My friend Kim and I decided to run Albuquerque’s Chips and Salsa Half Marathon together in the way that many momentous decisions throughout history have been made: over beer. At Horse & Angel Tavern one evening, she described her preparation for the race. I chirped, “I’ll come cheer for you!” She said, “Or you could run it and pace me.”
Half a beer later, I agreed.
Flash forward to race day. My legs had recovered adequately from the half marathon I’d run the week before. The weather was perfect. Oddly, I had butterflies in my belly.
Theory: Butterflies gain strength when you’re trying to help someone else get a PR.
I quieted the butterflies by wandering around, visiting the Porta-Potties repeatedly, and hanging out with my group. Every one of us was running that morning – how cool is that? Kim and I would tackle the half marathon; my boyfriend (code name “Robin Hood”) would run the 5k; and another friend would also run the 5k – as her first race ever!! Our support crew was…each other.
After a brief separation from Kim at the start line, I found her and we commenced our 13.1-mile journey. I let her set the pace, as she was wearing a Garmin and knew exactly what kind of splits she wanted. My role was primarily moral support.
I liked it! We chatted, with periodic, comfortably quiet interludes dotting the stories we swapped. Once in a while Kim would check her Garmin and adjust our pace accordingly (I admit it, I have a compulsion to not just pass people, but pass them decisively, which leads to scoldings from Garmin. Oops.). The previous night’s rain had created some Olympic-sized puddles – I swear I saw fish swimming around – but luckily, only one necessitated careening through the middle of it. Phew!
Shortly after we passed the 11-mile marker, I was called to bat. We were doing beautifully, on target to at least meet Kim’s goal if not break it, but she was tiring. She told me to produce a 20-minute story. Knowing all too well the mutinous rumblings of legs in the last miles of any long race, and the value of a good distraction from them, I scrambled for a story. Mountains popped into my brain, so I told Kim about my adventures with two fourteeners last summer.
Somehow, between the ghastly toilets at the Mt. Yale trailhead and the best doughnuts EVER at the top of Pike’s Peak, we covered those last miles. With less than half a mile to go, I figured I should just keep talking, so I babbled about running form. I’m sure it was just noise to Kim, but no matter. The finish line came into view. I waved her forward and watched her finish, and it was one of the proudest moments in my life. She had beaten her goal by minutes!
Robin Hood was waiting in the finish area with a big hug, and as I munched the breakfast burrito handed to me by a race volunteer, an idea that’s been percolating in my mind for a while finally crystallized: achieving success and happiness for yourself in running is all well and good, but it doesn’t mean much unless you reach out and help someone else find it, too.
Cheers to the fall racing season!