Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy Birthday New Me!

This past Thursday was my birthday.  A couple weeks ago I started thinking about what I was going to do for it and came up empty.  I usually go out for dinner or for drinks or something, but this year I didn't feel ready to do that.  Then I saw an ad for the Gay 5K to kick off Pride Week here in Buffalo.  It just happened to be on my birthday, so I thought, "Hey! I'll do THAT!"

I am not a runner.  I never have been.  Even when I played softball, my saving grace was that I could swing a bat like nobody's business and hit balls out of the park.  If I hit the ball anywhere within the park, I rarely made it past first base on one hit.  My body just does not like to carry itself on its feet any faster than a slow jog at any given time.  That's why I got into cycling many years ago.  It was the only way I could self-propel with any reasonable speed.

I wanted to be involved with the Gay 5K, though, so I wrote to the organizers and asked if I could walk it.  I've walked other 5Ks before; when I lived in Chicago I did the Bark in the Park walk every year with my dog, and after moving to Buffalo I did the Corporate Challenge a few times.  They told me I was welcome to walk, but that I needed to be aware that the route would be open to traffic after one hour.  I was okay with this, since the route I've been walking in my neighborhood is a mile and a half and I've been able to do it in about 30 minutes.  As long as I kept up a decent pace I wouldn't have an issue.  So I signed up, and so did my friend Sally.  Sally does run and has run 5Ks in the past, but she promised she'd walk with me this time.

Thursday afternoon Sally and I headed downtown to the starting line and picked up our registration packets and race numbers.  We were really doing this!
In all my rainbow glory. And no, that's not my age.  I wish!!

When the race started, we were at the back of the line.  We thought that would be a good place to start so as not to piss off any runners who might have to maneuver around us.  What ended up happening, however, was that everyone ended up WAY ahead of us, and we were bringing up the rear.  This would not have been so bad, except there was a cop car behind us that basically ran us off the road.  The race was NOT closed to traffic for a full hour, we found out.  It was closed only as long as the cop car followed.  And since the cop didn't want to follow our slow asses, we were instructed to walk on the sidewalk.

So we walked.  And we walked.  Sally stopped a few times to take some photos along the way but I kept walking and she would eventually catch up with me each time.  I walked as swiftly as I could, not breaking my stride if I could help it.  A few times I had to stop for traffic (thanks to the now open race course) but otherwise I kept going.

I stopped briefly at the halfway point to get some water and to chat with my friend Leslie who was helping out with refreshments.  She's responsible for this picture:

Hey, look at me!  It's my birthday and I'm walking a 5K!

We were last.  We'd been since about ten minutes into the race when the people behind us dropped out of sight.  Apparently they gave up.  But I didn't.

Shortly after we left the halfway point my legs began to hurt.  I said something about this to Sally, who offered to stop if I needed to.  I said, "NO! I MUST KEEP GOING!"  I knew that if I stopped I might not start again.  I definitely slowed down a little, but then something happened.  Suddenly, through the pain in my legs, I started thinking, "I am strong.  With each step I am getting stronger.  My body is healthy.  My body is good.  Every step brings me closer to my goal."

This became sort of my mantra as I walked.  Slower still than I had walked the first half, but never stopping because "every step brings me closer to my goal." And in the last half a mile, I found strength to walk a little faster.   Of course it might have been the aroma of the burgers cooking at the post-race party that motivated me.

I didn't get my official time, because by the time Sally and I arrived at the finish line everyone was long finished and already partying.  But I still posted our tags:

Hey, someone's gotta come in last, right?

and we got our burgers:

Without the bun, of course.  And both bites were mighty delish!

and then we even got to hang out a little with Vanity Vogue!

By the end of the day I was exhausted but really, really happy.  So I was slow and I finished last, but you know what?  I FINISHED.  And that's what matters.  Nine weeks before this race I weighed 45 pounds more than I do now, and the only exercise I got was walking from the sofa to the kitchen to refill my ice cream bowl.   Every other birthday I've gorged on food and cake to celebrate staying alive for another year, which sometimes seemed a miracle.  But no more.  Bring it on, future years.  I'll be celebrating many more of you if this keeps up.  Huzzah! 

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