I decided on Friday night to get up early on Saturday and run the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K on the Ocean City boardwalk. My daughter’s pre-K teacher from two years ago has been leading a team on this race for years, and this was the first year since moving here that I had been in town on the day of the race. So I figured I go out and show my support and get a last minute race in before next week’s Seaside 10 miler.
The sky was overcast, the air cool and windy. It had rained the night before so there were puddles of water at the inlet parking lot. The surf was rough, and despite the cold, fishermen and fisherwomen were on the rocks fishing into the inlet.
I parked the car and unloaded the Chariot running stroller. I don’t consider myself a fast runner. Sure, I have some speed in me, but put me in a competitive race and I have no chance. I suspect it’s a lack of training. These days, especially, training time is hard to find. Still, I like to win. I am competitive, especially against myself. No matter the race I try to run my hardest, to push myself to the limit, to see what I can do. Today, that limit would be speed. How fast could I run a 5K while pushing a stroller?
I have two kids. My first is six years old and she’s been home with us since she was six months old. I trained with her in that same stroller for two Boston Marathons, a New York City marathon, a Shiprock marathon, and three separate 100-mile races. When she got old enough to ride her bike I decided it was time to retire the stroller.
Three months ago we brought home our son who just turned two-years-old. I unretired the stroller the day we came home, and he’s been as good a training partner as my daughter. He loves being pushed in the stroller, loves the feel of the wind on his face, and screams the same way she did when he wants me to go faster. If I go too many days without running he’ll hand me my running shoes and go get in the Chariot himself.
After I registered I slipped my son into the pink race T-shirt and I pinned our number on the stroller. This was my first time racing with a stroller, and when we started to line up I worried about getting in other runners way. So I stayed back from the start. As soon as the gun sounded, though, it became clear that I was going to be faster than most of them. I said to j, “That was a mistake,” and moved to the side and got around the runners I’d lined up behind.
The leader was an eighth grader from SDMS, and I had flashbacks to the half marathon I ran in Pemberton Park in Salisbury a few weeks ago. There a rabbit had pulled into the lead and stayed there the entire race. I could see the lead runner on Saturday, but I knew, even if I wasn’t pushing the stroller, even if I had started running along side him, that I couldn’t have beat him.
Winning, though, was not the goal. Doing my best, pushing myself, that is always the goal. So that’s what I did. I ran as hard as I could. I pushed, and then I pushed some more. I passed a few runners, one a young boy about eight-years-old who went out fast. By the time we hit the first mile I could see the turn around. A few blocks later the rabbit was coming towards me. “You got this,” I told him as he passed me heading back to the finish.
I was running alone now, me and the stroller, pushing myself. The stroller moves a lot easier than people think, especially with a small two-year-old in it. I pushed down on the handle to lift the front tire and scooted deftly around the turn-around cone. “Nice move,” someone said. I smiled. Soon I started passing the other runners coming towards me, and then the walkers, and I cheered for them and they cheered for me. There was a lot of support on this course, and it felt good to hear people cheering.
I was getting tired, though, and was glad this was only three miles. I made the loop around Jolly Roger at the Pier and then saw the finish line waiting in the inlet parking lot. I was so close there was no way I could slow down now. I made the final turn on wet pavement and for a moment thought my right foot would slip out from under me. But it didn’t. I held on and pushed as hard as I could.
Inside the stroller j was smiling from ear to ear. “Congratulations,” someone said. “Do you want some water?” I did, but my son wanted it more. He’d worked hard for it.
In the end I placed second overall. The rabbit finished strong well ahead of me. I was just glad to have had the opportunity to get out for the day, to show support for the survivors of breast cancer and do some small part to help raise both money for a cure and awareness of the cause. I’ve got a pink shirt to wear for the rest of the month. And a goal for next week’s Seaside 10 miler: another medal.