Beep! Beep! Beep! goes my cell phone alarm at 5 a.m. It’s one thing getting up early to go to work, but another on a holiday when by all rights I should be sound asleep at this hour. But noooo… I drag myself out of bed into the bathroom for a shower to wake myself up.
It’s Memorial Day and Memorial Day near Boulder, Colorado can only mean one thing. It’s time to drag my sorry, tired, fat butt six miles through the streets of Boulder along with 50,000 other people who are also willing to torture themselves in this way.
I read with interest how one of the largest running races in the country got its start back in 1979, almost forty years ago. Some silly people decided to stage a 10k on Memorial Day, and over 2000 people showed up to run in said race. Not surprising, given Boulder is the land of uber-fit people who run, bike, rock climb, and do other things to test their incredible fitness on any given day.
But each successive year, the number of people doubled showing up to run the race, and now over 50,000 people come from far and wide. My husband is the runner in the family. Full confession — I pretty much hate running. I only run if I have signed up to run in a race, because I don’t want to be embarrassed, end up walking and finish dead last.
So by registering to race, I force myself to run as part of training, and most of those training runs, I am sweating, grimacing, and in general not enjoying the experience. But to live in Boulder County, just a mere 20 minutes from Boulder, and not run in the Bolder Boulder seems almost sacrilege. It’s a thing for so many families and athletes — it’s bragging rights to talk about how many consecutive years you have run in the Bolder Boulder.
Yes, it’s true, I got shamed into running.
So I find myself standing with a whole bunch of other people at 7 a.m. on 30th Street. Some are as young as five years old, others as old as who knows what? There are groups of us, with our bibs pinned to our shirts, stretching, trying to look confident.
Our wave keeps moving up until we are at the start line. The announcer tells us a couple is in our wave who have run in thirty consecutive Bolder Boulders. Woop-de-doo for them. The gun goes off and we are moving.
The first mile, I feel as if I can hardly catch my breath. I’m trying to keep up with the other people who started with me, but I’m having a hard time breathing. This is not unusual, as almost every race I have run, I feel anxious and it takes me a mile or two to get my breathing down.
The first two miles don’t seem so bad, but then we start to head up hill. It’s not a steep hill, but nevertheless, I feel it. My legs feel it. Some girls beside me are talking about the altitude. Apparently, they are from out of town, from sea level. This makes me feel more miserable, because I’m not feeling terribly energetic, and I don’t have that excuse. I live at 8200 feet — this should be easy for me. But it’s not.
By Mile 4, I’m feeling pretty miserable. I’m sweating, my legs feel heavy and I’m thinking how nice it would be to just stop. To jump in a pool, to drink a fruity, alcoholic drink. Some people have started to walk, but they are probably those people from sea level.
At this point, the only thing that keeps me going is shame. A woman I work with having a party later this afternoon for people running in the race, and I know that everyone writes their time on a bulletin board. I also know she is older than me and will probably finish in a much faster time than me.
So I have two options — keep my legs moving and keep running and at least have a time that is not embarrassing, or stop running, and opt out of going to her party, and hope to avoid her at work.
So I keep my legs moving. I try a new tactic — try to run faster while I count to ten, then let up a little. I hope in this small way I can keep a reasonable pace.
We make the turn onto Folsom towards the stadium. I hear the bagpipers — the sign that we are getting close. As we make the turn towards the entrance of the stadium, we are running up one last hill. I am totally gassed, and it is all I can do to keep running, even at a pathetically slow rate.
As we enter the stadium, I hear Bryon — he’s yelling “Go Leslie!” This encourages me, as I glance up and see the clock. Unbelievably, I still have a chance to finish with a time better than last year. I summon up all my reserves and try to run as hard as I can towards the finish line.
Finally — this hour of torture is over. Thank God, I survived. Until next year.