For those of you who are too young to remember, Bo Derek was once, long, long ago, in a decade known as the 70’s, in a movie where she pranced around a Caribbean beach in a sheer beige swimsuit — a color that would make most women look like blanched cowhide. She was perfectly bronzed and glistening, and wore cornrows in her hair. Cornrows, incidentally, is a hairstyle that white women should never-ever-ever attempt, not even as a joke. Yet too many women do when traveling to tropical locales, after indulging in too many rum punches or coladas out in the heat and sun, as some foolish attempt to mimic Bo’s look–complete with those shelled little doodads at the ends of the braids clinking together in some off-beat island tempo. But I digress. The point is, Bo looked hot and the name of the movie was 10. And that, my dedicated followers, is why she can just go ahead and suck it. Because she may have been a 10, but I did a 10!!!! A 10-mile race, that is. And…I have the medal to prove it!
On March 24, I started AND finished my first 10-miler — I feel it is important to stress that I started AND finished the race on the same day!! It was brutal and took 2 hours, but I did it. Some of you may be saying, “So what. I’ve been running races for years. Ten miles is totally doable.” If you’re saying that, well then, you too can join Bo in the suck-fest. Because I will tell you this…fat girls usually don’t run 10 miles, but this one did! I was so tired that I almost barfed.
I came home and was proud of my accomplishment. I didn’t care that I finished towards the back of the pack — the lead runner (and he wasn’t even Kenyan) finished the race about one minute after I’d reached the half-way point. I imagine he was home, showered, and eating a snack in front of the TV by the time I actually finished the race. The thing that mattered most was that I did something that just a few months ago, I would have never even considered a possibility.
But the best part of the race, besides actually finishing it, was this…
There was a lady in a bright pink shirt. I referred to her as “my pink shirt lady” throughout the race. I noticed her very early on– not because of her shirt, but because she’d clearly “done her hair” before the race. I’m not talking about showering and pulling it into a cute ponytail or anything like that. Oh no. It was so much better. She had short hair with some frosting and had curled every bit of it and used copious amounts of hairspray to keep it in place. If you’re looking for a mega hold hairspray, you should use what she did… because it NEVER moved!! It just bounced along with her mile after mile, defying the sweat and humidity that was fighting to no avail against each and every strand of pristinely lacquered hair. I won’t lie. In the beginning when I first looked at her and her coifed ‘do, I judged her for it. Then it became a little game to distract myself as I wondered after each mile, “Is this the mile where her hairspray gives up??” As her hair continued to hold strong, I started quoting Steel Magnolia lines in my head:
“You can’t mess up her hair. You just tease it and make it look like a brown football helmet.”
“Ooops. I see a hole.”
“This look is going in the hair-do hall of fame!!”
As we kept bounding along the course, it was clear that we had very different approaches to running, as well as race day hair routines. She would speed along for a bit and then walk a while, repeating this process for the whole race. I, on the other hand, chose to find my stride and stick to it: slow and steady. Our approaches, while different, basically had a similar result and we were neck-and-neck for most of the race. At one point during her walking stage, she looked over at me as I was passing by her (for like the 5th time) and gave me what is likely the best runner’s compliment I’ve received to date. She said, “I knew it was going to be you again. You’re amazing. You’re so consistent.” Now in the real world, “consistent” doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans as a compliment, but in running, as I’ve learned from guru Hal Higdon, “Consistency is Key.” I’m pretty sure that one little compliment kept me going for at least another mile.
I ended up finishing a few minutes ahead of my aqua-netted friend, but I made a point to find her after the race and I gave her a big hug. She’d become my companion for those ten, hellacious miles and I wanted to congratulate her and thank her. And then we went our separate ways.
When I got home, I went to the event’s Facebook page and wrote a thank you to the race organizers and the volunteers for putting on a great event. Turns out, “my pink shirt lady” recognized me from the little photo next to my post and wrote the following reply to my comment:
“Natalie you were my rock the entire race! Go gurl!!!”
Does it get any better than that?!? I don’t think so.
So, I hope to always have the privilege of running along side some version of “my pink shirt lady” in future races and we can be each other’s support and inspiration to keep moving forward. In return, I vow to be a better and more supportive runner by not making snap judgements about the way a fellow runner looks…unless, of course, she’s sporting cornrows. That might just be a deal breaker!