You’d think when a girl grows up in Panama City, FL and lives there the first 19 years of her life…she’d be acclimated to heat and humidity. You’d think that the humidity in Huntsville, AL would have nothing on that of Panama City. And you may be right…but only about the second part. I grew up in Panama City. I ran races in Panama City. I ran at all hours of the day in Panama City.
And yet this humid Alabama heat is killing me!
I’ve never been a big fan of heat, even growing up in a hot and humid area. Mom can tell you from all of our runs together, as soon as it got hot, my pace dropped, my attitude changed for the worst, and I pretty much turned into a big whiney wimp.
I think I’ve become a little less wimpy and whiney over the years, but not completely. The heat still feels oppressive, and running the pace I ran in the cooler months becomes harder and harder.
This Saturday Jason and I headed to Bell Buckle, TN to run the RC Cola MoonPie 10 Miler. This is a rolling 10 mile course through the beautiful hills of Tennessee. There isn’t much to see besides fields of corn and wheat, trees, all kinds of green things, and the occasional house. The race takes place as part of the MoonPie Festival which is right smack in the middle of downtown Bell Buckle, and that is always tons of fun.
The alarm clock went off at 4 o’clock Saturday morning, and it is usually in those first few minutes of waking that I think I am a complete lunatic. I pulled myself out of bed, however, put on my running garb and started the coffee pot. By 4:30 we were on our way to Bell Buckle, which is a little less than 2 hours away. I sleepily drank my coffee, chatted with Jason, and tried to wake up.
We arrived, parked, visited the port-a-potties, and went for a short warm-up jog. I felt pretty good at this point. My legs seemed to be cooperating and I thought maybe my goal (7:50 pace) wasn’t going to be too far out of my reach. By mile 2 of the race, however, I was thinking 7:50 pace was madness and it would behoove me to be smart and survive this thing.
I was soaked within the first mile, and with the humidity so high my sweat had nowhere to go. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and I lived for the shady spots. I treated the water stops just as I would in a marathon. I made myself take a cup and walked for a few seconds in order to drink. After a few sips, I’d pour the rest over my head and start running again.
Despite the heat, the miles went by fairly quickly as I passed familiar spots and remembered the experiences of the two previous years I’d run this race. The first year I’d been engaged to Jason, and he and Mom had talked me into running it. I hadn’t been running as much as 10 miles and I thought running in June was crazy, but I agreed to go. I had a wonderful time and since then I’ve never wanted to miss it.
I remembered always doing better than I thought I’d do. Because the race was in the summer and I usually wasn’t training for anything, I always showed up just to have fun. I never had a plan until this year, and as I was running, sweating, and longing for Antarctica, I thought it might be better to revert to the plan of having no plan for this race.
Around mile 8, just like in previous years, I saw Jason running toward me. It was so good to see him. I waved and smiled as he came nearer, and then he turned and ran beside me. I didn’t say anything and he didn’t mind. Having him next to me gave me the push I needed, and the last two miles seemed to pass a little quicker than the previous eight.
Finally, happily, at last I reached the finish. I walked over to one of the people taking the timing chips off of the runners’ shoes and thought if she didn’t hurry I was going to fall over. I needed to walk. I needed water. I needed shade.
I took a cool bottle of water handed to me and walked across the street to some shade. Jason followed me there… and there were just no words. I was so glad to be done and with a bottle of blessed water in my hand.
We eventually made our way to the car, changed shirts and then went in search of drinks and moonpies. Jason finished 8th overall and won 1st in his age group, but neither one of us had the energy to stay for the awards. We looked around, bought some moonpies in every flavor, and headed home.
Despite the heat, the humidity, and the hills, I still had a good time. My finishing time wasn’t exactly what I’d been hoping for, but it was still a 6 minute personal record from the previous year, so I couldn’t really complain. It felt good to have done something difficult, to have completed a hard race, and to have persevered despite the elements.
So will I do it again? You bet! And I will return home triumphant and with a moonpie or two…no matter what.