Find the Kenyan Within

Starting line! That was just one of the signs I saw while running the DC Rock and Roll Half Marathon, my first race of this length. There were also variations on that theme: "Run like the Kenyans, then drink like the Irish." (Hey, it was St. Patrick's Day weekend.)

Along those lines, saw several signs that said, "Worst Parade Ever."

The signs really do help pass the time. I noticed they got more PG-13 when we got to Adams Morgan. Lots of "That's What She Said."

Then there were signs riffing on a meme:

forget-calm-and-run-like-hell

And then the two signs together: "You can do this!" right next to:

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Biggest wow, yikes moment: running across the Memorial Bridge and seeing the metal teeth between the segments bouncing up and down. Power to the people!

Biggest OMG: the guy who was juggling beanbags while he ran. Even bigger OMG: passing him and seeing that he was wearing the blue bib, not the red. Yep, 26.2 miles of juggling.

Let me be an encouragement for anyone who would like to try this crazy sport. I am thankful for Facebook timeline because I can report that exactly two years ago, I started Couch to 5K, having never run before. Never. I was the nerdy kid in school, remember? So if I can do it, you can (assuming you don't have a condition that rules it out, of course). It's a cheap, convenient mode of exercise.

I get emotional sometimes during races. I don't sob when I cross the finish line or anything, but certain scenes or images will choke me up. It doesn't take much: the guy handing out Jolly Ranchers, or the other one giving out "free high fives." But the one that got me was the sign that said:

Trust Your Training.

Yes. Yes.

I had a short moment of doubt before the race started, then remembered that I'd already done the hard part: all those weekday and weekend runs to build up strength, endurance and awareness.

That said, I also like that there was some mystery to it. I'd never run more than 10 miles before Saturday. There was a surge of excitement when I got to that mile marker and still had a 5K to go. Beyond this place there be dragons.

If you struggle with the demons of competitiveness, as I do, races are a great way to exorcise them. There really is no way to measure oneself against anyone else. And no point. To whom would I compare myself? The woman with the T-shirt that said, "I just finished chemo 5 days ago"? Or the guy running with the knee brace? Or the person who's run since she was in high school? Or the person twice my age? Such calculations don't even make sense.

I did my best, and I had fun. Next stop: who knows?