I’ve been running for almost two years now. During that two years I’ve ran distances spanning 5k to 26.2. I’ve ran in the predawn darkness during the midst of winter in single digit temps. I’ve run on hot as Hades Ohio summer days with 200% humidity. I’ve gotten the runners trots at the most inopportune times. But during today’s 5k, I had something happen that has NEVER happened to me before: I puked.
This race was to raise money for breast cancer. I had a master plan of hitting below the 26 minute mark, something that I’ve come close to on training runs. This was also my first race after the loss of my little sister, a recent event that has obviously rocked my world to the core. (That is a post for another time. Not ready yet.) So I loaded the girls up and took them with me – another first. They’ve never seen me race.
When we got to the starting area, I signed in and deposited the girls with a friend. Another friend of mine (a two time Boston Marathon qualifier, thank you very much) volunteered to pace me for this endeavor. We made our way to the front of the start line and when the siren sounded, we took off.
The weather was perfect. Cloudy skies, 60 degrees, no breeze, - couldn’t ask for any better running weather. We were keeping an 8 minute pace and if felt good. At the two mile marker, Tracey told me were in the clear for a sub 26 minute time even if we slowed down to a nine minute pace. I was stoked. And secretly relieved, as my lungs were starting to burn like the fiery pits of hell.
But just about ½ mile from the finish line, I started feeling queasy. Thirty seconds later, I was extremely nauseous. I coughed and realized that the next cough was going to bring up whatever I had in my stomach, namely the strawberry waffle that I snarfed down on the way to the race. So I did the sensible thing and darted off the path straight for the bushes. I barely made it before the contents of my stomach spewed toward freedom all over the pretty flowers.
As I was hurling, all I could think about was that I f*cked myself out of my goal time. That led me to pause my Garmin. (No worries, I kept my wrist above the stream so that no puke hit it.) After two more projectile emissions, I finally felt sweet relief. Tracey was beside me, asking me if I was okay and assuring me we could walk to the finish line and try again at the next race in a few days. We walked back to the path and after about 10 seconds I decided to run again. She asked me if I was dizzy and I said no more than usual, so I restarted the Garmin off we went.
We finished the race at 27:09, tying for 11th place overall (small race, just around 100 people) AND first place in our age group. It was also a PR for me. Not bad, considering the puking incident. Plus the fact that I got to see the Spawnderellas smiling faces at the finish line made it even better.
I’ve seen other runners puke during runs and always wondered how in the gay hell they kept going. But after today, I understand. And I realized (again) that running is a lot like life. There are good runs and bad runs. Some days are harder than others. Elation and sadness, much like victories and failures, come and go. But as long as the desire to keep moving forward in life is there, that’s what matters. As long as that desire is there, we have a fighting chance – a chance to find happiness, a chance to find peace – a chance to find (and accept) ourselves.