By: Rosalinda Bower
In order to share my race story with you, I will have to share the events that led up to the starting line on that super windy and cold morning!
I never really fit in anywhere. After an awkward high school experience, and living in Texas my whole life, I set my sights on California. I lived in Southern CA for 10 years, worked a bit, earned my degree. It was in college that I began taking yoga classes and running. For the first time in my life, it didn’t matter where I fit in. I felt good nourishing my body. It felt good making contact with the earth, stride by stride, presence in the body, pose by pose. My yoga instructor was in her sixties; she had a strong Dutch accent, beautiful smile, fitter than you. She told me stories about how she had run all over the country and won medals. She lit a baby fire in me.
Fast forward. I moved back to Texas in 2008. I continued running and practicing yoga, but my running was limited to 3 or 4 miles a few times a week. In the back of my head, I thought of Yvonne, my yoga instructor. I thought about her story, and I how I wanted to be able to tell one like it. In 2010, (I think…I am bad with dates), I signed up to do the See Jane Run half marathon. Run for chocolate and champagne??? Yes! This was right down my alley.
I took a haphazard approach to training…I looked up weekly mileage per week to get me ready. I followed it for the most part, until the last couple months. I pretty much stopped running because the time changed and it was damned cold! (I was not always as tough as I am now!!) Anyway, race day approached. My mom came to pick me up at 5:00am; she was concerned about the rain and thunder. I didn’t care though. I stood there in my UCR sweatshirt, running shorts, and stubbornness. Despite my somewhat iffy training, I was determined. I needed to do it. It rained the whole way there. It poured. It was The Great Deluge of 2010!! I arrived at the venue; it was chaotic, but kind of exciting!! People in all directions. Unfortunately, this was because the race had been cancelled. There were runners walking in, finding out, and turning around. Disappointed, I went home, ate a big breakfast and called it a day.
The half marathon bug came again when my employer publicized the Rogue programs. As soon as I heard of the program, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in: an organized program, with attainable goals, in a group setting. Running in a group is certainly beneficial to runners. The energy that comes with “running with a pack” is amazing, though I have always been a solitary runner. For me, running is much less about making time, filling time, or just being able to say I am doing it.
Running for me is meditation. It requires presence. When I am running, I am engaging in this beautiful relationship between my body, the earth, and my breath. It’s this natural momentum that cascades throughout the three that allow me to really engage in the present. Midway through the training, and with a combination of other related factors, I lost sight of what was going on with my body. I injured my left foot. Damn.
I have always considered myself to be a healthy gal. It frustrated me that I injured my foot; I felt like my body let me down. I took a month off, rested, and when my foot felt stronger, I resumed training. It was a tough one, but I stayed in tune with my body. One of the best lessons I have learned from yoga is that you do what you can. Breathe through it. If you can do more after a few breaths, do it. This natural progression really works for me, and I have been very cognizant to use it since my injury. Our bodies are really splendid! It only makes sense that we learn about it and respond accordingly.
So, since I was off track due to my injury, (a pun!!), our awesome coach James gave me a revised running plan. I remember talking to him after I came back. I stood square in front of him and told him that “I was back”. Hands raised on both sides, I said, “I want this. I need to do this, and I want to feel good!” I began working on my revised plan and as the 3M race got closer, I got more excited! My foot was healed completely, and I felt great.
I had heard that 3M was a really easy and fun race.(only runners ever describe 13 miles as “fun”) Mostly downhill, many people PR’ed. This was super re-assuring since I got the flu on Christmas Eve, and didn’t run for a week. Due to this, and recovery from being sick, The Dodds’ amended plan was a bit off. The most I had run was 10 miles as of race day. It didn’t matter the. I am a Rogue Runner.
About 4 days before the race, we got a really informative email from James. Among other things, like pacing, eating and such, the email announced that the route of the race had changed. HILLS!!! I kind of freaked myself out a bit. 3 miles more than I had ever run and HILLS!! I ran downtown with a friend that night; she gave me some really good advice. She basically told me that I would kick butt, and that I shouldn’t be bothered with the hills.
I made it to race day! No rain, no injury!! It was cold as hell though!! I was starting my first half marathon. I felt so good. The energy of the crowd was amazing. To be one member, amongst a group of over 7000, all with 1 goal….it was a powerful experience, and doesn’t happen very frequently. I started out at an easy pace. Starting out too fast is one lesson I have certainly learned. I paced myself not really knowing how much I could give or how much I had. I sort ran at reserved pace. There were distractions.
I would catch myself looking at the other runners, often taking note of their speed in comparison to mine. I thought about how cold it was, how I had left my hair tie in the car. My hair was blowing all over the place, getting stuck in my lip gloss. I thought about how I had never run this distance. Would my legs give out? I thought about things I need to do later in the day/week. I was not present, and my experience while running suffered.
I began to say things in my head like “This is your run Rosalinda.” This is not James’ run. It’s not my mom’s run, and it’s not this fast chick’s beside me! “Rosalinda you are thinking about ________(insert any thought other than running), not running.” A good friend of mine, who is a yoga instructor, said that as a meditative practice, I could visualize my feet kissing the earth. “Kiss, Kiss, Kiss”. These things brought me to present. I am not saying that there was a specific period of time where I shut all of those thoughts out, and became a total Zen runner. There was certainly an ebb and flow.
The run itself, and the months approaching it, reflect a beautiful metaphor for life. I had expectations to start this Rogue program and succeed, much as we all do when we set out for any goal in life. Like it, there are obstacles, foot injuries and let downs. There are unexpected “hills” in life and negative thoughts that get in our way. Sometimes a rain ruins our picnic. Does that mean you won’t plan another picnic? Hell no. You just keep going. You acknowledge, and move on.
I suppose I could have simply sent this to James. He is our coach, and is very interested in our lives, and stories; he has been great support. Rather, I have decided to address this to all of you; it is likely that you have encouraged me without knowing. Maybe you are the fast chick I look up to. Maybe you also had an injury and are fighting to stay in it. Maybe you have that badass Rogue windbreaker I dig so much! Maybe you show up to each and every practice and run with your heart and soul! Thank you for inspiring me. This is my story; running is now who I am.