I always feel a bit like an imposter at this event, since I’m no one’s mother. Nevertheless, I love the Mother’s Day Title 9k Race, which sends thousands of women running around the Boulder Reservoir in Boulder, CO. I am enticed by the opportunity to race with some of the fittest women in America, since Boulder is stuffed full of the outdoorsy, athletic type. I like the idea of racing with my sister-in-law, whom I have come to love so much since I first met her ten years ago. And I believe it’s important to participate with my niece, year after year, not only as a family tradition but as a positive example of female beauty, power, and community. So, even though my injury would prevent me from running around the reservoir this year, I chose to walk the course so I could share the event with Miss T and SK.
Since I had no competitive goals for this race, I was completely off my race-day prep routine. I ate a breakfast burrito (eggs, beans and cheese before a race?), hadn’t even brought Little G to Colorado, and wore a pair of canvas capris and a cute three-quarter sleeve cotton top. I could have been headed to the mall, or to meet a friend for coffee on Pearl Street. The only wicking fabrics I had on were wrapping my feet and holding my bust in place. When I looked outside and saw it was 40 degrees and very overcast I thought, Will I even be able to warm up if I’m just walking swiftly?
We got to the reservoir and registered Miss T for a dash through the parking lot with the other “Red Triangles” (children 3 to 4 years old). This would be her first race, and SK was teary at the thought. She stayed with Miss T at the start line, prepping her on when to run, and when to stop running. I headed off with the camera to my station at the finish line, only after advising Miss T, Do your best to beat all these other kids. SK glared at me; I was joking! I swear! And then they were off, here comes Miss T in her pink rain slicker, her wispy hair flying around, with a big tentative smile on her face. I cheered her name as if she was born to be the next Shalane, mainly so she knew to keep running forwards towards a familiar face. Then, here she was, done running and hitting a dead stop exactly at the finish line, right into my arms. She wasn’t convinced of all the fuss we made over her, being primarily jazzed that she could now eat the snack bag of Pirate Booty she’d gotten at registration. We hung around to watch the other two heats (Yellow Circles and Blue Squares), simply because, without exception, the kids were adorable.
We still had a fair amount of time to kill before the 9 AM race start, part of which was taken up with ogling all the Hot Dads who had come out to cheer on their wives. Assemble fit women, and apparently the fit men show up as well. Nice.
SK and I wheeled Miss T in her jogstroller to the start, and it was at that moment it actually sunk in: I wasn’t going to be running. I turned to SK and said with a lump in my throat, It’s going to take me a long time to finish. Her response? “I love you.”
Then we were off, and SK and Miss T disappeared in the distance. I popped in my iPod and focused on maintaining a neutral hip position and engaged core muscles. I tried not to feel badly about the fact that I was walking a race course, because I have met some kick-ass racewalkers and I know there is nothing shameful about it. But yet, but yet… I couldn’t help but be embarrassed all the way in the back of the pack, surrounded by grandmas and chubby women. I felt weak, and jealous of all the ladies running in a horde ahead of me. When I’d pass volunteers stationed along the course to cheer, I thought ungratefully, I’m a marathon runner, okay? It’s soo not a big deal that I’m walking six miles, so stop your perky cheering. The irony being, of course, that I was more sore after this walk than I’d been after the Bronx Half Marathon, and that I was so tired I took a two-hour nap after lunch.
Finally, after more than an hour and a half of this, I could see the finish line coming up ahead. And, there were SK and Miss T, cheering for all of us back-of-the-packers. I could hear Miss T’s voice shouting “Looking strong ladies!” and “Good job!” I walked over to her and she gave me a high-five, then I took her hand and in the only running I’ve done since March 26th, jogged the last 50 feet across the finish line with my niece at my side. All the sulking and licking-of-wounds I’d done over the earlier 9k seemed silly as her jubilant presence reminded me why I’d put myself through this. She sweetly said to me, “I’m glad you made it, Tia.” (May I get teary now?)
Afterwards, we hung around getting free samples of ice cream, watching Miss T bounce on a huge inflatable obstacle course, and (the best part) getting complimentary massages. We compared notes with a few of the other women who had experienced the course, and we all agreed: Title9 had changed the route at the last minute (thus the designation “9k+”), never formally notifying any of the entrants, and had upped the total distance from 9k to 9.99k! Whoa. I’m not quite sure why they would do that; one of the benefits of running the same race year after year is the advantage we get from familiarity with the course, and of course, the rare opportunity to compare apples to apples on our race times. Not to mention—theoretically, we’d all trained for a 9k, not a 10k. There’s not a huge difference between 9k and 10k, but it’s enough so that if you’re pacing yourself for a 9k and then, when you’re all tapped out, you realize there’s still another kilometer left to run, it can make for a really frustrating and painful racing experience. If I’d had been racing, I’d have been pretty pee-ohed at the finish line. (I know SK was, despite her respectable gun time of 1:01:30, coming in 18th our of 74 competitors in the Mother & Jogstroller Run group.)
My finishing stats, which I provide purely for your amusement:
- 1012th out of 1592 total finishers
- 305th out of 343 women in my age group (35-39)
- Gross time – 1:36:17