Although I was never a great, competitive runner, I loved many things about high-school cross-country: the sportsmanship, the wonderful girls on my team and the course we competed on that made hour-long training runs feel like little more than walks through the park.
Since then, my relationship with running has been more tumultuous. There have been definite highlights, but there have also been times when I truly couldn’t remember how I ever liked the sport.
On Saturday morning, I remembered why.
I signed up for the Maple Leaf 5K in Baldwin City on a bit of a whim. Thanks to boxing classes, I felt like I was in pretty good shape even though I hadn’t been running as much. I also liked the fact that it was going to be a smaller race — the previous years’ participant counts were right around 140. Best of all, it was a grass course. Not a street run. Not a trail run. A grass course just like the ones I used to compete on for cross-country! (And, in fact, it is the Baldwin High School cross-country course.)
The morning of the race was absolutely beautiful. Temperatures were hovering right around 50 degrees at the 8:30 start, so I was perfectly comfortable in running tights and a windbreaker.
Dan was originally signed up to run with me, but he was battling a brutal cold so he stayed home for some much-needed rest. His parents still came out to cheer me on!
As it was, the course was perfect for spectators. The route was a figure eight with a second run around the first loop, so all Dan’s parents had to do was stay in one spot and I saw them three times!
The race got off to a typical speedy start and I found myself running a 8-minute-mile pace for the first half of a mile. Then I fell into a more comfortable, steady pace.
Because I was running alone, I listened to Pandora on my iPhone. I started off with “Jewel Radio,” but switched to “Today’s Hits” around 1.5 miles… I was beginning to feel fatigued by that point, so I needed something more upbeat!
By the final mile-loop, I was back into a steady rhythm. I knew I could finish it without any walking breaks, which isn’t always a given for me. (I have a big problem with pacing.)
I crossed the finish line with a time of 28:50. Not a PR by any means, but still a race to be proud of — plus, it was enough to earn me a second-place finish in my 29U age group. Best of all, it was the most fun I’ve had running in a long, long time.