After a decent 8-mile run last Sunday, I made the last-minute decision to sign up for the Virginia is for Lovers 14K (8.7-mile) race. I've run the race every year since it began in 2009 (OK, well, twice) and had hoped to continue the streak. But I was worried. I didn't want to injure myself. I didn't want to log another Did Not Finish in my race history. And, once I again, I'm heavier than last year. Needless to say, I was a little worried leading up to today.
I only had about five hours of sleep, but that's pretty normal the night before a race. As I huddled in the corral before it began, nerves fluttered in my belly. The thing about races, for me, is that I never know until I start running whether it will be OK or not. There have been times I hefted my body into a trot only to discover that my legs were like lead and the mileage ahead was going to be brutal.
With the colder weather and recent troubles with my tight calves, I also was worried about how much time it would take to loosen up.
With the sound of the starter horn blaring, I discovered that my legs weren't as fresh as I'd have liked, but they weren't iron pegs, either. I started off slow, sped up in the middle, was somewhat consistent doing the 3/2 run/walk, but toward the end was feeling the added distance. It had been quite awhile since I'd run more than 8 miles.
As is custom at the VFL race, I was greeted at the end with a medal and a firefighter holding out a carnation. In years past, my firefighter hasn't been too thrilled to do the job. Maybe by the time I crossed the finish line he had seen thousands of other women, most pretty hot in their tiny runner's clothes, and seeing me wasn't treat. I think one year my firefighter even called me "ma'am." But this guy was nice. A most perfect carnation passed into my still-gloved hand as the firefighter said - not "Congratulations" or "Good job" but - "Happy Valentine's Day."
After cleaning up, I got into the car to meet a good friend for lunch. The line of cars leading out to Princess Anne Road was huge. I sat after the red light turned green and back to red a few cycles. It was a gorgeous day (finally!) and my car window was down. In the past few weeks, as my weight has gone up and down, so has my spirit. I've seen some very low days. But sitting in that car, my perfect carnation sitting next to me, the sun shining in my open window and a lunch to look forward to (along with a day off work), I could feel my spirit lifting. The run had been good. I finished. I wasn't hurting, beyond the normal I-just-ran-8.7-miles soreness. And at that moment, all seemed peaceful.
That's when I heard the little voice off to the left.
"Not too shabby."
I looked over, only to see this toddler (I'd say 2 or 3 years old) sitting in his carseat in the back of his dad's truck. His window was open, too. And on his face was the biggest smile I'd ever seen. A genuine smile. A flirty smile. I laughed and laughed and smiled back at the little man who - for who knows what reason - had just told me "Not too shabby."
I continued to wait at the red light. I creeped ahead when it turned green and stopped seconds later when it was red again. And soon, my mind had already drifted to thoughts of "Why is this traffic light so long?"
Then I heard him again.
Again with the big ole smile.
I smiled back, and, soon, my car was finally moving.
It was a good day. For a girl who doesn't have a Valentine this Valentine's Day, I still got the flower, the flirty smile and a third 14K race under my belt.
I'd say, all in all, not too shabby.