Once again I participated in the Charleston, South Carolina Race for the Cure. All of these running events are attached to some sort of good cause, but this one is a little different. The primary reason is the breast cancer survivors who are walking around the place. The second reason… well, that’s a bit more personal.
Last year at this time I was still building up my left ankle after an accident. Nothing had broken, but I had suffered a serious bit of blunt trauma and it was still swollen at the time of the race. Ankles are funny in a lot of ways, and I wasn’t sure how mine would react to five kilometers of constant pounding. To be honest, I was worried about it. I wanted to run as a lifestyle, but I was at the mercy of my injury. This race was the test. After the 2006 Race for the Cure, I would know if I could still be a runner or if I would have to give it up forever.
I was lucky. My ankle complained a little, but not as much as I had feared. Through steady training, I was successfully building it back up. I ran the event in a respectable amount of time, and I found a sense of security as well. As long as I didn’t get greedy or impatient with my training, I could recover completely. It’s nothing at all like surviving cancer, but it’s enough to make this event just a little more important than the others.
Before the Race
Things went pretty much the same as last year. I showed up at a less insane hour, parking my car at 6:50 am rather than 5:30 am. Instead of parking in one of the lots, I found a nice diagonal space along the road and made my way to the registration booth. Sunrise hadn’t come just yet, so I tried out the new digital camera. Unfortunately, it’s the kind that turns on the flash every time you turn it on or alter a setting. It took a few tries to get into the habit, but I am now an expert at turning the stupid flash off before taking a picture. (Seriously, that’s a stupid design flaw. The Kodak EasyShare C613 is a decent camera overall, but if I had known about the flash issue I would have bought something else. Of course, something else would have been much more expensive, and I’m taking this thing with me to the races all the time…)
It took me a while to get used to the camera, but I eventually figured out the basics of its personal quirks. My favorite shot in this section is the line of cars who arrived late. Someone should have told them that it pays to be early.
The pink sheets that some folks are wearing on their backs are for cancer patients. If the person is gone, it says “In Memory of…” and if the person is still around it says “In Celebration of…” A couple of guys even had custom made shirts for the wife/mother that they had lost, with her picture on the back. And of course, we had the usual light-hearted compliment of “Save the Boobies!” and “Save the Ta-Ta’s!”
All Things Pink and Lively
Somehow this article wouldn’t be complete without a photo of me with a pink ribbon on my face. Instead of being roped into the process, this time I freely stepped into line and asked for one. I guess it’s a tradition now.
Another tradition is to bring the The Pink Ladies (breast cancer survivors) onto the stage before the race. It’s a fun little show and I’m as glad to celebrate survival as the next person, but I must admit that I’ve had quite enough of that damned Melissa Etheridge song. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan. I’ve even been to one of her concerts and it was well worth the money. It’s just this one song that bugs me. “I Run for Life.” It was just fine the first few times, but they loop it when the hold this event, and I’m about as glad to hear it as I am to hear Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Waiting to Start
The race was delayed just like last year. Charleston still can’t seem to find its backside with both hands, so I-526 was backed up again. I personally feel that missing a race or two will convince those people to leave the house before eight o’clock, but the race organizers are more sympathetic. As before, we waited for the one-mile walkers to finish up before gathering at the Starting Line. This is where you meet some of the best people… in these few minutes before you take off.
And We’re Off!
I always try to get a photo just after the buzzer goes off. Please pardon the quality on a few of these. I was still trying to figure out the camera. In spite of the lighting differences, though, you can get a pretty good idea of what the course was like. Things were pretty flat, and the weather was good for a run. Slightly cool if you were standing still, but wonderful once you got warmed up. I had been a bit worried about the delay since the sun would have a chance to climb a bit, but everything turned out just fine. I even managed to get photos of one of the water stations and and a few of the local side-line cheerleaders.
Although I had planned to steadily cruise rather than push the limit, I couldn’t resist speeding up once I got into the crowd. I normally train for distance rather than speed, so I was getting tired a little faster than I normally do. I didn’t mind, though. How often do I get a chance to run with this many people?
The course wrapped back around to the beginning, so we got to see the Walkers on our way into the Finish. That always intrigues me… they seem like they’re barely out of the gate, and we’re already finishing up. It’s normal, of course. I’m not sure if they waited or just started behind us. In any case, it seems a bit strange to me when I see it.
Finishing in Record Time
I didn’t realize how hard I was pushing this time. I crossed the line at 24 minutes, 17 seconds. My personal best time is 24:16, but this time I spent maybe ten seconds just getting to the starting line. If my chip time is 24:07, then this is a personal best! Unfortunately, the posted results on the website don’t include my name or bib number. It could be because I signed up the morning of the race, or they could have messed up something with my chip… you never know around here. I’ll just have to go with the time I’m sure about. Still, since I know that I lost more than two seconds getting to the Starting Line, I consider this to be my best personal performance in a running event.
Post-Race Snacks and Vendors
Ah, yes. Bananas and Apples and Water, oh my! The course led people right by these, but I didn’t get to them untill a little later. After I crossed the finish line I ducked under the tape to the sidelines so I could take a few photos of the people who finished after me. I even took a little video. The high-pitched beeping you hear is the sound of the racing chips being read by the Finish Line computers. I have no idea why they had to be so loud, or why they had to be audible in the first place.
Although I’m completely against dogs and baby strollers at large crowded events like the Cooper River Bridge Run, they fit in just fine at the smaller events. I’m not sure if the dogs were allowed on the course, but I did see a few baby strollers bringing up the rear. I was glad not to see anyone trying to start one of those things in the front of the crowd.
Derik and Erin Return!
I met Erin last year at this event, and then again at the Reindeer run. I met her guy Derik at the latter. I was glad to see both of them. We exchanged information (again) and we all promised not to misplace the little slip of paper this time. (It’s easy to lose stuff when you don’t have pockets. My car key was tied up in my shoelaces.) Derik was interested in running together sometime, and I was all for it. For the record, I still have my little slip of paper, and I’ll be sending an email tomorrow.
After seeing them, I decided that it was time to get home and get a little work done. I still had most of the day ahead of me. I didn’t hurry, though. I was still savoring the day’s events.
This is my favorite 5K race. Last year at this time I was unsure if I could be a runner at all, but look at me now. I’m pushing the limits, running farther and farther. I’m actually having a hard time scheduling my runs because they take up so much time. I’ve been running four miles as a habit, with long days of eight miles. Now I’m cranking that up to eight miles with a long day of twelve. Just looking at the photos from last year’s article and this one reveals a striking difference in personal appearance and health. In my own small way, I’ve survived my own ordeal. Not just the worries over the ankle or my hand, but the knowledge that I survived a wreck which even by conservative odds should have killed me. Statistically, I really shouldn’t be here writing this.
Last year, I thought about it all the time. Now, it’s just every once in a while. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t such a big deal after all. I didn’t go through months of chemotherapy or lose my hair. I wasn’t in danger of losing my arm, and the doctor was pretty sure that my hand was going to heal up properly. (Which it did.) Those women in the pink shirts went through everything I did, plus a hell of a lot more. They lived with a constant threat over their heads, and some of them lost some very personal parts of themselves in the process of getting through it all. So if they can stand up on a stage and dance in front of everybody, the least I can do is walk a little slower to the car and enjoy the morning sunshine.