Running with Unicorns

Run with unicorns – that’s going to be my new motto.

After a spotty summer of running, I woke up on Saturday, September 1st knowing that (a) it was another year that I was not going to Hogwarts and (b) if I showed up for the race, then I’d be happy with that.

And I did show up, a sleepy Jesse in tow, for the New Orleans Track Club Inaugural Pride 5k. This was the first race I’d ever run in New Orleans, and the first time this particular race had been held.

I had no idea what to expect, or how parking and check-in would be, and I decided to show up as early as my brain would allow me. That turned out to be 9:00 am, right when bib pick-up started. We didn’t need to be that early, but I was glad that we were. (No comment from Jesse).

There wasn’t a line to pick up my bib or tee shirt, and we had an hour wait to the start of the race, but the people watching made me wish there was more time. The other racers showed up with Pride on the mind! And on their clothes. And hair. And socks. There were multiple unicorns, lots of rainbow tutus, some glittery hot pants, and even a Crayola box.

I was way too shy to ask to take pictures of people, so here is a nice picture of a wall instead.

I felt totally under dressed, but the race coordinators seemed to anticipate that and if (like me) you showed up in your normal running clothes, body glitter was provided.

I also would have been too shy to ask for the glitter, but Jesse stepped in and, quite kindly, threatened to ask for me. The embarrassment of my husband asking another person if I could please have some glitter too turned out to be more than just asking for myself.

Shortly after I was bedazzeled, the Village People song was interrupted and they announced that the runners should line up. At this point, I had the blind confidence of naivety. I had just showed up to run, not even bringing my Garmin. I didn’t have a visor or sunglasses. I didn’t even wear sunscreen. And I didn’t bring music.

I thought it was going to be fine.

It’s the funny thing about running. Everything that you feel during the race seems to melt away the moment you stop. I do remember it was hard, but now, looking back, it turned out great.

Not my time, or endurance, or really performance in anyway, but the race was special. It went through the newly-christened Crescent Park, and then out into the side streets of the Bywater neighborhood before winding back and ending where it started.

Which meant that I passed this sign twice!

Sure, there was the whole second half of the race when the sun was beating down like it was racing Usain Bolt. And then when we re-entered Crescent Park and thought, “hey, I remember doing this on the way out, it wasn’t that bad,” and then it went on FOREVER. I’m pretty sure that they hastily doubled the length of the park while the runners were looking the other way.

***A note on Crescent Park. Part of the beauty comes from the subtle winds and turns, none of which I noticed on the way out and all of which I cursed silently on the way back, certain each time that the finish line was just around the bend.***

I ran, I walked parts, and I would have cried but my body knew that I couldn’t spare the fluids. But finally, after many false hopes, there was the inflatable finish line.

There is nothing like a crowd of spectators to make me self-conscious about being alone. And during that final stretch over the finish line, I wasn’t alone exactly, but the closest runners were about four yards away from me in either direction. And there was no way I was going to walk if other people who hadn’t run the race could see it. So I told myself that I could breath, and kept pushing my legs behind me until someone handed me a metal. Jesse materialized next to me, with a full water bottle, and I think the only word I said for five minutes was “shade.”

I don’t know what my official length was, because I was watchless, but according to the race my final time was 33:55. My slowest 5k ever, and I don’t care. It was where my body was on that day, after this summer, in this whirlwind of a year that brought me here. I showed up, learned to wear sunglasses on race day, and left with a medal and burning reminder of why I love running.

And, for me, that means I won.