Monday, July 4, 2011

A trip down Peachtree...

Today, I turned 50.  And as I have done for my birthday many, many times, I ran the Peachtree Road race.   I started running this race on my 23rd birthday.  I’ve missed a few years for various reasons (babies, travels, laziness).  But, today, I celebrated my 19th Peachtree road race.  And, I have some very fond memories along the way.

The first year I ran, there were only 25,000 participants.  Nope… I’m not among the elite that ran it when there were only several hundred runners.  It was already an event to be attended when I started.  And,  I really didn’t know WHAT to expect. 

I had just started running regularly that year, and completing Peachtree was my goal.  Now, being young and naïve, I thought I could definitely make a mark on Peachtree.  I had NO idea!  Tom dropped me off, and planned to meet at the Delta tent when I finished.  However, what we didn’t count on was that it would take a lot longer than one of my normal runs.  It actually only took me about 5 or ten minutes to cross the starting line that year.  But, I was running up Cardiac Hill when I heard the announcement on someone’s radio that the first runner had crossed the finish line.  DANG!  I was just at the halfway point.  I didn’t win!  Hahaha!   But, I was amazed at all the Shepherd Spinal clinic patients that were out there watching, listening to the race, and cheering us on.  

At the five mile mark, I hit the wall, and started to stop and walk.  This older man came by and grabbed my arm.  He said, “Don’t stop now sweetie!  I’m 76 years old, if I can do it, you can do it!”   And… he would not let me stop until we crossed the finish line! 

When I finally made it to the end of the race, Tom was NOWHERE to be found.  I hung out at the Delta tent for a long time, and really didn’t have any idea how I would find him.  Cell phones had not been invented (I KNOW!) , and the crowd was huge.  Finally, he came straggling up.  And, to my major embarrassment, he admitted that he had gotten worried when all the runners kept coming in, so he had gone to the medical tents to make sure I wasn’t there. You see, even he didn’t think I would make it out alive! 

Many years have passed, and many races have followed. This year there were 60,000 runners.   There have been years that I didn’t really train, and Tom would AGAIN worry that he would have to check the medical tents for me.  I have run it pregnant, I have run it injured, I have run it with a group, I have run alone, and I have even trained for it.  But, I have never, after the first race, tried to run it for a personal best.   This is an event!  And, I am not Kenyan! (Surprise!)   

So , this year, my niece ran with me.  She is 25, and I turned 50 today.   I showed her the ins and outs of the race.  We moved from side to side to visit friends holding signs,avoid sprayers, find water tables, find open spaces, etc.    This year, I found myself as the seasoned veteran cheering on the new runner.  I honestly never thought I would still love doing this.  And to think that I was worried about turning 50!

Last year, I didn’t get my number and the amazing people at ATC helped me get it resolved.  I sent the following recap in to Michelle as a Thank You and they published it in the wingfoot magazine:   

Telling the twins’ family how much we missed them at the race – 10 seconds
Stopping to “happy chat” and hug old friends along the course – 120 seconds
Being blessed by a priest – 5 seconds
Having a “5 second dance party” with the steel drum band – 5 seconds
Making sure to tell the volunteers at the water stations thank you – 10 seconds times ???
Greeting all the amazing Shepherd clinic patients along cardiac hill – 30 seconds
Trying to open the freeze pop I received around the 4 mile mark – 10 seconds 
Slowing down to encourage  a runner or walker to keep going – 30 seconds 
Trying to look fresh and smiley at the “finish line”  pictures – 3 seconds
Picking up speed at the finish line when someone yelled “You got this”  -  minus 4 seconds
Crossing the finish line of my 18th Peachtree Road Race running for fun instead of a personal best – PRICELESS! 

Yes, every year is a trip down memory lane for me. It is my birthday present to myself.  And my family drives down to watch because they know it’s what I want to do.  This year, they were standing by the side right at the picture line.  I saw them and turned around to wave.  So… when the pictures were snapped, there was nothing but my backside showing.  I sure hope it gives the race coordinators a chuckle!  Oh well, I guess it will be motivation for next year! 

One year, when I’m a whole lot older, I plan to be a spectator and cheer all the other people on.  But, that will be a long time from now… If that 76 year old man I met my first year can do it, so can I!  

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