For me, running is about freedom. I find that the freer I feel, the faster I am.
~ Jennifer Beals
Murdicks Run the Chop Challenge. Some years I've gone solo. Others, my husband has come along and brought the kids to watch. This year, we left the girls at home with my parents so we both could race. In addition to a trophy (which my kids used to care a great deal about when they were little) the first place male and female winners are rewarded with a pound of Murdick's Fudge. Yes, a pound. Having won this race a few times in years past, my girls and their cousins were very aware of what I might be bringing home as I prepared to leave in the morning. "Run fast, Mom!!" and "Bring home the fudge, Aunt Rebecca" were a few of the cheers I got as I headed out the door. The pressure was on.
Max & Rosie back in 2013
Typically, it's sunny and hot for this race and this year was no different as it was already 77 degrees at 7:30am. The one upside being that there was no humidity which, as you know, always makes a monumental difference on your performance. I'll take it. Jeff and I arrived early and easily got a parking spot at the school where the race begins. I'll be the first to admit that I'm all about getting to races ahead of time, and I often take a lot of crap about it from my family, none of whom are serious runners, but rolling in with ample time sure as hell beats fighting the crowds for a spot and potentially missing the start (which happens often at this race). We signed up and grabbed our shirts and then I let Jeff know that I was going to head out for a warm up. I asked him if he wanted to join me. His response? "No, Rebecca. I don't run before I run." Fair enough. I took off for a couple easy miles and asked him to meet me back at the car around 8:30 to ditch my layers and change my shoes (yes, I do that, too). When I finished, I was soaked. Literally. Not surprising and somewhat humorous. We found a patch of shade to do some stretching. In that short 30 minute window I met a lovely woman named Theresa, a fellow Oiselle teammate from FL and got to catch up with Eliza, a friend of ours from Colgate who we tend to see about once a summer when we're on the island. I love that about races. At about 5 minutes to 9, we all headed over to the start. Before we took off, we heard from Mike Schroeder, owner of Murdick's Fudge and one of the nicest and most generous guys out there.
He let us know that this year's race held the record number of participants at 609, which increased overall funds raised to an all-time high of $17,840, all of which will go to the MV Boys and Girls Club and the Rotary Club of MV! Big round of applause for this. After Mike's words, the race director asked us all to join in in the singing of the National Anthem. I can't remember the last time I did this at a race, if ever, but I thought it was so cool and surprisingly, we sounded pretty good together. Finally, Mike gave us a Ready, Set, Go and we were off. The five mile course is hilly and between that and the heat, I always find it really challenging. Here's how it unfolded for me.
Mile 1: 6:16 - This mile starts off downhill and between that and the fact that I'm fresh, it's always my fastest.
Mile 2: 6:25 - This mile has both a dip and a rise in it, but neither are very intense and I was still pretty frisky so I didn't lose too much time.
Mile 3: 6:35 - This mile is all uphill. It's brutal. That's all I need to say, really.
Mile 4: 6:42 - This one starts with a rise which is the tail end of mile 3, and continues to rise slightly before a pretty significant dip. Between the hill and the heat, this one is always the hardest.
Mile 5: 6:37 - The final mile is level for the first have and then finishes on an incline. Somehow I managed to dig deep and find some gas for the final push.
Right after we crossed the mat, the EMT crew from MV Hospital handed us cold towels from a cooler sitting at the finish line. This was new and there are no words to describe both how good that towel felt on my face and how grateful I was to those volunteers. We were also treated to Popsicles, the old school cherry, grape and orange ones on a stick. Nothing tastes better than one of these bad boys after a hot race. Nothing. The fastest I've ever run this course was in 34:00 minutes, so I was beyond thrilled to learn that I'd finished in 32:45 this year. I was also relieved to learn that I was the first female across the line and thus would not be going home empty handed!
In all seriousness, though, I haven't been more excited about my race results for quite some time. I've been a runner for years, almost my whole life, but it means something different to me at this stage in the game. I have changed my approach to running and racing because I know, despite the fact that I'm getting older, that I still have so much more that I want to accomplish. Working hard, pushing myself to extremes, training for marathons, running for teams, all of it brings me such happiness and joy. There are days when I question my choices, when I wonder if all the hours I'm putting in are worth it. And then I have a race like this one. Despite having started doing this race "for fun" at age 32, I ran my fastest time ever this year, at age 41. So, yes, all that work is, indeed, paying off. The trophy and the fudge, they're awesome. But the feelings I had after this race; the satisfaction of knowing that everything I'm doing is for the right reasons, well, you can't put a price on that.
Listen to this:
Now Or Never - Saltwater Sun