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Jingle Bell Run, SPI edition

November 20, 2011

Well, okay… Jingle Bell Run Most of It.

As you, the seven people that have visited here the last few months, know, Ian spent much of the fall running on his school’s cross-country team. And doing very well, I might add.

More than his running ability, the fact that he’s been running at all has sort of lit a fire under my large jelly-roll ass to get up off the couch once in a while and do something a little… I don’t know… fitnessy. So since early September, I’ve gotten out and attempted to run 3, sometimes 4 days a week.

I usually don’t get real far before I’m winded, and not much farther past that before I need to stop and walk a ways. Once I start walking, I get shin splints so friggin’ bad that it actually feels better to start jogging again. But hey, I’m making an effort, right? My main problem, though, is that I walk almost as fast as I “jog”. Having bad knees and being out of shape isn’t conducive to good running. But I’m trying. I’ve even gone running “with” Ian a few times, though that usually amounts to Ian running the course and standing around waiting 15-20 minutes for me to finish.

Anyway… as many of you probably don’t know, long before Ian joined the cross-country team, it has been kind of a “goal” of mine to run in a 5K race. I have no illusions of winning, I don’t want to try to get a time that will set the world on fire, I have just always wanted to run one to see if I could. Just to finish it. One of those “as I look back on my life…” things, really.

I have a friend, Gina, that recently ran the Milwaukee marathon a few weeks ago, so I asked her to meet with me over lunch one day so that I could pick her brain about how to ready myself for a 5K. (Marathons are not even on my horizon at this point.) After discussing things with Gina for a while, she basically suggested I just pick a race, enter it, and run it. She gave me a couple suggestions for training regimens and gave me a couple of websites for finding races, and- long story short- I found the home page for the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis.

A nationally conducted race, the JBR raises money for the Arthritis Foundation. There happened to be one in Springfield, starting on the campus of Lincoln Land Community College, so I showed the Springfield-specific page to Dawn with a “Can I? Can I? Please? Please? Can I? Huh? Huh?” puppy-dog face, and she said, “I won’t run it, but I’ll do it with you”, then we showed it to Ian, and he said he would run it, so we signed up for it and Team Stearns was born. We fairly quickly raised our goal of donations and suddenly became the 5th highest fund-raising team. Not too shabby for a team of three people.

As the days leading up to the race came and went, I started getting more and more uptight about running it. I think I was getting hung up on the term “race”. It is a race in that trophies are given to the top finishers in several age categories for men, women, and children, but entrants can also just run or even walk in it for exercise, for the cause, or just for fun. This past week, I was really out of sorts. My stomach got progressively knotted up as the week went by, and this past Friday, the night before the race, I didn’t sleep well at all.

Yesterday morning was the race. I got up, got ready, and bolted out of the house without bothering to eat any breakfast. Probably not a good move. We get to LLCC at 8:00am when registration began, and wound up being purt’near the only people there for about 40 minutes. People started trickling in, until there wound up being at least a couple hundred runners and walkers there for the 10:00 start.

Ian took me outside a couple times while we were waiting to do some warmup calisthenics that his cross-country team does. Those calisthenics reminded me not only how out of shape I am, but also how uncoordinated I am. He has an exercise they call “karaoke”, for whatever reason, that damn near dumped me on my ass. Later, I found a couple of my Twitter friends, @mrsshoo and @kristiface80, that were also running the race, and chatted with them for a few minutes.

Finally, the call came to go outside and get lined up for the start. I was rather struck at just how many people were in the race when I saw the enormous crowd of people ahead of me. I remember thinking, I am SO out of my league. Soon, the race kicked off, and Dawn started walking and Ian and I started running. Within, literally, about six, maybe eight seconds, Ian was out of sight.

Did I mention he runs a whole lot faster than I?

I found a comfortable (that’s relative) pace, albeit rather slow, and settled in. We turned out of the campus and headed south onto Shepherd Road. The course took us into the Island Bay neighborhood along the lake, wound through there a little bit to the 2.5K mark, at which there was a water station and the turnaround point at which we went back the way we came.

So I’m running, and not feeling too terribly badly (again, that’s relative), doing my best to navigate the uneven surface of the roads, which were also littered with ankle-snapping sweet gum balls. As we turned onto the street that headed through the woods toward the turnaround and the water station, I remember thinking, it’s around this next bend. (No turnaround.) Okay, it’s gotta be around THIS bend. (No turnaround.) Ian high-fives me as he passes me on his way back, so I’m thinking, it’s GOTTA be this next bend. Still no friggin’ turnaround. Now, I’m starting to hit panic mode, thinking that I’m not going to even be able to make the halfway point before I have to start walking.

