It’s finally here.

The Army Ten Miler was the first “big” race I ever signed up for. Before I signed up for my first half-marathon, and then what I thought would be my actual first half-marathon, and then switching my Richmond registration to make THAT my first half-marathon, I signed up for the Army Ten Miler. It was in May. I don’t remember why I chose it. I think I was just thinking about how I live in DC and there are so many military-related events, including races, that happen. I’ve always known the Marine Corps Marathon is a huge deal. And I think I had put the reminder on my calendar to sign up for ATM right after realizing the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler had just happened and that would have been cool to do.

But I also knew I was nowhere near ready to run a 10 mile race. I was struggling with 2 1/2 mile distances. To run two miles after work back in the early spring was cause for major pride and celebration. I still try to remind myself constantly to keep that perspective – always strive for more, but always remember how far you’ve come.

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Signing up for the ATM was a huge deal for me. It meant a commitment. It was the most I’d ever spent money on a race registration, and I knew that meant I had to stick with my still new running hobby. I have always, since I was small, gotten the eyeroll when I get into some new and exciting hobby or passion – whether it was ballet or tap lessons when I was five, soccer during grade school, piano lessons in the 8th grade, even acting, which lasted a long time but eventually ran its course too, all of these things have added some color, beautiful color to my life, but also, something about it always made me want to quit. Soccer was too difficult, dealing with a team full of pre-teen girls. I didn’t practice my piano, so my parents refused to spend money on lessons if I wasn’t going to practice and I was less than upset when the piano got removed from our house. And acting? Acting was just a long life of hoping some subjective quality about me would be enough to get me a temporary paycheck. Acting I worked hard at. But working hard at acting, the craft, the art, doesn’t always pay off just because you worked hard on your talent. And I didn’t have the heart to stay with something so subjective as “her hair just didn’t fit what I’m ‘envisioning’ for the character.”

And I quit jobs. I quit jobs because of nasty coworkers, low pay, disinterest. I quit two jobs this year, one because I felt it was “time to move on” and do something “more prestigious” with my life, and one because I didn’t have the heart to stick out my horrible boss.

But I haven’t quit running. And I keep signing up for races, which means I better, like with the ATM, keep in shape training for them.

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The Expo today was exciting, overwhelming, even emotional. It was my first big Expo, with like a trillion vendors. I don’t know how people walk out of those things just after getting their bibs and t-shirts. My poor friend Alan who is running with me tomorrow had to deal with me trotting along through the booths only to see a vendor I recognized and then disappear into its world for a good ten minutes. It’s a good thing he left before I got to the Sweaty Bands booth. At one point I had $90 worth of headbands in my hands.

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Not only were some of my favorite apparel vendors there, but some race series I’ve signed up for were there, as well as some race series I’ve been seriously considering. ZOOMA almost had me sign up on the spot for the Austin race, but I just knew I couldn’t do it right then and there without having a calendar in front of me, knowing what my financial situation would be like in August, a potentially expensive flight, plus I’m sorely tempted to run Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh next year, which is the same weekend and would be a much easier travel. Speaking of Rock ‘n’ Roll, they were there, and when Alan learned I was already signed up to run RnRUSA here in DC in March, he took the plunge and signed up.

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I just know that after the Expo today, the Army Ten Miler was the perfect “big deal” race to sign up for. I’m glad I’ve raced the distance before with the Perfect 10 Miler, because I’m less nervous about being able to finish and more exciting to just enjoy what an incredible experience I know it will be. To stand at the start with Wounded Vets and wheelchair racers, to watch the jets and the parachutes from the Pentagon, to run by the memorials I’ve grown up with practically in my backyard – and to know it’s all inspired by the US Army’s mottos, “Army Strong,” and especially, “I Will Never Quit” from the Soldier’s Creed, I know it’s the right first “big deal” race for me.

35,000 other people. This girl will be one small, back of the pack runner, but this one’s a fighter.

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