But at the start of each indoor track meet at the university where I teach, there's an opportunity for members of the local running club -- people who appear otherwise perfectly rational -- to run a timed mile. This isn't exactly a race. It's a track meet. It's filled with college athletes in their university-sanctioned uniforms who resemble gazelles as they run casual warm-up laps at paces faster than some people can sprint.
A few weeks ago I joined this scene and put myself on the line quite literally. Yes, as an almost 37-year-old mother of three, I stepped up to the starting line to run my first ever timed mile at a college track meet.
When you're poised at the starting line there's not much time to think before the gun sounds. This is good because it doesn't allow you to question how you reached this strange place in life. I remember venturing a slight wave to my daughters as they sat on the front row of the bleachers, then steeling my gaze ahead as the race official called the runners to our marks.
In retrospect, there's not much time to think after the gun sounds, either, because you're too occupied trying not to die.
As soon as I started to run, I lost track of peripheral sights and sounds besides the stampeding pound of racers' feet on the track. I only recall fragments, like noticing my acute thirst by the third of eight laps, as if I had instantaneously dehydrated. I vaguely heard one of my daughters calling Go Mommy! My last fully-formed thought was that I probably should have given more consideration as to how to pace myself. I was met with more numbness than relief when I crossed the finish line.
It wasn't particularly pretty. I didn't run exceptionally fast. But here's the deal: I did it. I ran at a track meet in an indoor Big 10 facility in front of my daughters.
I'm starting to realize that life is enriched by cobbling together these odd experiences -- these experiences that push me, that stretch me, that eventually make for a good story, no matter how they turn out.
When in doubt, run the race.