On Sunday, I ran my first 5K ever. Woo hoo!
Even though my daughter and I have been running steadily for 12 weeks now, I wasn’t sure I was cut out for nonstop group running in unfamiliar territory. Add diabetes and insulin to a bit of caution, and I had some mental hurdles to overcome to prepare for the race and see it through.
It was the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Road Race, a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club. The location was urban and hilly, the weather sunny and warm, and the day festive: on our walk there from my brother’s place near the beach, we saw lots of locals ambling home from the package store with six-packs and setting up on the back patio for a day of partying with friends. The sidewalks were lined with spectators in green who cheered us on, and officers on motor cycles were stationed at every intersection. Cardboard shamrocks were taped to front doors and windows.
Me? I wore purple (I have no green), checked my blood sugar in advance, took off my pump, clipped a pack with supplies around my waist, and squeezed into line with my daughter Lydia and brother Michael, who ran too. As we waited, a bunch of kids on guitars and a guy with a microphone performed Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” The race director counted down from 30. For a few seconds we bobbed in place, waiting for the crowd to ease so we could inch forward, and a woman in the crowd yelled cheerfully: “Hey — you suck!” It seemed to be the Southie version of “Good luck,” and we took off.
Lydia and Michael ran ahead. The sun shone on my face and I ran up one hill, around the corner, and faced another hill. The whole race was like this — alternating hills and flat patches — and I found myself saying, inside, “One more hill.” This mantra, the crowd cheering, the high-fives, a Britney Spears remix on someone’s stereo blaring from the window in her apartment, the guy running near me coaching his girlfriend on the hills, and the feeling of participating in a huge conglomeration of human activity: these got me through.
One more hill, one more hill, one more hill, and I did it.
Here are some photographs of the event.
Time passed. The course started and ended in the same place, and Jimmy reported that the elite runners crossed the finish line just 15 or so minutes after the rest of us went up the hill and around the corner. I lost track of Lydia and Michael, and I saw them again after the halfway point at the beach. I kept myself going by listening hard to the cheers of the crowd; every word I took seriously. “You can do it!” I can do it! “High five!” High five. “Go, go!” Go, go. I smiled my thanks at all the onlookers and hoped I didn’t look like one of those pained, bent over runners at the tail end of a marathon. I straightened up. I ran slowly, but I ran.
During the run, and before and after when I was checking my blood sugar, I fantasized about a road race in which only people with diabetes could compete. It would be comforting to look around and see lots of people pulling their glucometers out of fanny packs and for there to be juice box stations everywhere along the route. But the other side of me, the able-bodied one in good health, discounted this idea. Diabetes is a big deal, and yet I really want it not to be. I am of two minds on this.
All images by Jimmy Guterman