Those of you who know me well probably just did a double take there…5Ks and I are generally not on speaking terms. I’ve coached many runners to complete their first or fastest 5Ks – some of them who claim to max-out at that distance (I’m looking at you Hanni) – but I personally do not enjoy this distance at all.
I used to enjoy a 5K as much as the next runner but as I got more and more experienced, I realized something that changed my mind – for me, the first 3 miles of every run SUCK.
So, think about that for a minute, a 5K is 3.1 miles – translation: only the .1 doesn’t suck. After the first 3 miles, I can (literally) cruise for hours and feel totally fine. It didn’t take me long to do that math and discover that the longer the race distance the higher the ratio of “good” miles to “sucky” miles.
Long story short, I don’t do 5Ks often…that is, unless there’s some compelling reason to do so.
Today, the reason was VERY compelling.
A few weeks ago, my friend Isa posted in our running group’s Facebook page looking for suggestions for a 5K to run in early September. Many of us chimed in to suggest this local race and offering to run it with her…yes, even me. Why would I do such a thing?
This was a monumental milestone race for Isa.
Not in terms of distance – she’s completed a couple of half-marathons and a bunch of other long-distance events. This race was extraordinary because it was to be the first race she participated in since receiving her Stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year; in fact, she had just completed 6 rounds of chemotherapy 1 month ago and this race would be only 4 days before she was scheduled to undergo a double radical mastectomy.
No way was I going to miss this!
This morning, we all met up at the race start donned in pink (except Drew cuz he said he doesn’t own any pink…uh huh…).
It was overcast and cool – just the way we runners like it. We let Isa set the pace and the group stayed together. I ran ahead several times to get some video footage of the group running.
There were a few runfies (running-selfies) and photo ops along the way.
The folks that came out in the neighborhood saw our pink and our girl and the support was amazing! At one point, she had her own personal mobile cheering squad lead by a lovely, random stranger who was leading “When I say Isa, you say run” call-and-answer chants as she ran past race spectators in their driveway. AWESOME.
At the finish line, we formed two lines facing each other and clapped (reminiscent of Ragnar DC 2014) as Isa ran through, her army of pink (and Drew) then following right behind her.
We crossed the finish line with her and showered her with hugs. It was even more amazing than I imagined. We were in awe of her.
Once again, she’d solidified her hero status among the group.
It was just over a year ago, that I gave her the title Unstoppable Isa and she has more than lived up to that name. Not even a cancer diagnosis followed by 6 rounds of chemo has done a damn thing to dull that brilliant smile of hers. Congratulations Isa! It was an honor for us to be with you today – we are so grateful for the invite 🙂
She posted a statement after the race:
“Today was an awesome day! I did my first race since my diagnosis and after completing 6 rounds of chemotherapy. But the best part of it was that my lovely husband, bestie and my extended family were there with me each step of the way and were there with me crossing the finish line. One more race for the books and memories.”
That’s the thing about running – it turns complete strangers into great friends; share a few miles with a person and they become family. Running is so much more than exercise. It’s a way of life that, when shared with others, binds folks together in ways that have to be felt to truly understand.
Days like today remind me that it’s not about the miles, it’s about the experience. It is far too easy to get wrapped up in mileage, paces, and intensity. But today, no one on our team has any idea of what our finish time was…and no one cares.