Unbridled III: Don’t be Fast

The Team

Sunday morning I ran 4.8 miles through downtown Albuquerque, up Central, into the Country Club neighborhood where my apartment used to be, and along the bosque until I crossed under Interstate 40 and handed the dark blue scrunchie that served as our baton to Sarah K., who would run the next leg of our team’s Duke City Marathon relay. Until Sunday morning, I hadn’t run more than four miles since my last Duke City Marathon relay in 2000. There have been 5Ks and one mile fun runs and seasonal stretches in which I’ll hit the acequia trails for thirty minutes three or four times a week. But I’ve never been the kind of runner who traveled to another city or state to race, or who invested in special gear, other than sunblock and a good pair of shoes, or who even went out on days when I could see my breath.

As our team waited for the last leg to round the corner onto 3rd Street so we could all cross the finish line together, we cheered for everyone who passed: the white-haired guy who ran the entire marathon barefoot, the relay team dressed as superheroes (I’ve already put in my request to the team that we incorporate capes and wristbands into next year’s attire), the 20K walkers, and the dark-haired woman who ran the first 4.8 miles of her race just beyond my reach. She wore a gray microfiber T-shirt that comforted me when the sun had not yet risen above the Sandias, and my friend broke away to keep up a ten-minute mile.

“Don’t be Fast,” the gray T-shirt read.

Don’t be Fast. I love that. Slow and steady. I’m a tortoise, not a hare.

I hadn’t trained enough for the race. I ran twenty minutes the morning of the wedding and then spent the following week lying with Henry on a beach in Tulum, my only exercise our daily walk to Villa Las Estrellas for fish tacos and margaritas.

We got back from our honeymoon thirteen days before the race. That week, I eased back into my routine with a few twenty-minute runs, reasoning that I would work up to thirty minutes by the time the race arrived. Then I caught a cold, which kept me awake at night, which made waking early for a quick jog undesirable, at best.

I had told myself that I could walk once I reached the halfway point. I had also told myself that I could walk guilt-free once I hit the three-mile mark. It was somewhere between mile two and three that “Don’t be Fast” checked her stopwatch. Another woman, who had been behind me up to this point, but was now even with “Don’t be Fast,” asked her the pace.

“Ten-forty,” she answered.

That’s good, I thought. I wanted to keep my pace under twelve.

We passed the pond at Tingley Beach. An elderly man cheered us on from his lawn chair along the bosque trail. The sun was about to pop over the Sandias. And that’s when I noticed the gray T-shirt again.

Don’t be—LAST? Don’t be Last. Don’t. Be. Last.

It seems I am always just starting to run again. It’s how I feel about writing now. After devoting most of my creative energy this year to planning the wedding, I’m out of shape.

The Finish Line!

I walked a quarter mile and then ran my strongest when I hit the four-mile mark. I came in seven minutes behind my real-runner friend whom I hadn’t seen since the race started. Our team crossed the finish line together, 59th out of 64 Coed groups. We weren’t fast. Or last. We finished, and that’s all we had to do.

Published in: on October 27, 2011 at 5:58 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yay, you did it. Proud of you.

  2. Team races are the best! A couple of weekends ago, some girlfriends and I walked a half marathon. Our goal was to stay together, and six of us crossed the finish line together. For many, it was their first time at that distance. For me, it wasn’t a race, but a chance to spend some quality time with friends on a beautiful fall day!

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