United we ran.
The Perfect Strangers geared up for another long run yesterday morning. And though typically we wear whatever running clothes will be most comfortable for the long miles, yesterday, we ran in red, white and blue. It’s the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 and we thought we could dedicate our miles to the memory. We take inspiration wherever we can get it, and pinning American flags to our shirts and tucking them in our pony-tails surely was going to get us through the long run. We started at 6am in Broadripple – Karen, Bri, Kelly, Christi and I. It was pitch black even with with Kelly’s headlamp. We could hear the flags flapping behind our ears with each step.
It’s funny how our conversation evolves over the miles. We start off with our typical catch-up. I talked about my trip to Mexico. We shared stories of our runs the previous week and the girls that ran the 1/2 marathon last week gave us the recap. Then we played the game “Where were you when the planes hit.” We all remember vividly. I was in college – I came back from class to see girls in my sorority’s informal, all glued to the TV. The weirdest part of my story actually happened earlier that morning, however. I am a sleep talker and walker. My roommates were always entertained with the things that I would wake up and say or do. The morning of 9/11, my roommate Lauren told me that she came in late that night after studying and I sat straight up in bed and said “Lauren. Something really bad is going to happen today.” And then went back to bed. We laughed about it that morning, but after the tragedy struck, it wasn’t funny anymore.
At mile 4, we picked up Sarah. She had less miles to run so met us a bit later so that we could run as much of them together as possible. There we were – 6 women. Dressed in flags. Running 2 wide, 3 rows deep down the Monon. We all switched positions as to who led and who picked up the rear. Typically I like being in front so I can control the pace and lead the way, but yesterday, I found the middle of the pack and rear weren’t too bad either. As long as we’re together, I’m happy. That being said, yesterday, I was a bit pissy. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t the typical cheerleader I normally am. My girls picked up the slack though. They made me laugh and encouraged me when my legs were tired.
At mile 9, we took a bio break. While waiting for the bathroom, we noticed “Sandra Stick Figure.” She’s 6′ tall and probably weighs less than I do (5’2″ by the way). She wore short shorts and a sports bra. Though I was envious of her long, lean body, I immediately judged her. While waiting for the bathroom, she jogged in place. Come on people. If you get a break. Take it. Your heart rate isn’t going to stay up because you shuffle your feet back and forth a bit. And honestly? You look like an arrogant ass. We laughed about how she was probably also jogging in place as she hovered over the toliet.
We also ran into JD who stopped to say hello. His quote “Anytime I see a girl in an American flag hat, I can’t help but stop.” He too was running 18.
On the way back, we were engulfed in the crowd of bikers participating in the Tour de Carmel. Families and kids all alike were biking on the Monon. It was an impressive sight, but also an unwelcome one. While we ran past a group of bikers, one woman on a bike decided to pass the people in front of her. The Monon was too congested for such a move and it resulted in a massive crash, bikes piling up everywhere. We were very ready to get through the chaos. Luckily, however, we did stop at the Monon Center where they had lemonade packets for your water bottle. That little boost of flavor and sugar put me back in a good mood. Only 5.5 miles to go.
We were running pretty fast – a 9:30/mi pace. My legs seemed lethargic and talking became more difficult. But the conversation never ended. As I mentioned earlier, our topics tend to evolve with each mile. Starting pretty vanilla, by mile 10, we start opening up. Deeper discussions. More emotions. This group of women has become my family on the trail. We know so much about each other and I can’t imagine ever training for a race again without them.
With 1.5 miles to go, emotions ran high. Christi was on the verge of tears so I brought us all in for a Perfect Strangers chant. We looked silly in our outfits, flags and sweat, but we didn’t care one bit. When we hit 18 miles, we hugged. We did negative splits, ran fast, and had fun. United we ran.