A week ago I was smiling the biggest smile I’ve ever smiled. I accomplished what I thought wasn’t possible by finishing my first Around the Bay 30k race, and I still can’t believe I did it. In fact, this blog post is merely an attempt to convince myself that last week’s race was actually real. It goes a little something like this:
To say I was nervous is an understatement. I brought back the phrase “shitting a brick” with a vengeance every time someone asked me how I was feeling. By the time race morning hit, my pre-race jitters were so strong, I ended up bursting off the start line like a Kenyan. So quick I beat my previous 10k, 15k, and 21k times. While this sounds, and is amazing, it was also terrible. Terrible because by the time I hit 24km my legs were screaming in pain from going balls to the wall since the beginning of the race. I had burned the majority of the energy in my tank, and to top that off, both my phone and my watch died on me which prevented me from having any idea of my pace or timing. All of this forced me to make the heartbreaking decision to walk the remaining 6k of the race. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t think about quitting at this point, because I did. I basically wanted to drop to my knees and start sobbing on the lawn of one of the neighbouring houses, but like always, the universe came to my rescue.
Between the 24k and 25k marker, I saw another runner struggling. I pulled beside her to ask if I could help. I asked if she needed a drink, a gel, or even a hug. Her voice echoed that of defeat. She said she was in pain and that she was going to ask her husband to pick her up at the 25k mark. I told her that she was far too close to quit now, and that if she can muster the strength to look past her pain, she could finish. We kept chatting, exchanged names and stories, and before we knew it, we were at 26k. At that point one of the relay shuttle buses passed us asking if we wanted a ride back to which my new found friend, Andra, kindly told the driver to take a hike. Together, we were determined to finish the race. Together, we saved each other. Together, we made it to 30k.
Aside from crossing the finish line, my niece’s proud little cheers, and my family’s words of encouragement, meeting Andra was the real victory in this race. She brought out the real Alex. The kind, gentle, and fiercely determined Alex. The Alex I want to be every damn day. What some may call a random encounter, I call serendipitous. As we talked, we both discovered that we are in similar lines of work. As I listened, she talked about how she wants to become a more serious runner, how we only live a few blocks away from each other, and the part that really gave me goosebumps, a story about how her mother named her Andra after a unique short form of the name Alexandra. Coincidence? I think not.
It never ceases to amaze me that in our moments of struggle, the universe unconsciously answers us in ways that let our true selves shine, and that is how I feel about the moment I met Andra. While my demon tried desperately to overshadow all the hard work I had put in preparing for this race, my inner light burst through by encouraging Andra, and for that, I am forever grateful. For that, my first 30k race will always be even more special than it already is.
Running this race was the hardest thing I have ever done both physically and mentally, but it was so worth it. It reminded me that the most impressive force in this world is the human spirit.