When I got the email from Jillian telling me about the Ray Babineau Memorial 5K, I was training for the Blue Ridge Marathon. Last summer I entered a photo scavenger sponsored by RunChat, and I won a free entry. (For the second time, can you believe it? You can read about my experience at the Blue Ridge Half Marathon here.) I was on the fence about signing up; I was so overwhelmed by grief and anxiety and my new job was so all-consuming that I didn’t know if I’d have the time or energy or even the motivation to train for and run an entire marathon. I finally decided to go for it, and hired Denny Krahe, a coach who also happens to be the host of one of my favorite podcasts. I was hoping, and it proved to be the case, that having a running goal to work toward would also help me focus better on work and prioritize and manage the rest of my messy life.
As soon as I realized that Blue Ridge was the same day as Ray’s 5K I immediately went online to look for another race to run. I was in luck, because there was a half marathon in Radford the following weekend, the 2nd annual Highlander Half. Perfect! Radford is my alma mater, and I could stay with my parents in Blacksburg.
The New River, near the start line
Race morning was chilly. The course started at the Donald Dedmon athletic complex, which sits alongside the New River. It runs on roads and in neighborhoods around Radford, ending at Bisset Park by the river. I parked at Dedmon Center and picked up my race packet, and at go time I was surprised to see how few people were running (officially there were 99 finishers). Certainly the smallest half I’ve ever run! Despite that, it was very well organized, and the course was well marked with plenty of water stations, volunteers, and police officers stationed at regular intervals.
This church building was converted into apartments, where I lived during my senior year at college.
I like to use the Galloway method on my runs and when I’m racing farther than a 5K. I set my timer for 2 minutes running, 30 seconds walking. I felt strong, and after the first few miles I started to notice that I was passing runners one by one. I began to play a game with myself that I’ll sometimes do when I’m racing, which is see if I can pass more people than pass me. I don’t remember what my final number was, but it helped motivate me to try and keep a steady pace.
There was some lovely scenery along the course! If I hadn’t kept stopping to take photos I might have gotten a PR…
And the hills! Certainly not as many as Blue Ridge, but there was no shortage of them! I found that running the flat parts seemed more difficult than the hills, even the uphill parts. I crossed the finish line at 2:16:56, only eleven seconds off my PR.
After I finished I recognized a fellow runner from Fredericksburg, Marie. We stayed and chatted after the race for quite a while (truth: we were hoping we’d place in our respective age groups but we didn’t. Oh well.) There was a festival going on that day as well, and next time I’m going to make sure I bring a little cash with me and hit up some of the food trucks after the race! There was shuttle service between the park and Dedmon Center, which was nice!
Oh and get this: when I looked at the results later, I saw that the person who finished just before I did was a fellow teacher I worked with at my very first teaching job! We’re now following each other on Strava, and it’s been fun to see what she’s been doing running wise! Hopefully we’ll get a chance to catch up in person at a future event. So even though I didn’t run the race I had been training for, I had a great time, and almost got a PR to boot!
And the next race? The Marine Corps Historic Half. It was hot, I took it easy, felt strong, and clocked my slowest finish time for a half marathon.
Like I said… it was hot.
The neat thing about running a race year after year in the city where you’ve lived for the past 20+ years is that people you know are everywhere. They’re running the race with you, and you say hello, wish each other luck, maybe chat a little bit. They’re along the course, and you wave and holler their name and high five them. You start to look for certain people at certain points along the way, because that’s where they live. This year was unique (besides the fact that it was the first Historic Half since Ray’s death) because my new teaching job introduced me to so many more people! I saw lots of friends from work who were either running the race or cheering for us.
This is what I wrote on my Instagram page:
I woke up feeling sorry for myself and thought seriously of skipping it. At the start line I was thinking about how I could just run and jump in my car and go home. I’m so glad I showed up and ran. So many of my friends were out running too, volunteering, cheering on runners. Every time I saw someone I knew they gave me a burst of energy and I was reminded of the reason why I run this race. I’ve said more than once it’s the biggest party in town, and even though I started the day not really wanting to celebrate, YOU ALL made it worthwhile. I know my Ray was with me. At the finish I cried a little bit seeing all the people cheering, and realizing that passing from one life to the next must be a little bit like this, with everyone who has gone before you CHEERING, they’re so happy to see you. I thought, Ray was so upset at the prospect of leaving us, and when he arrived in Heaven and saw all those saints and angels there to welcome him, he was at peace and knew we would be OK. I have to believe that too.
Sometimes I just don’t feel like running, or doing much of anything. But when I force myself to get up and move, live, and love, I know I will be OK.