It’s been a week now since the Riverbank Run 25k in Grand Rapids. We all run races for different reasons. I rarely finish races for the same reason that I started them. I’m not a highly competitive person, not even with myself. I have my moments but for the most part I just take every run and every race as it comes, knowing that each one has it’s own lessons to provide, even if it wasn’t the lesson I was hoping for. RBR was definitely one of those races.
Like I said, I’m pretty laid back as far as my competitive side goes. So going into this race I had few expectations. I had done an incredible training run a few weeks prior and was feeling very confident that I could tackle what had been described to me as a very challenging race. But at the same time, I had no real expectations of what time I would finish in or how the race would go. Since it would be my first 25k, it would be a PR no matter what, and I was just looking forward to spending time with my friends.
One of the best parts of this race was that my husband and his friend joined us to run the 5k. It has been so great having Ken join the running world. He is enjoyed the pre- and post-race celebrations a lot more now and I love that we can cheer each other on. We headed to Grand Rapids with a couple of our friends Friday afternoon and spent some time at the expo and then joined our running group for dinner. It was one of the biggest turnouts that we have had for our running group and was downright amazing. During dinner I talked with my friend Crissy who was really concerned about her race. She had not been able to train as much as she wanted to and the race had intimidated her ever since I explained to her that it was longer than a half marathon – and that was back in February. I promised her then and kept my promise that I would run with her no matter what. She had found out that there was a time limit and was getting more and more nervous. At dinner I reassured her I was sticking with her. Dinner was full of laughs, and when we all went back our hotel it was filled with even more laughs! My running friends are truly the best.
Race day was chaotic, as it often is. We had to get to the race early because the 5k started at 7am. I got Ken and his friend Mark to the start of the 5k and then met up with my parents to watch them take off. Ken had a really awesome race! He ran the first 1.5 miles without walking, which was huge for him. He was motivated by a group of Marines that were running the race and reciting cadences. He ended up with a PR!
After Ken and Mark finished the 5k, we met up with our running group to get ready for the 25k to start. When we went to leave to get to the start line, it was complete insanity. We walked out of the building and everyone just scattered. I lost Crissy and started to panic. She finally found us and was upset because she wasn’t able to get her earbuds from gear check, then lost us, and was already nervous for the race anyway. I reassured her again – it would be great! And I wasn’t going anywhere! Even when she told me that if I wanted to I could leave her, there was no way.
Race day was beautiful. RBR is infamous for having terrible weather, so luck was on our side as far as that was concerned. The course is absolutely gorgeous too. It starts off kind of boring as you’re running in the city and on highways, but then you get into a wooded area that’s just perfect. We were doing 2/1 run/walk intervals that Crissy really enjoyed. We were feeling really good to start. We waved to and thanked the supporters and cheered on the My Team Triumph runners that cruised by us.
Everything was going really great until about mile 6 when Crissy started to have GI issues. Even after that, honestly, it was one of the best races I have ever run. Crissy and I just talked the whole time – some serious topics and some really silly topics. We laughed and kept each other sane. I honestly hardly noticed as the course got tougher because I was focused on keeping her going and having a great time. We got excited when we saw the skyline of Grand Rapids, knowing we weren’t far, but like everyone who had run it before told me… we got to the zoo and it set in that we had run a half marathon, and STILL had 2.4 miles to go!
Not long after the zoo when we entered the city we saw our friends Matt and Marty running towards us. I was overwhelmed with happiness that they were coming to support us. We learned that they had both successfully made the 2 hour club. And I thought look at these guys! They ran their butts off to get that sub 2 hour 25k, and now here they are, running again with us. Coming to make sure that we make it okay. By this time the streets were being re-opened and we were pushed onto the sidewalks. It was getting more and more difficult for us, but I was determined that we were finishing strong. When we reached the end of the race that I had been dreading – the gradual incline to the finish – I was flooded with memories of the 5k last year. I remembered how I had pushed myself hard at the end, trying to get a 5k PR. I thought of how far I had come since that race – both in my running and in my personal life. And we kept pushing forward.
We finally saw the finish line and all of our supporters. We were in the back of the pack and we knew that our time would not be counted. But we knew how hard we had worked. We knew what our time was. We knew that this race was more about friendship and the spirit of running than it was about finish times. The flood of emotions was intense as we saw how many of our friends had stuck around to cheer us on to the finish. Our friend Steve captured some awesome pictures of us finishing strong.
My final accomplishment per Garmin was 15.76 miles in 3:48:50. More important than that finish time was the bonding I had with Crissy. We learned a lot about each other in those hours and strengthened a friendship that I already knew was “the bomb diggity”. Next year, we are going to crush that race – and it is my goal to get that girl to run a marathon. I told her while we were running the 25k that the first marathon isn’t run by your body, it’s run by your spirit. And I KNOW that woman’s spirit is more than capable of 26.2. She said she might not be ready for it this year, and that’s just fine I told her – it just means I will have to run a third marathon, because there’s no way I won’t be with her for her first!