I recently ran my first 5k, and it was more fun than anything I've done in quite a long time. Inspired by my friend Shelly at La Tejana, I signed a waiver as soon as I learned that Color Me Rad was coming to Greensboro. I invited several friends, but when the morning of the race arrived, I was the only one on my team. Richard and Elliot came along to enjoy the spectacle of people in tutus and clown wigs throwing colorful fairy dust. At first, Elliot was so embarrassed to see his parents dancing among the jovial, vibrant group that he plugged his ears, tucked his chin to his chest and pretended to be invisible. By the end of the morning however, he was joining in the crowd, reaching for color "bombs" and having a good time.
When my wave was called, I found myself in a crowd of 7,500 people who were full of positive, happy energy. A couple in their 70's stood next to me, while a mother with her baby in a stroller was ahead. Families with young children, groups of college students, people of all different fitness levels, ages and nationalities gathered for a morning of fun. Some ran in memory of a loved one who had passed into Heaven. I ran without fully knowing what my purpose was. Perhaps I just wanted to be a part of something exciting and frivolous. Every time the crowd of runners moved forward, I got a tiny burst of adrenaline. Finally, the group was really moving, and I was thrilled to discover that I could really run! On the treadmill at the gym, or running the trails near our home, I feel like a heavy beast with magnets on my feet. On race day I felt light as a feather and surprised myself by running at a challenging pace up and down hills, weaving in and out of the crowd.
Some people sang all the way, and some marched in a group shouting out silly cadences. Some flew by me like drivers on the freeway, while some stopped often to send text messages and take pictures. Like Forrest, I just kept on runnin'. Because it felt good to fly.
It was over before I was ready for it to be over. I crossed the finish line, grabbed a water and headed through the crowd to search for Richard and Elliot. I expected to find them standing at our designated meeting place. They were not there. I thought maybe nature was calling, so I tried not to be nervous and just waited. After fifteen minutes, I headed over to our car. For some reason I couldn't find the car and thought there might have been an emergency.
My phone was in the car. While I was gathering courage to ask someone if I could use their phone, I decided to return to our meeting place and just wait a little while longer. Still pumped up by the feeling of running in the crowd, I tried not to let fear grab me. After fifteen more minutes of thinking good thoughts and enjoying the sight of people celebrating around me, Richard and Elliot arrived with hugs and faces full of smiling relief.
Instead of returning to the meeting point about 30 minutes after I started, Richard had decided to take Elliot to the street to see if they could watch me cross the finish line. Apparently they missed me entirely and worried that I wasn't able to finish the race.
Happily reunited, we returned home to a blissful shower and a refreshing lunch.
Then, the sneezing began. And kept on going all day and into the next. Apparently, I am allergic to cornstarch, which is the main ingredient in the color bombs. My first real allergy attack sent me to bed with a Zertek on Easter Sunday. Then, once the sneezing was under control, I started to get a migraine that lasted nearly all day on Easter Monday.
Thankfully I'm recovered today and excited to start looking for another race in my future, a race without color but not without fun. I learned that I can run longer and do more than I thought I could. It is a wonderful feeling to be empowered by breaking down my limiting perceptions. I'm learning that fitness, for the most part, is a mental challenge. I didn't expect it to be like this. To be strengthened in body is to be strengthened in mind and spirit. If ever there are times in my future that I feel a loss of connection with God, I only need to step out of my self preservation mode, my lazy, excuse making mode, and move myself into a place of strength. Grief has weakened me over the years. The sadness and loss I feel over Emily living up north and my father's passing have affected me in ways that I have not really acknowledged.
Maybe I will never fully be released from those hurtful pangs of loss and regret. Yet, when you are missing someone, it's important to stay positive and think good thoughts and remember that soon, you will be reunited with the one you love. You might even become reunited with yourself.