The 10k snuck up rather quickly. I haven't been running as much as I used to. Perhaps it's been the cold weather or just shear laziness, neither are valid excuses. As the date came closer, I did not feel ready for this race. The anxiety prevented me from getting a good night's sleep. I woke up at 2 and then 4. At 6AM, I decided to get up to stretch and prepare.
I left the house at 6:40 to get a good breakfast in. My choice was Pop's diner. Pop's has been in Flushing since I could remember. George, the waiter, has been the unofficial mascot of the diner. I had a breakfast sandwich and orange juice. Afterwards I trekked to the Upper West Side.
I was early. I took a stroll around the neighborhood. When it was finally time to meet up with Esther and Kevin, I headed over to the rendezvous point. I watched a man set out his collection of junk to sell to people passing by. His goods attracted an Asian woman who was looking at a cooking pot.
"How much?" she asked.
"Four dollars" he replied
"Three!" the Asian woman snapped back.
Typical elderly Asian woman, always looking for a bargain. She already got him to lower his initial price. She devised a plan to lower it even more. She walked up to him and pointed out a dirty spot on the pot, and demanded that he sell her this defected item for two dollars. To which he replied "No way man. You got me to lower it from four to three? Now you want two? Get out of here."
She accepted his three dollar offer and looked through more of his crap. After this observation, I met up with Esther and Kevin to head over to Riverside Park. We picked up our numbers and went to the starting line. I felt good and ready. I set my first song on the new "Winter is Here" playlist to Katy Perry's ROAR. It has always been a great running song when it comes up. I wanted to kick off this run strong and this song is my Ace.
With Katy Perry to start off the run, I relied on shuffle to get me through the rest of the race. Three 6 Mafia's Some Bodies Gonna Get It was my game two starter. I added this to my playlist due to my admiration for WWE's Mark Henry and his awesome heel run against John Cena. It's a great song because somebody was gon' get their ass kicked and that somebody was this race.
Avicii's Hey Brother came up after. At this point, the really really good runners were already light years away. A large group of us were still marching together and this song helped us get over the big hill in this race.
Mile one in and still going strong. I felt great, physically and mentally. I could do this, I thought to myself. Shortly after mile one, the professional runners were already zooming back to complete half the race. It was disheartening at first, but also inspiring.
I always need music to help me run. Without it, I don't think I would be able to complete any race. I was running with Esther and Kevin but when the right song hits, I get into a trance that ignores all pain. You'll notice this when I randomly start going at a faster pace. Eventually, we hit mile two and was heading back to the start to begin our second loop around the course.
When you see the complete course the first time around, you get an idea of where you are in the run. As we hit mile 3, I began to feel tired mentally. When the mental anguish hits, I begin to think I'm in physical pain. My thinking is that I'm already crapping out half way through this, how can I finish? My headphones are in but the music can only take you so far. There needed to be something else to keep the fire lit…
"Andy! he's cheering for you!" Esther pointed out
I had been wearing my Darth Vader hoodie for this race because why the hell not? When I looked and saw the person cheering me on, it was all I needed to purge the negative thoughts. We looped around the third mile marker and embarked on the course to finish the rest.
As we restarted the course, the person ahead of everyone was already coming around to complete the race. The volunteers brought the finish line tape for him to cross. Although the weather was warm, it was still hoodie weather. This person was sporting a tank top and the real definition of short shorts. The jackass part of me wanted to step over and cross the line before him, ruining his glory. But I'd never act on those instincts. I admired him for his awesomeness, but I needed to finish my own journey.
This big hill was so much harder the second time around and the course from mile four to five seemed way longer than it did when we were doing miles two and three. The water station served as a much needed place to rehydrate and recompose myself.
The course from mile five and six was the most difficult for me. We were so close to the finish but it still seemed so far away. Any slight incline was demoralizing my mental condition more than my physical. Coming down from the big hill to the home stretch was the light at the end of the tunnel for me. I needed a good song to help me push through to the end. Since the playlist was on shuffle, I was praying for Florence and the Machine's Dog Days Are Over to come and take over. As the current song came to an end, the next song would determine how well I'd finish this.
"When can we do this again? When can I see you again?" I began to speed up. Mental and physical status was at a high when Owl City's When Can I See You Again was destined to close out this race. There was less than a half mile to go. Just a flat surface and people cheering you on to finish. This finish line was close but it still seemed so far. This song got me thinking to myself and had me asking, "when can we do this again?" The moment in the end where people are cheering you to finish bring tears of joy and inspiration in your eyes. When I crossed the finish, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I wanted to cry. I had done it.
When can we do this again?
I remember after Esther's marathon. I was so inspired by her that I wanted to do a marathon too. After this race, I can't imagine myself doing a marathon anytime soon. We'll take baby steps. Running is just as much a mental struggle than it is a physical. There are constant battles going on in my mind when I am running. It's in a constant state of war whether I'm running or thinking about my personal life. I’m not sure when this war will end, but I know, in the end, I will conquer those doubts, fears, and excuses. I’m the F***ing best in the world.
Manhattan Hot Chocolate 10K