Finally, after two or three more bends in the road, I spot the water station. That was enough to get me around that post and start heading back. I take my water (like I was going to pass that up!), gulp it down, chuck the cup into the garbage, and decide, okay, I’ve got to walk for a little bit. I glance down at my iPhone and it shows I’ve gone 2.7 km, so I rationalize that since I made half the race in one shot, I can start walking. Right away, here come the shin splints, and they’re hurting. BADLY. Within about 3 minutes, I pass Dawn, who walked the whole way- which really kind of shows just how slow I run. I keep forging on, trying my best to ignore the shin splints. I wind back through the neighborhood, hit the main road that turns back into Shepherd Road, and start running again at the 3.7 km mark.

Shortly, I can see the stoplight at which we turn back into the campus, and the shin splints are at a much more manageable level, so I put my head down and just keep on keepin’ on, as the cheesy saying goes. I continue to play leap frog with the same 8-10 people I’ve been passing and getting passed by for the whole race, and suddenly I’m at the entrance into the parking lot.

It felt SO good to make that right turn onto the parking lot drive. Realizing I had just a short distance to the finish line- which I could SEE- gave me the drive to push through the exhaustion that was setting in. As I got closer, I spotted Ian. I moved over to the median where he was standing, and was met with a high-five and a “Come on, Dad, you’re almost there, you can do it!”. That gave me just enough energy boost to round the final curve and cross the finish line.

The rush I got crossing the line- running- was intense. I didn’t run the whole way, but I ran 4 of the 5km, and crossed the line running. That’s what I wanted. I got through the chute and found Ian, and he gave me a giant hug- in front of everyone!- and told me how proud he was of me. That right there was huge. It was all I could do not to cry. Within about 10 minutes or so, we spot Dawn walking her way toward the finish line so we cheer her on, and she crosses.

Ian ran the entire race in roughly 25 and a half minutes. He said he didn’t see his exact time, and also said that he wished he would have gotten the bib and chip that somehow got reserved for him, as he could have been in the running for an award in his age group. Before the race, when we discovered there was a bib and chip assigned to him, we told him to go ahead and get them, but he said, “Nah, I’m just going to run it for fun”. Then once he discovered that he would likely have gotten third place in his age group, he was regretting that decision. But, hey, live and learn. Next time, he said.

I finished with a time of 45:46, jogging 4 out of 5km, so I was ecstatic. The only time goal I really had was to make it under an hour, and I did that. Far as I’m concerned, I won. Dawn finished up her walk at about 55:50, and we went to the college cafeteria for the “after party”, where we were treated to water and Gatorade, Olive Garden salad and spaghetti (I despise Olive Garden with the fury of a thousand demons, but it was free, so I ate it), bananas, and quite possibly the best tasting oranges I’ve ever had. Terrific experience all the way around, and I can’t wait to do my next 5K.

I owe some thanks to a lot of people. First to Dawn, for allowing me to enter the JBR, and for her and Ian agreeing to do it with me. Next, to the good people at UnderArmour. That stuff rocks. I have a compression outfit and a fitted outfit to wear over it and, chilly and windy as it was during the race, I was plenty warm. Next, to so many of my friends on Twitter and Facebook for support leading up to the race, and also during and after the race. Your support, cheering, and well-wishes meant a lot to me. I owe a HUGE thanks to Gina, for all the advice, support, inspiration, and encouragement she gave me, and continues to give me. One of these days, Gina, you and I are going to run together!

Lastly, and most importantly, I have to thank Ian. His being in cross-country, and being so good at it, is what made me decide to attempt a 5K in the first place. I likely never would have entered, at least definitely not this soon, had he not gotten so into cross-country. He continues to offer support and says he would “keep training me” if it would help me. So I’m going to let him. He told me he hopes one day we can actually run a 5K or something, “not so much with each other as against each other”. To me, that’s awesome. He knows I’ll likely never be able to catch him, let alone beat him, but to have him give me encouragement to want to TRY to beat him means so much to me.

I really intend for the JBR to be the first of many 5K races in which I run, and hopefully I can get to where I can run entire 5Ks, move up to 10Ks, and, perhaps some day, maybe even enter a half or a full marathon.

SOME day.

Right now, I’m still chomping ibuprofen like they were M&Ms.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marjorie Stearns permalink
    November 21, 2011 9:50 pm

    Besides the good that you did for yourself, it set a great example for Ian. It also elevated him to the status of mentor for it. Great all the way around.

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