27 of 52: Cherry Pit

The First Race I Ever Ran

When I first started running I did a lot of training on my own. I mean – I did *all* of my training on my own up until my first 14 mile run. After that I started looking for people to run with and found the Annapolis Striders and before you know it I had signed up for my first race – the Cherry Pit 10 miler.

In DC there is a rather large 10 mile race called the Cherry Blossom 10 mile run. Run through Washington DC among the Cherry Blossoms with 20,000 of your closest friends. I’ve never run that race because I’m not a huge fan of big crowds (although someone was talking about the Chicago Marathon the other dat and to my surprise I was oddly interested – maybe next year.)

The OTHER reason I’ve never run it is because is usually falls on the same day as the Cherry PIT 10 mile race and being the sentimental guy that I am I’m guess I’m loyal to this race. It was my first and while it’s a small local race, the course is not easy, the field is challenging, my friends are here and it’s part of the Champ series so it costs like 10 bucks!

I remember showing up the first year and seeing people running before the race – warming up. I thought they were crazy. I was worried about covering the miles and these people were running extra! WTH

It think temps were in the 50’s so of course I was layered up. Shorts and pants on the bottom, shirt and long sleeved shirt on top – oh and lets not forget the HAT! Not a running hat – A WINTER hat! (I used to get sick quite easily if my head got cold.) I was definitely new at this.

My first year of racing.

The plan was to find some peeps and run a few miles before the race started – but as it happened I walked into the cafeteria where check in was happening and Susan Noble and one other person (who I can’t remember) were trying their hardest to get everyone checked in – but they were quickly falling behind and the line…. grew.

Susan. Coach Susan. Race Director Susan. Founder of Hero Boys Susan. My Friend Susan… asked a few of us nearby (who were oblivious to the situation) if we could lend a hand so we did. It was a blur so I can’t remember exactly who jumped in except for Kim – but I know there were more of us.

Anyways – after registration/check-in was under control I found myself outside thinking “man, there’s no way I have time for three miles before the race. I’ll have to do some after.”

I wandered outside and ran into Jimmy, Kim, Dave, Henry and Kit (and Susan – she’s everywhere) and we ran until just before the race was set to start. I think we got a mile and change. As it happened, there was a significant delay to start of the race (something to do with waiting for folks to set up traffic cones) so we were actually able to go back out and finish 3.1 miles prior to the race which is nice. I was now that person I thought was crazy for running before a race. It was raining a bit so after warming up we waited under some cover in front of the school until the start.

L to R: Dave, Henry, Susan, me, Kit, and Jimmy.

The Run

We ran 10 miles. The end. Just kidding – some stuff happened.

I remember running with Kim… for about a minute before she disappeared off into the race and after that I was on my own. I was still riding a little high from my PR at the B&A but I did not want to push too hard. Though I did want to try that “focus on the moment” thing to see if I could get it to work again.

The race starts with a little twisty turny bit to get out of the high school campus and onto the main road and then you’re on a hill for … awhile. It’s not like really steep , some might call it “rolling” but by and large you’re going up and to me it always seems long. By the numbers it turns out to be 122 ft of climbing over almost 3 miles.

I think it’s no secret that I’m as exactly as tough as I need to be for the task at hand (maybe a little less). This is great – because I can do stuff. Also this sucks because everything I do seems hard. This three mile “hill” then… not steep, but sucky.

Somewhere between mile 6.5 and 7 of the race I gave up on the focus trick. It was raining I was tired and I PR’d a couple weeks ago I didn’t need to prove anything, right? So I decided to walk a bit on the other long-ass “hill” that is Muddy Creek road. After being passed by a few folks I decided to give the old running thing a try again – at least until I saw Susan under an umbrella directing runners to make the left turn at the top of the hill.

I decided this would be a good opportunity to take a little break so I hung out with Susan and cheered on some of the other runners until I spotted Mitch coming up the hill.

I met Mitch during my first year of Marathon training. He taught me a lot about the ups and downs of running – how physically, mentally and emotionally you should expect peaks and valleys on any given run. He taught me to never assume any run was going to be easy – or hard for that matter.

Mitch yelled (at) to me to “c’mon and get on the train!”

So I did. And I hung on for as long as I could – which was almost to the end. Mitch will always be faster than me in the same way that a son will never think that they can “take” their dad. This day he was faster than me in the old fashioned way and left me alone for the last quarter mile or so to finish squarely in the middle of the pack.

Not the Run

It’s neat to look back on the first time I ran this race and how far I’ve come as a runner and how fortunate I am to be a part of this amazing community of people.

When I ran this race the first time, I underestimated my pace. I didn’t know that on race day some weird shit happens and it’s possible to run faster than you usually do. Anyways – I told my family what time I thought I would finish. They were on time – but I was early. And it was one of the loneliest moments in my recent memory. I had done this new thing and done well but I had no one to share it with. I didn’t know *anyone* else at the race and the fam-a-lam wasn’t there to see me finish.

Of all the good things I remember about running this race over the years I will try to always include that lonely feeling also – because it brings the value of the friendships and community I’ve since become a part of into sharp relief.

Next Week: Running into the Future

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