Pre-Race: I’m just going to say it – I hate the name of this race. It should be Run for Congolese Women, since that’s what they call people from the Congo. It’s the same as saying Run for America Women, or Run for China Women. I’ve thought many times about just changing it, but since it’s a really good cause, I wanted everyone to be able to actually find the website – http://www.runforcongowomen.com . However, since it drives me crazy, it will heretofore be mentioned only as “the race”.
Before I get into the actual event, I do want to mention what a great cause this is, and how grateful “Cassandra” and I were that this race was being held in the Valley. It was a $20 fee, and all proceeds went directly to the support of the Congolese women who are being systematically desecrated and killed in a land war with their men. 54 million women and children have been killed. My $20 will feed and house a woman and her children for a month.
OK now to the event. Cassandra and I were planning on doing this race last year, until my alleged stress fracture happened in July. Also the fact that I had double-booked it with my trip to China nixed it as well. But this year we were healthy, so we decided to go!
It was at Kiwanis Park, starting in the “Sister City Gardens”, which was an apt location. It was a very small race – the highest bib number I saw was 133. It was my first 10K, so there were definitely some nerves, but I’ve been running 6 miles on my long runs for the last couple of weeks, so I was confident that I was going to be able to finish. I also looked at this as a trial for signing up for the Disney Princess 1/2, if I could keep myself at a sub-16min pace. I absolutely do not want to go all the way to Florida, and then get picked up in the loser cruiser for not keeping pace.
The weather had miraculously cooled down this weekend, so we were only in the low 90’s – way better than the summer races, however the race was scheduled to start at 8, then 8:45, and finally at 9am. Frankly I would have preferred to be done by then, but at least it wasn’t too hot.
Race: 9 am, go! Cassandra and I decided to go with 6/4’s, with me dictating pace, and her dictating any additional required stops (I’ll save you the suspense and confirm that yes, in the end I dictated additional stops as well). We had looked at the course map while we were waiting for the gun, but it was… rather convoluted, and I don’t think either of us had a clue what we were supposed to do. They confirmed it was marked, so we assumed we’d follow the signs and everyone else. The course started running down the canal, which we did brilliantly, and then cutting down to go around the lake. That’s when things got interesting – because the marks had us running straight through park areas, and not running on the sidewalks, which is the standard process. It almost felt like cheating, and cutting corners, but we were following the marks and people so we kept on going. We found the first water stop, and went over a hill. Then we lost the trail.
We kept following people, so we felt good. We went around the park area, where the indoor pool is, around the soccer fields, and got back onto All American Way. We saw lots of people coming around the other way, so we assumed there was a turnaround - only we never found it. We did find ourselves back at the water station, so we asked for directions. Too bad the water station lady didn’t know the course. She told us to lap around the lake, so we did. About this time we started getting passed by guys who were yelling to each other that they were on their “last lap around the lake, then going up to the canal and then done”. From that we assumed we had to loop the lake at least one more time after our current loop. We had a plan! We were also really starting to be by ourselves out there. There was a mother/daughter team near us – just as lost as we were – who took turns playing leap frog and navigator with us. Once we completed the loop around the lake, and made a pit stop at the bathroom, we were back at the water station. Keep in mind we have no idea how far we’ve gone, as there were also no mile markers (actually maybe there were on the real course, and we didn’t see any because we weren’t on the real course…). The water station lady now had the same confusing map that we had see prior to the start, which frankly did not help us at all. She told us to go back around the park, and come back around the lake, so that’s what we did.
Somewhere between the water station and the hill to the park, we lost the mother/daughter team. We didn’t see anyone else who looked like they were racing until we hit the same patch where people were going the other way. At this point, the frustration was mounting, and the goon was starting sneak in thoughts of helplessness and wasting time. We decided since we had no idea where we going to cut across the soccer field, and continue on. We went back to the water station. We looped the lake again. Then we got to the canal. At this point we knew where to go!
We went up to the cone, turned around and ran to the finish line – where my mom met us with Sprinkles cupcakes! Yay! Even more exciting was the official clock (about the only race item out there) that said 1:28:31!! However, the fact that we had no idea if we had actually completed the course kept me from being too excited about a successful 10K, and a possible PR.
The best part of the race for me was the mantras that Cassandra and I exchanged at what we assumed to be close to mile markers – that we were grateful for our health, our successes, our friendship, that we didn’t have to walk for war-torn miles every time we needed water, and that we were able to participate in such a good cause.
Post-Race: I don’t know why I was expecting my actual position and race time to be listed on a website anywhere. There was no chip, or finish time on my bib. I did go home after the race and map out (via satellite map, so I could see the actual sidewalks and paths) the course we took. Counting the soccer cut, and the extra mileage to the bathroom, we successfully completed 6.08 miles. That’s 14:34 per mile, which IS a PR for me for this distance, and is definitely under the Loser Cruiser line, which is great news.
It was a successful race in many ways – completing my first 10K race, our ability to somehow map out our own 6+ mile course, the opportunity to share a morning with a great friend, a PR, confidence towards the Disney Princess ½, and most importantly, giving assistance to women just like us who are in serious need.
John “the Penguin” Bingham said it best: “So many of us have changed our own lives through running that it makes sense we would want to change the lives of others the same way. We can take the drive, ambition, and dedication we used to transform ourselves from couch potatoes to athletes and channel that into making a difference for someone else.”