Into each life some rain must fall

Last night, the weather report declared a 100% chance of rain on Saturday, so it wasn’t a huge shock when we woke this morning to the sound of water dripping off the roof. At packet pickup the race organizers had said it would go on rain or shine, so even though it was still dark and dreary, my family and I headed out for the 8am start.

This race is a fundraiser for a local animal shelter and their facility is somewhat rural, with a dirt road and unpaved parking. The road was already muddy by the time we arrived; it would only get worse, and at least one car would get stuck, as more people showed up. Even though it’s a road race, I didn’t want to drown my half-marathon Mizunos in the rain, so I had elected to wear my older Asics, and after after walking only a few feet along the sloppy track, I knew that had been a good decision.

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It drizzled, it rained, it dried up, and it drizzled again. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to keep my windbreaker and my (brand-spanking new, only-had-it-for-18 hours) iPhone 5 with me. In the end, I kept the jacket but left the phone in the truck.

It turns out I could have left the jacket too–it was completely useless in the downpour that hit right as the starting horn blared. I was glad I’d not risked the phone, but I knew having no music or podcast would make the run a greater challenge.

My plan was to set a fast-for-me pace for as long as I could sustain it, take a breather, and go again. My half-marathon training runs had been slow, but I thought I could step it up a bit for the 5K distance today. After the first mile, I slowed a couple of times before speeding up again. I wasn’t really thirsty (and it was still raining) but I used the water stops as an excuse to walk a few steps. I didn’t walk much though–every so often I wiped the rain off my Garmin to see that I was holding a far quicker pace than I ever expected for this thing.

Around Mile Two, I calculated that while the leaders were in no danger from me, I had a good chance to finish with not just a good-for-me time, but a significant PR. I passed a woman who had slowed to walk. The rain let up. The water stop volunteers cheered. Then it was quiet again. I could really only hear my breathing, the squishing of water in my shoes, and the voice in my head. Only a mile, only .75, only .5, step on it, suck it up, GO.

As I turned the last corner, I could see the finish line .25 away. I didn’t have much left, but a glance at my Garmin and the sound of footsteps behind me helped me find another gear. My family, both of whom had finished several minutes ahead of me, cheered as I crossed the finish line: PR. A volunteer handed me a little paw-shaped medal and I sat on the curb trying to catch my breath.

Epilogue:

The 2011 edition of this race, in retrospect, represented the beginning of the disaster that was last fall. For months I’d been working on improving my pace and race times until this damn hip injury derailed everything. Yet today, in the rain and with no iPod, not only did I not hurt, my PR came in under that time I’d been trying to beat a year ago.

As we got up off the curb and headed to the truck, a race volunteer stopped us, looked at my nine-year-old, and hinted that we should stay for the awards. With almost no training, he had finished second in the <10 boys’ age group and was recognized with a medal and a gift card to the running store where I train.

Yes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow famously said “Into each life some rain must fall,” but another line in that poem applies here too: “Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.”

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