My eyes couldn’t help but focus in on the clock as the finish line appeared. I wasn’t racing, per se, but sometimes I can’t seem to avoid caring altogether. This was meant to be a trot, and only that.
At one point I couldn’t fathom how one could not have every race result memorized. How could you forget the exact time of your 5K PR? Or, alternatively, the slowest 5K? Now, I can’t tell you either. But I can tell you that last week I ran much closer to the “slow” than the fast.
The first time he ran the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot was 2014, when I had a knee injury (see also: very unhappy to miss out). It was the start of a new tradition, since downtown Detroit is now quite a drive to make at six in the morning. This year, we ran to the starting line and back home together, with a little 3.1 mile race in between. It was both the longest and hardest run I’ve done since the Marine Corps marathon last month.
A trot? I can do that.
The funny thing about not racing is the way my brain spins it around. I look for other people at the starting line who look like they too are “not racing” and want to stick with them. I justify my decision to “trot” (not race!) at least eight times before we begin running. I tell myself to really take it easy, seriously. I start slowly, but speed up in a matter of moments because it’s a 5K and I can’t resist the pull to race. It’s “only” three (point one) miles! And in the back of my head, it’s no fun if it’s too easy.
It’s crowded, the street has a lot of potholes, and there are a few hills. I didn’t wear a watch, so I have no reference points. At mile one, I was hardly out of breath, so I picked up the pace. By mile two, I passed most of the people around me. By mile two and a half, I was definitely out of breath. Without the watch, I wondered if I was actually going much faster (or slower?!) than anticipated. In a quick daydream, I wondered if the clock will read “21:xx” when I finish. In a swift reality check, my legs were like, “Dream on, girlfriend.” In actuality, it felt hard to trudge up the hills. Ugh. I missed the mile three marker, if it was even out there, but suddenly there was the last corner to turn.
He was already done, of course, so he looped back to find me. We trot through the last stretch together, and I see “23:xx” on the timer.
Is that my “worst” 5K? Definitely not. My slowest? Probably. But I got to trot around downtown Ann Arbor with healthy legs, it wasn’t snowing, my hands and face still had feeling, and he was right there with me. In my limited Michigan racing experience, these are all good things. And now, my system remembers what it feels like to be out of breath from speed, not just twenty-plus miles. I’ll take the high, either way.