The T-Shirt Collector

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This morning dawned perfectly perfect in Richmond, Virginia.

I was up at 7:00, unfortunately, but it was for good reason: the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k!

This was my very first 10k; thus, a PR and a PDR πŸ˜‰ See how I did that?

Dad and I were out the door by 7:50. We parked at the old University of Richmond football stadium and caught a shuttle to just a few blocks from the Start line. Dad pointed out that as we boarded the shuttle, the fastest Ethiopian and Kenyan runners had already completed the race!

We clung to our granola bars and our paper cups of water as we weaved our way through nearly 40,000 people — not including spectators. We finally found our time bracket group, UC, behind a young soldier carrying the UC sign. We made our way toward the front so we could be among the first of our bracket to begin running.

After what seemed like an hour, it was finally our bracket’s turn to begin! We crouched on the Start line, my hand poised and ready to begin Dad’s watch that I was using to time us. There is an official clock timing the race, but that began when the entire race began, with the men who completed it in under 30 minutes. We also had plastic strips on the back of our bibs that kept our official time and could even notify our loved ones of where we were on the course. As the countdown began from 30 seconds, I couldn’t help jumping up and down and waving like a maniac at the news cameras.

…and we were off!

We started slowly and steadily, and we maintained our pace for the first two miles. Our goal was to complete the race in 70 minutes, because we complete 5ks in 35 minutes. Because Dad hadn’t run a 10k in quite awhile, and because I never have, we decided to break the race into 2-mile segments and pause after each segment for water.

At the 2-mile marker, I thought about blazing right on through the water station. My legs felt great, my breathing felt great, my energy was high, my adrenaline was flowing, and I wasn’t one bit hungry. I decided at the last second to pause at the water station to cool off and get myself a little sip.

We continued like that throughout the race. Rather than trying to run the entire thing without stopping, we paused (still moving) at the 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-mile markers for about 15 seconds each, to get a cup of water and relish it without choking. At the halfway point, we rounded a curve and started back the other way. We had completed 3.1 miles in just over 38 minutes, so I decided that completing the race in under 80 minutes would be our new goal.

We were running about 12.5-minute miles; we would have needed to run steady 11-minute miles in order to complete the race in 70 minutes, but I was thrilled with our progress. Wearing Dad’s watch and giving him periodic updates was perfect for me. I need to know the time and how we are doing pace-wise. Besides, we were enjoying ourselves and the entertainment too much to be disappointed about our time.

I continued to feel energized, excited, and proud of us throughout the race. At the 5-mile marker, I suddenly got hungry. Not oh-shit-my-blood-sugar-is-dropping hungry, but boy, was I craving Panera! I turned to Dad and asked, “Can we get Panera after this?” as if we were on a light jaunt instead of approaching the 5.5-mile mark of a 6.2-mile race. His affirmative answer and my craving for a Mediterranean Veggie sandwich and an Asian Sesame Chicken Salad propelled me through the last half-mile of the race. Of course, with bands, rowdy and drunken spectators, sports teams, sororities, dance troupes, and sign-wielding supporters on every block, there was plenty to keep me occupied throughout.

As we crested the 6-mile marker hill, I started to get really excited. Not only were we going to complete the race, with little more than a minute spent at four different water stations, we were going to cross the Finish line together!

The crowd got louder and louder as we neared the giant Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k banner and the official clock. I said, “Okay, we put both arms up!” instructing him on how to cross the Finish line. A few seconds later, as we subconsciously picked up our pace to a near-sprint, we put our inside arms around each other and raised our outside fists, victorious!

Just after we crossed, I stopped our personal timer: 1 hour, 18 minutes, 35 seconds.

We didn’t meet our original goal, but that doesn’t matter. We completed the race in under 80 minutes, we completed it together, and we nearly ran the entire thing. I don’t remember the last time I was so proud of accomplishing something. It’s truly amazing how humbling a long-distance run can be, and how simultaneously the crowd can make you feel as if you are a celebrity, the only runner they came to see.

We wound through the crowd again, picking up bottles of water and fresh bananas as we moved. We sat down for a few minutes to catch our breath and enjoy the beauty of the day. It was neither too cold nor too hot, and the sunshine was bright but not blinding.

Not thirty minutes later, we were dining at the Carytown Panera — and I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since we crossed the Finish line.

My heels are impossibly sore, the left side of my face and my left arm are sunburned, and I ran holes right through one of my favorite pairs of Underarmour socks… but none of that matters, either. What we accomplished and the morning we spent together will always be glorious memories for me.

I’ll have official race photos available soon, so check back! πŸ™‚

P.S. Did you run the 10k this morning? If so, how did you finish?

[I titled this post as such because my growing collection of race T-shirts reminds me of each race I’ve completed and each new PR. I plan to continue to collect, and you can look for my race recap of the upcoming Susan G. Komen 5k on May 11!]

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