Monday, April 16, 2012
I woke up around five the morning of the big day. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was what I'd had for dinner, but I had the worst case of indigestion that I can recall. Ever. Eventually, after flopping around in the bed, I ran to the bathroom to rid myself of the problem. I hate to throw up, but it was happening wether I wanted to or not.
"Great!" I thought to myself as I wretched and coughed, "I'm supposed to run my first official 5K in a few hours. How's this gonna work out?"
After I made a strong pot of coffee, I slipped into my robe and began the process of reasoning with my mind and body. Other than my stomach and throat, I felt fine physically. Two solo runs through the neighborhood and three "fun runs" sponsored by Fleet Feet had hopefully conditioned me for, what I was told was, "a relatively flat course."
Mentally, nervousness aside, I felt good about the run. I'd successfully finished a handful of three-milers over the last couple of weeks, so I knew what it felt like and could prepare myself. I also knew I'd have my Fitness Jesus beside me the whole way.
"I am gonna run with you up until the finish if that's ok with you." Terry had text me the night before. He'd been fighting off a cold all week, so I told him that wouldn't be necessary.
"I'm good... I wouldn't miss running with you for the world." he replied.
I'd also been told that there would be members of liveRightnow at the finish line to cheer me along. Knowing I had the support of so many felt good. It gave me strength.
I entered the address into my iPhone, knowing nothing about Madison County except how to get to P.F. Chang's, the Apple Store and the Malco Cinema, and set out with forty-five minutes to spare.
The first address was a new church under construction, with no runners in sight. After reading the fine print on the registration form, I searched for the elementary school where it was being held. The first result put the school very near the unfinished church, in a vacant lot-again, no runners.
"Is this a joke?" I thought.
The third search result delivered me deep inside a suburban neighborhood called Reunion. I flagged down a woman pushing a toddler in a stroller and she assured me it was easy to find.
"Go up here," she said, pointing in no discernible direction, "take the second right, then a left and it's the only building on that street. You can't miss it."
Those directions led me to no less than three dead end streets, the last was a row of unfinished homes. In a panic, realizing I had less than ten minutes before registration ended, I phoned Terry to tell him I was lost. It seems that he and Meredith were having trouble finding the spot too.
I began to think about how ridiculous it would look if I missed my first 5K. I became angry at the thought of having to explain to the readers of the Jackson Free Press how I'd dropped the ball. Then, after firing up a cigarette -something I'd sworn not to do after I left home- it occurred to me that the Twitters would literally brow-beat me until I was forced to commit "Twitter-cide."
Eventually, and not a moment too soon, I happened upon a string of neon cones along a seemingly unnamed stretch of road that lead me to the place. Terry had run ahead to register me, while Meredith waited for me to park.
Noticing my distress, she said "Hey, are you okay?"
"I'm pissed off AND I have to pee." I muttered."
"You're going to do just fine, Eddie." she assured me, then looked directly in my eyes. "Hey, you've got this."
As I made my way to the registration line, my nerves shot, my head aching and tense as a virgin bride on her wedding night, I began to doubt wether or not I was able. I'd let the doubt slip in, so I began to frantically scan the crowd for my Fitness Jesus, somewhere in the unorganized mass of participants and onlookers.
"This is crazy." I whispered to myself. "I can't do this."