100 races. Back in 2008, when I ran my first three 5k races, the idea of running 100 races was not even on my radar. In fact, I took a break from running after those first three races, a break that lasted from 2008 until 2012. Even then, I had no goals of running streaks or racing streaks, no goals of running a certain number of races, I didn’t even really have a goal of running any certain distances.
It was around 2014-2015 that I started to get involved in the running community. I started as more of a passive bystander. My friend and coworker Maggie had just started running marathons, and she encouraged me to get back into running races. I was also a part of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) at the time and the wife of another person in the program was a runner. This was when I started my first streak – run a race every month. It wasn’t on purpose. I just realized I had been running races monthly and decided to keep it going. I kept that streak going for 4 years.
One of the races that was part of that early running streak was Winterlaufe in 2015. I was still passive bystander, as you can see in the only picture I have of myself from that race. I hadn’t joined any running groups online or in person yet. The idea of running the race came from a coworker who said she ran it every year. Since I was doing the “run a race every month” streak, I needed a race for February. I was nervous about the race – it would be the first time running the 8k distance for me. Even though I had already run a 10k by that time for some reason the 8k distance seemed daunting. My coworker said, “It’s such a fun race! There’s a couple of hills but you’ll be okay.”
She was lying about the amount of hills – it isn’t just a couple. The whole race course is hilly! It was challenging. I finished that year in 1:07:40, which (spoiler alert) still stands as my slowest 8k time. Despite how difficult the race was, I was hooked. There was something about running a challenging course in the unpredictable winter weather that made me come back and run Winterlaufe year after year.
I have run Winterlaufe every year since 2015 except 2021. It was my last in person race before the world shut down in 2020. Similar to the hills on the course, my mental health has followed an up and down pattern over the years that I have been running this race. Many years I was definitely deep in a valley of depression, especially in 2017. Other years this race found me at a peak of clarity and happiness. In 2021 I did not run the race but during the time the race was happening I was definitely in one of those valleys. That was the year that I finally talked to my doctor and asked about medication for depression. By the end of this month I have one year of anti-depressant treatment.
My husband decided when I signed up for the race this year that he wanted to walk the race with his friend. On race morning we picked Mark up and headed to packet pick-up. We got there early enough that it wasn’t too busy but it definitely started to pick up once we left packet pick-up. Since it was my 100th race, we picked up some extra race swag. We sat in the car for a while to stay warm – the temperatures were in the single digits that morning, but fortunately the sun was shining brightly and there was barely any wind. I was layered up and feeling a lot like Randy from A Christmas Story.
We walked to the starting line just as the National Anthem was being sung. As we approached the back of the pack, I saw some familiar faces – a group of my running friends, some of which I had not seen since 2020. It was so nice to see everyone in person! We were all smiling and laughing, not really even paying attention to the fact that we were about to start a race… we were so distracted that we all jumped when they shot the canon to signal the race start!
We all ran in our own packs, following different run/walk intervals. We played a little leap frog, catching up and passing each other, and whenever we did we’d start a little conversation. When we reached the hills, we started getting more spread out. My friend Jen ended up staying with me after that and we got to catch up on each other’s lives over those next 4 miles.
The course was snowy and icy in parts. We weren’t pushing the pace and we were extra careful on the icy patches. We got to the point where faster runners were on the “back” part of this out and back course and started seeing our friends and yelling out encouragements to each other. We hit the turn around and encouraged our friends who were behind us, including my husband and Mark. Having Jen with me made the miles fly by!
I wasn’t paying much attention to my pace and I didn’t push super hard in the end. Our friends that had finished already cheered us on through the finish line. It was so fun to see everyone gathered again and my friends congratulated me on my 100th race.
I ended up meeting my A goal of an overall pace under 13 minutes per mile, definitely thanks to running with my friends and having their encouragement. It was my second slowest Winterlaufe but I didn’t care at all. Finishing my 100th race was what I set out to do that day, and finish it I did.
If you want to hear more about my 100th race, my mental health journey, my decision to live alcohol free, and my thoughts on our relationship with food… I encourage you to check out my episode on the 40,000 Steps Radio podcast!