Monday, November 1, 2010
I sat down in the sand, looking out at the very blue ocean. The sun reflected on the water, making it look like glass. All around me, families laughed and couples took photos and friends chatted. A little girl did a walking handstand toward the water, her parents warning her of the incoming tide and laughing when the water crept up to her hands.
And there I sat. I had just finished the Wicked 10K at the Oceanfront. And I was feeling very much alone, the thoughts in my head telling me I had - once again - failed seeming louder than ever.
It was a day that started hours earlier when I sat up not knowing where I was or why my alarm clock was going off in the middle of the night. I had only been asleep for four hours having worked late the night before. But I got up, dressed in my costume (a blind referee), grimaced as I looked at my fat self in the mirror (the costume was way too tight) and took off for the Beach.
I felt very self-conscious in my costume, hating how I looked. It's weird to feel like the freak when you're surrounded by people dressed as horses, cartoon characters, sumo wrestlers. But I did.
I spent the next hour searching for my friends who also were running the race, but I never found them. I had to have a stranger take my photo so I could document how I looked. I immediately regretted that.
I was pleased when I started running that I could actually run. I had spent the previous two weeks worrying about my sore knee and shin. I had tested the waters when I went hiking in the mountains the week before and was so pleased when I was able to climb up steep hills and not feel pain (though going down the hills was another story). But who knew how I would feel until I actually started racing.
I ran the first mile fine, but during Mile 2 or 3 my legs cramped up. It didn't help that we had entered a stretch of the Boardwalk and I was running on concrete, a big no-no for big girls like myself. So I had to walk. And watch as a Hippie, a Fred Flintstone and, yes, even a Snail passed me by.
Around Mile 4, I found my second wind and took off running faster. I felt great. Even the last mile - another stretch of Boardwalk concrete - wasn't awful.
But my time was.
I finished in 1:23:30, pretty much my worst 10K ever.
Months before, when I had decided I was not going to train for the Marine Corps Marathon, I had made my new goal to PR in the Wicked. Instead, here I was, failing again.
Now, after searching the beach for my friends and coming up empty, I plopped down on the sand and looked out at the ocean. I thought about the past week and how my life was so different from what it was a year ago, two years ago, five years ago. I felt lonelier than ever. Fatter than ever. My boyfriend and I had broken up after almost four years together. My birthday the day before consisted of paying bills, cleaning and going to work. The only birthday cake I had was via the piece I bought myself at the grocery store; the biggest excitement of the day was trying to figure out who the "Aunt" was who didn't receive the birthday cake that had now been cut up and priced as individual pieces. My slice said "Happy."
The tide was coming in, the water creeping up closer to my seat on the sand. I watched as it washed away footprints and the girl's handprints from her walking handstand. As each mark in the sand was erased, I tried to do the same to the negativity in my head.
And I realized how silly it was for me to sit there complaining about a life that was pretty blessed. I was able to run without pain. I had a job that allowed me to pay the bills. I had the money to buy that slice of cake. And I was sitting at the ocean on a perfect autumn day.
I got up and headed for my car.
"Diana!" Brian exclaimed as we walked past each other. "Colleen and John and Laura are over here."
I had finally found my friends.