It’s Been Too Long
Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in probably 5 years. It’s been too long to remember exactly when was the last time. In fact, it’s been so long I forgot how good it feels. It keeps the body alive, it nourishes the soul, and it heals all wounds. The “it” is racing. Yep. Simple, as a passionate long distance runner, I haven’t raced in many, many years.
Entering Another World
Stepping out of my 2003 Ford Explorer at Waveny Park in New Canaan, and casting my gaze across the blooming grass and corn fields, framed by trees in full dress after a cold and rainy spring, it felt so good to have the sun hit my face and body, and to feel the slight evening breeze ruffle my running shorts and shirt. It was about 6 pm, and I arrived an hour before race time. Making a dash for the Metro-North train after my last business meeting to commute home and enter another world, I was nervous, not knowing what to expect when I arrived at Waveny Park and toed the line with runners of all sizes, ages and abilities.
40th Annual Waveny Summer XC Series
This year marks the 40th anniversary that Jim Gerweck and Jeff Gee, coaches at Wilton high school, are organizing and timing the Waveny Summer XC Series. This is a low-key, weekly XC race series from June through August, and everyone, from kids to recreational runners to elite athletes (too many to list), comes to enjoy this jewel of a park for an evening run. Last night was the first race this summer, and I wasn’t going to miss it.
Conquering Another Milestone in My Journey After Divorce
My journey of separation, divorce and healing started last June 9, 2018, and the emotions were too raw last summer to consider stepping to the line and racing in the Waveny Summer XC Series. No, last summer I ran through emotional pain, and often struggled to finish my training runs. Racing was out of the question. Every time I ran in Waveny Park, it brought back both beautiful and also painful memories of running with my now 17-year old son, and witnessing many middle and high school XC practices and races. The last of these was cheering him on as he set a personal best 5K time his sophomore year in the FCIAC XC Conference Championship held at Waveny.
Taking Back Control, Nervous and Excited
It was time to take back control, to own the present and the future. Not to have someone tell me “you shouldn’t be running,” “our son can run on his own,” “we’re too busy for you to run and race,” and so many other things I heard for too many years. I was both nervous and excited. 60 minutes to go as I signed up and paid the $3 entry fee. I started to reflect and visualize what I had always done in the past, thinking through the warmup, race and cooldown. All the time realizing, I was on my own. I started to reconnect with old friends who I had seen running in Waveny, but never stopped to catch up. Of course the question came up “where’s your son?” and without sharing any painful details, I mentioned my divorce and unfortunate estrangement from my son. I was ready to go and run a race.
Run, Forrest, Run!
We all started behind an imaginary start line between two orange cones. Hitting my Garmin 235 watch, I was focused on running relaxed and enjoying the experience. Soaking it all in. Feeling what I used to feel such a long time ago. Having it all come back. And making sure that any adrenaline surge would be well contained lest I start too fast and then blow up. The first mile felt fast, but a glance at my watch assured me that 7:49 was not too fast. Disappointed, I focused on passing runners ahead of me, and clocked 7:10 for the second mile. With a mile to go, I wanted to experience the pain and suffering of hard racing and testing the human limit without physically imploding or mentally capitulating. The final mile was the slowest part of the course, with tall grass fields and an uphill finish, but I closed hard in 7:05, and crossed the finish in 22:05.
Not Done Yet
Walking away from the finish and my first race in many years, I realized that part of me that was lost, had been found again tonight. It was an unbelievable feeling. Exhausted physically and emotionally, I started jogging the ½ mile to the high school track. I should’ve returned to my Ford Explorer and driven home, showered and stretched, and crashed. Instead, I wanted to continue living in the moment, and not interrupt my journey. At the track, I ran 4 x 200 meters, with a 200-meter jog between repeats, all in 40 seconds. I gave everything I had. Now it was time to go home.