I always have trouble sleeping before a big race. I'm usually very restless before a half marathon or 10-miler and can never get a wink in.
But who'd have thought I'd get that way before a 5K? A mere THREE miles.
Yet, there I was this morning, 3 a.m., unable to sleep. Then at 4. Then at 5. Then at 5:30.
And then, 30 minutes before the alarm went off, I slept.
And didn't want to wake up.
But off I went, eyes half open, to a 5K on a sticky, sticky morning. I was literally drenched before the start horn blew; the humidity was like a wet, soppy cloud that engulfed us all.
I knew from the second my feet crossed the start mat that I'd do better at this 5K than I did at last week's. My legs felt just fine, almost fresh. The race organizer said there would be water at each mile so I told myself to just make it to Mile 1 without stopping. Well, I guess when he said there would be water at each mile, he meant "somewhere within the mile." I ran straight until I saw the glimmer of cups ahead at the 1.5 mile mark.
I hardly drank a thing from my cup but I immediately felt nauseated. I threw the rest of the water over my already soggy body and pushed ahead. And by push ahead I mean I ran for a quarter mile, walked for a tenth of a mile, etc.
Then, up ahead, I saw a little boy walking alone (the race was for For Kids, which helps homeless families). As I passed him, I heard him mumbling/grumbling/making the kind of HURMPFH I make when I can't go a step farther. I told him there was only a half a mile left and he was doing great. Then I asked if he wanted to run with me.
We ran a little, walked a little, and he regaled me with stories of his other visits to the arboretum, his gymnastics class, his sister and mom who were behind us somewhere, and how the winner probably already won his medal even though he (the boy) was running AS FAST AS HE COULD!
I told him he was probably one of the fastest kids there. He said "maybe." Then he looked behind us at a boy a couple of yards away. "I have to beat him," he said. So we ran some more (this time, though, he took off in one of those kid sprints to prove his point; then he stopped, turned around and waited for me and we continued our jog/walk).
I honestly don't know if I would have run more without him or run less without him. But I'm glad I don't know, because it was a precious moment. When we reached the 3-mile mark and he saw the crowd up ahead, he sprinted away and crossed to the sounds of cheers and clapping. (And, yes, he beat that boy.)
And I finished 2 minutes and 20 seconds better than last week's race.
I was still slow, but much improved. The last time I had run that fast was in April, when, yes, I was more than 10 pounds lighter.
On a side note, I'm noticing a pattern emerging from my recent races. After I cross the finish, I run into a person (always a woman) who stops me and says thanks. Supposedly I am a good pacer. "I tried to keep up with you for the first mile," this latest woman said. "It was my first race." This follows two recent races where a similar thing happened. It's bizarre. But it's why I love running. Even overweight shufflers can inspire.
As can grumbling little boys.