Laura talks about her longest race/run to date. She also speaks to how great it is to be part of the local running community. As usual I love keeping tabs on what Laura is up to, what she’s accomplished and how her confidence in her athletic abilities keeps growing. -Jared
The Inaugural Veteran’s Day Run was held last Friday, 11/11/11, at the Quincy Soldiers and Sailors Home. The event was part of a larger national event that was organized to raise money for various military support groups including the Wounded Warrior Project. In a sign-up period of only 3 weeks, the Quincy chapter of the Veteran’s Day 11K run or 1 Mile walk had registered about 50 runners and a dozen walkers.
For me, the event was going to be a big challenge. I’d never entered a run that was more than 5K, and my recent training runs have only been around 3-4 miles. The 6.8 mile course would be a new personal distance record- if I could complete it.
The runners all gathered at the shelter house of the Soldiers and Sailors Home at about 7 am. A dozen dedicated volunteers, organized largely by Dave Ulrich of the organization “Fishing for Freedom” and Army SSG Aarron Patrick, helped to register all the participants and hand out race bibs.
Pre-race, I found myself in the corner of the building trying to stay warm and chatting with the three Koren War Veterans that had volunteered to present our flag during the opening of the event. Miss Quincy, Rachel Shriver, was also on-hand to help run the ceremonies.
Close to start time, the runners and walkers gathered by the flag-adorned fountain and the Koren War Vets brought out the flag. Veterans of all wars were recognized, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, and then, rather than have someone sing the National Anthem, the entire group sang it together. I hope the group singing of the Star Spangled Banner is a tradition that sticks with this event, because the feeling of our voices raised to our country standing among friends and veterans in a crisp autumn morning was extraordinarily moving.
The runners huddled in a group around the starting line. I was standing near a group of friends from the Heartland Road Runners Club who I knew were ready to rock this race. I was nervous about the distance, but since it was 32 degrees outside, I was definitely ready to get moving when SSG Patrick pulled the trigger on the starting gun.
The group all started the course together and someone hollered a call and answer run chant of, “I don’t know but I’ve been told, the Veteran’s Run is mighty cold.” I was running pretty easy at the beginning, and it was nice to have my muscles start to warm up as we headed out on the course.
The run was designed such that the first section circled the perimeter of the military cemetery at the top of a hill on the campus of the home. I was in the back of the pack when we got to this point in the run, and it brought a tear to my eye to see the white tomb stones under clear blue skies and the watchful eye of a row of flags. The circle of runners was silent except for footfalls, and they became an honor guard to remember the heroes that were buried there.
The run then took us back to the main part of the Veteran’s Home campus and around the Quincy Deer Park. The five-acre fenced park at the center of the Veteran’s Home facility houses deer, goats, peafowl, and other animals. The timing was perfect for me because I was really starting to get winded, and watching the clearly bewildered deer watch us run around their fence was pretty funny. It took my mind off the burn and helped me to keep going.
I spent the rest of lap one of the two-lap course soaking up the scenery. There were veterans sitting on the stoops of buildings or in the windows of their rooms watching us pass, and I tried to wave to all of them. We passed the Eternal Flame Monument, the assorted tanks and military vehicles that are all over the facility, and the All-Wars Museum.
I was actually feeling pretty good by the beginning of the second lap. I navigated the uneven ground and just kept trucking. I’d see my friends that were ahead of me each time the course doubled back on itself, and we’d high-five or yell something encouraging to one another. I sort of zoned-out and kept right on going through the course. I passed the pen with the miniature horses and the emu, and I thought that I couldn’t be so close to the finish line. I assumed I’d be dying when I got into that 6th mile, since it was beyond anything I’ve run before. Sure enough though, I was already there and there was less than a mile to go.
I can tell you, I’m going to have a hard time putting the end of the race in words. Most of my friends had long since finished the course and were standing about a half mile from the end of the course. As I rounded the corner, my husband, then my friend Jeremy, then a whole group of runners from the Heartland Road Runners hopped back on the course and ran the last half mile with me. My super-speedy friend Jeff kept right in step with my pace (which was probably pretty darned slow for him) and Ali and Michelle shouted out encouragement and congratulations on my finish- which they knew was a personal distance record for me. It was so neat and encouraging to have them all join in, that I practically floated the last 200 yards.
I ended the race with a time of 1 hour and 11 minutes (and 18 seconds). That’s right. I did an 11K on 11/11/11 in 1:11. Best. Finish. Time. Ever.
I sincerely hope that the Veteran’s Day Run becomes a new Quincy tradition. It’s only going to get bigger and better, and I’m proud to have taken part in the first one. It was a great way for us all to remember our men and women in uniform on a holiday we too often take for granted.
For my part, finishing this personal long distance has given me a lot of confidence in my ability to learn to become a better runner. The support of friends in the Heartland Road Runners and Walkers Club has meant a lot to me, and in fact, has given me the motivation I needed to go ahead and sign up for my first half-marathon. I’d encourage any readers of Get Out to come check out the club. They’re such an inclusive group and will help you develop from “can’t run a mile” all the way to your personal goal for running and fitness.
And don’t forget that the annual Turkey Run and Jingle Bell Run are coming up. I’ll be there- and I’ll be finishing- with a little help from my friends!