Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Will [Fort2Base]

Early in the spring, I came across a booth at the Shamrock Shuffle Expo for a Fort2Base run. As a save the date, they passed out a door tag which has been on my office door since. As the summer months have gone by, I've kept the race in mind.


Race Day:


We rose shortly after 3:30am, picked up Jeff and Sara by 4:30, and were then on our way to Great Lakes. We cruised to our destination until the last few miles, when we reached a traffic jam. A combination of traffic lights, two lane roads, and a military checkpoint had slowed matters.


When we parked, it was still dark as night. We followed dim street lights and verbal directions to find packet pick up, a lucky porta potty on the way, and then to the bus.


Jeff would run the 5k which was held on the base. The 11.5 mile run was a point to point, and Sara and I were on our way to Ft. Sheridan. 


We arrived to a small field of runners. Many had shirt memorializing the day or supporting Salute Inc. Many members of this group were in the military. A short speech followed by the National Anthem occurred right before the start.


Then the gun went off. Sara planned on running a fast race. I however, was not so sure. I had thought of running the race safe at my training pace of 10:30. Then I'd thought of just going out to see what happened.


The cool morning allowed for a great start. As I looked down at my watch, I realized I hadn't calibrated it as I had planned to during the week. Now while running I couldn't remember - was it reading miles as too short or too long. At mile 2 I decided just to look at time. I had done two miles in less than 19 minutes. If I kept this up, I thought, I may be looking for a bus ride back to base.


At the 5K I checked my watch again; 27:30. Wow. I've never run a 27:30 5K. How am I going to finish this race? Around the four mile mark, I was reintroduced to Curt. Curt is a charity runner with Team Salute as well. He had said hello and good morning to me on the bus. We were wearing matching shirts for the charity.


Curt and I got to talking about a lot of things - The day, our height, where we lived, what we did, the traffic jam, the military, my brother.  And as we continued to talk, the miles kept going by. 


Mile 5 was equal to my best Shamrock Shuffle time a few years ago. 


The 10K mark time beat my best 10K by a few minutes.


So then Curt and I worked in to the conversation what we had been avoiding - our speed. Curt said I was running much faster than he was prepared to run that day, but he wasn't showing any signs of backing down. I admitted I normally ran 10:30's. He checked his watch from time to time reminding me we were killing 10:30's. Thanks so much Curt!


We reached mile 8 and I still felt great. We were getting ready to head on to the base. I had thought of a strategy of how I would gradually slow down as to not burn out and have to walk at the end. I would still have an amazing race if I did this. But as we approached the base and I saw young men in uniform, I couldn't help but feeling an overwhelming sense of Gratitude and Will.


I shelved my strategy and instead said:


I can keep going for 3.5 more miles. I can do this because I have trained to be able to, but more importantly, I will do this because my brother has spent years away from his home, his country, his friends and his family. He has done this because he felt it was important. I am ever so grateful. Ten years ago he was 18 and in basic training. Ten years ago we had no idea what was about to happen. In ten years, he has been to Korea, Afghanistan Iraq and back. He has done so willingly in service to his country. So I will keep going.


Curt and I traveled through the streets of Great Lakes. Then we headed down a steep hill. So steep that we had to shorten our strides and slow ourselves down from going too fast. When we reached the bottom, we knew eventually we would go back up. But for a mile or so, the course smiled at us, letting us believe for a moment that maybe there wouldn't be an uphill.


Then around mile 10. It appeared. It wasn't a Nasvhille rolling hill. It was a straight up, man-I-wish-it-was-snowing-and-I-had-a-sled-hill. At the bottom of the hill were Navy members. They cheered us on and yelled at us to conquer the hill. 


Everyone in front of us was walking. Curt said he would walk up the hill. I looked at him and said it was ok, I would meet him at the top. I knew it would be hard, but I had decided some time ago that I was going to run this race as hard as I started it. I had to. And so, for as far as I could see in front of me, along side me, or a quick glance behind me, I ran alone, up the hill.


The last aide station had military members handing out water. They saw me running over the top of the hill and were cheering hysterically for me. My vision became cloudy with tears. All I am doing is running. Why are they cheering for me? Then I turned the last corner where I saw Jeff and Sara, and then, the finish line.


One hour, fifty-one minutes later.


Thanks Dan.

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