After that first race, I was instantly hooked. Sure, it hurt and I was slow, but I felt something that I hadn't felt in a very long time, or ever actually:
The feeling of crossing the finish line.
If you haven't experienced it, let me see if I can describe it adequately. It's a feeling of accomplishment, pride, VICTORY. Yes, victory, even though I didn't win a darned thing. Whether someone is shouting my name and cheering me on or not, that moment that I cross the pad is kind of surreal, really uplifting, and never lasts long enough. The personal win that I experienced the day of my first 5k race has only been matched a few more times since I began racing:
- My first triathlon ever - that feeling that I actually DID IT. I trained, I swam, I biked, and I ran (PR'd on my 5k in the process). If I could have hugged myself that day, I would have.
- My first half marathon - the distance scared the crap out of me, and I didn't think I would be able to run THAT far for any sustained amount of time. But I did it, I ran the entire race without stopping, and my time wasn't too shabby. My finish line photo said it all: I crossed the line, arms over my head, triumphant, and crying like a baby.
- My first Olympic distance triathlon - I put on my big girl tri kit and went for it. I had a good swim, a good bike ride, and I completely died in the run. It was hot, I realized that I didn't train very well, and I learned a lot that day about racing (and training and nutrition). But I stayed upright, ran across the finish line to the cheers of my children, and I felt like a real triathlete from then on.
I have many more races ahead of me, at least that is my plan. I don't race to win, I don't race to beat anyone but myself. Crossing the finish line is a bit of an addiction for me. An addiction, like any drug, that brings about feelings of power and euphoria and little bit of giddiness. And, like a drug, it also brings withdrawals when I haven't crossed one in a while. Except this addiction is one that is good for me, one that improves my body, my mind, and my spirit with each hit.