Saturday, May 19, 2012. It was a cool morning. The weather was a breezy 64 degrees. Mostly sunny conditions. Some of the winds were gusting at over 15 mph. Most of those winds were right at the end of the race. There were 1188 finishers in the race. Over 500 of those finishers were young girls from Girls on the Run. The other half included coaches, running buddies, parents, and all non GOTR runners. The winner of the 5k finished in an impressive 17:18!
I woke up around 6:30 on Saturday morning. I had not done a normal carb load the night before, I actually went out for Mexican food and Margaritas. I gave myself a pass as I knew the race that day should and would not be about me. As I got dressed and ready, I did not even wear my running watch. I decided I did not want to focus on a time. I was there to run with the girls and pace them out over the 3 mile Norfolk course. I had bought some new workout gear at my favorite lululemon store the day before. I was sporting the running skirt with built in shorts. Because it was chilly, I layered with a running tank and a long sleeve lulu pullover. I grabbed a banana and a coffee for the car and hit the road.
As I arrived at MacArthur Center to park, I began to see the waves of young girls in the blue Girls on the Run Shirts. We were all to meet in MacArthur Park with our team. As I walked toward the park, I could see all the school signs. I made a quick stop at the bathroom and immediately went to search for our team meeting spot. As I was looking for our team I was quickly spotted by 2 of our team girls. They ran right over, “Miss Jessica, our team is over there.” They were so excited. They informed me of the spirit station at the GOTR race. There was a table that the girls could go to and get glitter, face stamps, spirit gear, and colored hair spray. Our team was rocking all colors of hair from neon green to silver.
As we got closer to the 9 am start time, we began stretching and warming up. We did a few of the GOTR cheers. We made the walk over to the start line. A lot of our girls had run the GOTR 5k earlier in the year and new what to expect. As I found out, two of our girls ran at about a 9 minute pace during the last race. It became clear to me that they were expected to run like that again on this race day. This race was taking place through the streets of Norfolk. Closed streets, but some tricky spots. The girls would definitely need to have someone run with them. It looked like that would be me. Remember, no carb load, margaritas, and no watch. Wasn’t thinking I would be running for time. Not only would I be running for time, I would be trying to run faster than normal to get these girls in at a fast pace. The two girls, we will call T and M, were our fastest girls on the team. We started the race in the middle. The course was narrow and hard to weave in and out of people. The girls quickly became frustrated that they couldn’t just open up their stride and go. I decided to take each one by the hand and weave us through and around people for a few hundred yards until the crowd thinned out. Then we were cruising. I knew we were moving at a pretty good clip. T was talking the entire time. They were both motivating each other. We came up on some other girls from our team. We cheered for them and passed them as we moved over the bridge. T started asking if she was in the first place for our school team. I told her yes. She picked up her speed a little bit. We cruised through the first mile marker. We approached the halfway mark and a water station. The girls decided they wanted to get a quick cup of water. They knew to move to the right get their cup and walk carefully through the area. The girls saw all of the cups on the ground and kept asking if it was alright to drop the cup. T was very concerned about littering. I told her the volunteers would pick them up. After much discussion, I convinced them it was ok to drop the cups and lets go. T picked right back up where we left off. M and I were hanging together a few feet behind. We were heading into mile 3. I could only guess we were at about a 9 something pace. With a 1/2 mile to go, T looked back at us. I told her to go for it! We were right behind her. M and I kept our pace up pushing all the way to the end. The last 400 yards, I could see the finish line. I grabbed her hand and we were in a full out sprint. The winds were blasting us, but the excitement and cheers from the crowd carried us in. We finished at a respectful 30:19. T was ahead of us at 29. They finished 1 and 2 for our GOTR team. The girls were all smiles as they received their pink GOTR medals. After we finish, we are encouraged to go back out on the course and run in the remaining team members. We went back a couple times to run in the other girls. This race was so much fun. I wasn’t worried about my time or anything else. And as it would figure, I did pretty good. Our GOTR program is for girls ages 3rd -5th grade. I am excited to help out with them again next year and get to work with all the returning girls, especially T and M.