First I want to thank you.
Anyone who reads this blog gets a big thank you & a hug if that is your thing. Because knowing I wanted to post good news pushed me on as far as I could.
Also really grateful for good friends who I texted the day before in a panic wondering why I ever thought this was a good idea to sign up for. Driving to Charlotte had a mini break down. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t train like I wanted to or really hardly at all. I don’t do races. I don’t run. I don’t have any business faking it in a mass of people who are athletes. The rhino will never be a unicorn.
BUT I paid for it. I said I was going to do it. I had to go. At least go.
So even though the day had ups of being excited & downs of pure fear, I went.
I had to at least go & see what it was all like. Just sounded like so much fun. A 5k at night with lights & sounds and who knows what kind of fun along the way followed by a party. There was a tee with my name on it that I paid for and at the very least I had to pick it up.
I expected heat. I expected bugs. I even expected to be sore the next day. I expected lots of people. What I never expected was just how many people!
Twenty thousand people.
TWENTY THOUSAND PEOPLE
in one place.
Me & that pesky agoraphobia in a massive crowd that just kept growing.
Thankfully I planned ahead & brought support. Along with the right shoes, socks, clothes, I packed my meds. Even before I parked I had prepped myself with a klonapin. I wanted this to be about physically pushing myself. Never did I expect this many people. It became more a mental challenge than physical very early on. Still I decided I would go as far as I could.
Got my registration packet (with that tee!) and my race bib was pinned on. At first I tried my best not to look around, but that was impossible. There were some very interesting costumes and outfits. Also as much as I strive not to compare myself to others, I noticed that even though there were plenty of very athletic looking slim people warming up, there were also a lot of people who seemed to be nervous and carrying more weight than me. Noticed that some had the typical running gear you expect. Others seemed like just just walked up & decided to join in the fun last minute. Jeans. Heels (ok those were promo girls passing out an energy drink sample… but my mouth dropped for a moment thinking they were going to do the course in heels.). Masks. All sorts of looks gathered. And gathered. And gathered.
I zoned out as much as possible. Texted friends. Googled random stuff. The line up shoot started filling so I made my way there to wait. I made sure to go to one side and lean on the railing. It made me feel like there was open space.
Space in the starting area just kept getting smaller and smaller. The music helped. I focused on lyrics and memories. Reminded myself that I could do this even if part of me completely was calling bullshit on that thought.
They announced that Charlotte was turning out to be more than any other race they had done before. The largest group they had gathered before was 13,000. People celebrated the 20,000. It was announced over and over. While it was great news to most, it was terrifying to me. It made this all way more challenging than I ever imagined.
I wanted to run. Not so much the race, but away from it all.
There was a moment where I stood paralyzed up against the railing. Every fiber in me wanted to run… to the car & drive as far as fast as I could but my body was frozen. Scared to move. Turning around I knew would cause me to see the increasing crowd that was even larger than the mass of people in front of me. Going forward wasn’t an option because no one could get thru yet. Thru the railing was an option I considered because I knew I couldn’t go over without falling or taking it down with me. I was too unsteady to clear it in anything remotely considered graceful. Thru was my only choice but it would be close. Too close. Afraid that I would get part way thru my escape and be stuck didn’t sound like an option. As freaked as I was drawing any more attention would only cause even more panic & the results would not be pretty. My only method of surviving was maintain. Stay still. Right where I was. Breath deep and try to focus on the music, the cell phone, camera, anything but the surge of strangers engulfing the area as far as I could see ahead & surely behind.
I hit a point where I knew I had to try.
Thankfully the race started and they started letting groups of a thousand at a time go. I was in the third wave. Not sure I would have gone if I had to wait longer than that but some how moving forward helped. I rationalized that the closer I got to the front, the easier it would be to get out of the mass of people to head back to the car.
Closer I got the more I talked myself through what would happen if I did leave. Had to at least see some of the sights.
So I used the adrenaline from that loathed fight or flight response to push me on.
When it came time, instead of heading back away from the track – I pushed forward with the pack.
Even though there were unexpected hills and I felt as though I were in a stampede most of the time, I FINISHED.
The ENTIRE 5k I FINISHED.
I wasn’t the first to finish. I didn’t run it. I didn’t track my time (forgot to make sure my FitBit was charged so went unplugged without the pedometer).
Also I wasn’t the last to finish. I didn’t stop. I didn’t get hurt and I ENJOYED seeing everything and being able to make it to the end.
There was a point where I just let go & went with it.
Part of it was meds, but I know from experience sometimes even those don’t completely help. Sometimes all you can do is get away from the situation and the people. I fought through to being okay and focusing on me. My goal of doing this.
Physically there were a few times I wondered if this was smart idea. I had no idea how far I was or how much more there was to go. The map I looked at before was gone from my memory and I didn’t see any real posted distances.
It was towards the end that I started to wonder if anyone had ever died attempting a 5k. How embarrassing would that be to have me die on a 5k track! I didn’t feel that bad, but I was starting to feel my body again. Certainly was noticing how it would have been nice to have my legs & feet used to the distance. As if on que someone mentioned to their running buddy that they were almost done. “Just a little over half a mile left go to.” SWEET! It was then that I knew I could and would finish this. I started to feel pride instead of fear.
The sky above seemed to sparkle just a bit brighter.
Getting to the finish line and then seeing the party was truly surreal.
There may or may not have been a couple of tears in my eyes as it sank in that I did it. I still am extremely proud.
Wanted to call my Mom & tell her. Knew she would be proud of me for being there and pushing myself in so many ways.
Seemed fitting that when I got back in my car to leave, the first thought I had was of her voice saying like she had so many times “Well, would you do it again?”. I had heard her say that phrase so many times. After things she was proud of me doing and also after things she really didn’t think were great choices. Perfect.
My answer this time…. Absolutely.
Scary as it was, it was worth it.
As someone said – Go Big or Go Home.
Pretend you are there… (super short clips of some of the sights & sounds)