Many years ago, before my husband and I were married, we used to run together. Several times a week we would head out, me running as fast as I could to keep up. My husband, over a foot taller than me could easily have just walked along next to me, but he “ran” along with me anyway.
One summer I made it my goal to run a 5K. For three months, my husband and I “ran” together nearly every day. When August came around I was as ready as I would ever be.
It was hot and humid on the day of the race. Some of the race was to take place on a trail through shady woods, but most of the trail snaked through a grassy field with nowhere to hide from the burning sun.
As the race began one person after another passed me. By the time I was out of the woods, I was running alongside a woman in her twenties wearing an elaborate knee brace, a pregnant lady, and a much older woman. I was pretty sure that the much older woman was hanging back just to keep the pregnant lady company. As they chatted away about the weather and baby showers, I was barely keeping up.
By the time I reached the unshaded field, I began to feel dizzy from the heat. At some point I realized that my “running” was actually a slower pace than my own walking pace. The injured woman, the pregnant lady, and the elderly woman were long gone. Alternating between walking and running, I tried to figure out some way to just quit. But there wasn’t a shortcut to the car. The only way out was to just keep running.
By the time I crossed the finish line, all the other racers and their families had packed up and left. The event organizers were cleaning up.
At the time, it was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I fought back tears as I walked off the field toward the car, where my my husband-then-boyfriend was waiting for me. At the time, I was furious with him for smiling, for saying, “But you finished!”
I often think about that race on hot days, days 80 degrees and higher, like the day we had today. And for some strange reason, on days like this, I always force myself to go for a run.