting my second mile? Do I have four more miles left? Are my knees going to hurt? Oh look, Toy Story 3 is being advertised on the stadium. Did that guy just check me out? Focus!”
As I finish rounding the stadium, I’m still in my groove. The cheering strangers alongside the street are quite helpful. I also thought it would be terribly dull to sit alongside a road and cheer on racers. What’s the point in yelling for strangers? To my surprise, it was proved a boost to my stamina, especially the little kids cheering for people.
I’m now approaching the south end of the Capitol. I’m still thinking how cool is it complete strangers cheer me on. It would be great to have some familiar faces in the crowd but who am I going to subject to watching me run by at 9 in the morning on a Sunday? That’s just a form of cruelty to some. I’m thinking this when I realize that it doesn’t matter how familiar or unfamiliar the faces are. The answer to my question of, “why the hell am I doing this?” dawns on me somewhere in mile 3 in the shadow of the Capitol Building. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this because I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own. This thought hops right out of my head and in front of my face as my playlist changes to the next song.
Yup, music from Rocky. I’m staying at a moderately fast pace, passing others, charged by my revelation and staying fueled by the music in my ears. The song choice makes me a running cliché (literally) but I don’t care. This feels good and I’m on track to finishing this thing strong. “Don’t overdo it” a voice inside me tells myself. “I’m not,” I reply, beginning the decent down Independence Avenue.
I take the downward slope of the hill lightly looking ahead to where the race bends left and eventually turns around. “This hill is going to be a beast to run up”, I think to myself. I keep pushing myself forward at a steady pace, not overdoing it for fear of breaking down my return lap up the hill. The song I’m listening to starts to end as I’m making the ascent back up Independence Avenue. “Shit. Is my playlist over already? I need all the energy I have left to get back up this thing and finish the race.” The next song starts…
Great. Now I’m a running, gay, cliché’ (literally x 2). To compliment this observation, my pushing myself forward has now brought me to being directly behind a woman running in a frilly, purple tutu. Surely, this is God’s way of keeping my humor in check so my knees don’t give out. I’m making it back up the hill painlessly and in quicker time that I had imagined. Nearing the top of the hill and rounding the corner, the houses bare the familiar look of the ones near the start of the race. I see a sign up ahead on the right reading Mile 6. I’m almost done.
The Spice Girls. Goofy? Sure. Yet, oddly comforting in that the music of my late teens is keeping me afloat towards the finish line of my late twenties. Knowing that I have yet to tap into my energy reserves, I start to really push myself. I begin to sprint as I see a sign for 2nd Street. The finish line is at 5th and I can really flash through these next three blocks. And, I do. I pass others in front of me and approach the finish line. The clock ahead still reads under 50 minutes. I notice someone out of my periphery to the left, sprinting as well. “Oh no, sorry, this is my dramatic finish.” I stay in front of him and pass the banner labeled Finish.
“That was easy”, I think to myself as I grab water and a banana. I’m officially experiencing a runner’s high and I’m proud of myself for completing my first 10k, and for doing it for me. Again, if I can push myself in this way, I wonder what other ways I can push myself. A thought to ponder during my next race perhaps?