"Would there be a lot of people? Would they all be faster than me? Would they be friendly?" and that's when I realized my lovely social anxiety was rearing it's ugly head. If you know me pretty well you would probably never guess I had a problem being social. I tend to talk, a lot, and not too quietly either I may add. But that's only if you know me well.
I appreciate all the hard work you do for me, but sometimes I wish you would just take a rest. There are something I just don't need to think about, and if you stop thinking so much I maybe just a little happier and definitely a little bit less stressed. Just consider it ok?
And like any other night-before something big, all I had were nightmares about the next day to come. Completely ridiculous dreams about not getting to use the bathroom before running, having the wrong map of the route and getting lost, and then it turned utterly bizarre as I was being hunted down by some crazed killer (clearly that is my punishment for watching Criminal Minds before bedtime) and just as I was about to be shot in the face (yikes!) the gentle melody of my cell phone alarm woke me out of my sleep. There are not many times I love my alarm, but when it wakes me from nightmares if it is magical.
I was afraid to be too early. I am usually ALWAYS early if I can help it, but not this morning. That damn social anxiety thing was waking up inside of me and it told me not to be too early. I wish I had more strength to not listen. I stretched, I ate, put on sunscreen, I got all my things together and with a satisfied nod to the mirror by the front door, I was on my way. This was going to be great, because this was the part where I start to get excited. I would run four miles with the group, drive back to the city, and do a six mile out and back to bring my daily total up to ten.
The highway which is my daily commute into work was pleasantly deserted and I am totally jamming out to the radio, enjoying the sunshine. Leave it to me though, the girl who works TWO minutes from Valley Forge National Park to get off the wrong exit, not be able to turn left, have to drive around the ENTIRE King of Prussia Mall (ps by the way the mall is like a small city) before getting on the right road and making it to the park.
The clock on my dash reads 7:58. I keep seeing the words "8am sharp" in my mind, from the coach's email earlier this week. 7:59. As I turn the corner into the parking lot I see a few different large groups gathering and then it occurs to me, which one will be MY group? But I am so mad at myself for being late that I dash out of the car and run up to the one that is standing around in a circle. It would be so like me to run up to the wrong group and hang out with them for about five minutes before I realize I'm not in the right place. Thank goodness I was right, a man is talking to the group and he mention's Crohn's and Colitis and I let out an internal sigh of relief.
I look around the circle and am immediately intimidated by the few older men dressed like pros. It's like Larry, fast forwarded a bit. Oh no. But then I keep looking around and realize there are some people who look just as unsure as I feel, and some in between. I feel better again.
Oh and ps did I mention that I stood out like a sore thumb in my pink leggings? Let's face it though, a Runner's wardrobe is pretty similar to a New Yorker's, black. At least lots of black bottoms and a few colored tops. And there I stood, pink leggings, white long sleeve Nike tech tee, pink iron-man watch, pink Under Armour headband. Hey at least I was repping some pretty legit brands right?
We listen as the woman to my right talks about nutrition (one of my favorite subjects!) and then we go around in and say our names. But not before I realize I didn't take my inhaler and I make a mad dash back to my car, take two quick puffs, and then dash back.
And then we are on our way. Out of the cold shade of the lower parking lot and into the warmth of the sunny trails. My memories of Valley Forge are extremely biased, because for two years at least the only time I was out here was for the Valley Forge Revolutionary Run, a five mile loop of the park. The race is in mid April and my body was never ready for anything more than a brisk walk. Not to mention the race finishes up a majorly painful hill. I was thankful we were walking to the top and would start to run from there. It looked like there were far more people doing a run-walk than a full out run, which made me more nervous because it looked like I would be trying to keep up with the experts. But the pace to start off was right on par with what I could handle, and after all, I reminded myself it was only four miles. I could do four miles, and I should be ale to push myself through four miles. There are six of us running, open fields and bunker houses all around us. It is a gorgeous morning and my legs feel great, great because the first stretch is flat. Before I know it, there are hills but I keep up the pace. I can feel my breathing start to become a tiny bit labored but I do not let my pace stop. It really helps that there is a group to keep up with. I am so thankful for them being there. We chat about our past running experience, and things like that. We hit the turn around point and head back to the parking lot, passing other team members on the way and we cheer and high five each other as we pass. And although the chatter continues, most of the way I am just thinking about the whole experience, and the reasons that brought me here in the first place. The run is over before I even feel like it's been hard, although I know my legs will be reminding me for the rest of the day that I made them wake up early and run. Twice.
Whenever it feels hard I remind myself this is only the beginning and the road is only going to get longer. As we gather by the cars, waiting for everyone to finish one of the coaches mentions running 19 miles after this, and another chimes in saying he is running 20 tomorrow. Suddenly my 6 extra miles don't seem so bad, in fact they seem a little insignificant. I remember why I love running with training programs such as this one. Not only does it feel good to know you are giving back and doing something you love, but it is so inspiring to see the people who volunteer their time to coach. People who run multiple marathons in a year, ultra marathons, and run 70 -80 miles a week. People who make me want to run harder, faster, better.
I think about this the whole time I am on my second run of the day. When I am tired, when my legs hurt, when the sun's mid day heat has sweat dripping off my forehead. I think that I must keep going. Always keep going. Just Don't Quit.
One Team. One Goal.
Don't forget I am running to raise money for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America - Please click here to visit my fundraising website and donate today. Crohn's disease affects people I am very close to and it means so much to be able to do such a good thing.