Good things come when you least expect it. I landed up at the Palo Alto Bay lands nature reserve with the intention of enjoying a run by a trail and experience my last double road race of the season organized by Bob Anderson-founder of Runner’s world magazine. Little did I realize that I would be rewarded or should I say awarded.
The concept of a double road race is where a distance is split into 2 races. For instance, if it is a double 8 k, runners run a 5 k first, take a break for 45 minutes and then run a 3 k. Now once someone is done with running a certain distance, it’s always challenging to run the second leg of the race especially after a break.
The venue was just 15 minutes away from Stanford and I landed there nice and early, admiring the sight of some migratory birds and the marshlands around. After collecting my bib, I chatted with Bob for a few minutes, trying to understand the route. The weather was nice quite chilly and I walked around for a bit, clicked some pictures and eventually started my warm ups. A good number of people had assembled, some familiar faces that I recognized from the previous double road race events. Despite their age, most of them looked strong and sturdy enough to give the younger ones a run for their money.
The race commenced at 8:30 am. I decided to follow Bob and test my pace. Now Bob who had turned 70 recently was a 3:30 full marathon finisher. Gathering all my reserves, I put my best foot forward and ran like there were hound dogs after my life. I kept Bob within my eyesight as we entered the trails surrounded by a carpet of green on either side. It was a 2.5 k loop and at the turn, he gave me thumbs up which boosted my spirits. After 3.5 k, I was drained and paused for 10 seconds before I took off again. It wasn’t entirely a flat course and the gradient probably took a toll on my legs for running at a fanatic pace. I eased out and decided to focus on finishing strong instead of exploding my lungs. 5k was done in 27 minutes and I plonked on the ground catching my breath.
The past 2 months hadn’t been easy as I had injured my ankle at the gym sometime mid-January, causing it to swell to an extent that it appeared as though a golf ball had been tucked into my ankle bone. Doing my speed and tempo runs had become a challenge for a couple of weeks. After a lot of icing and stretching, I resumed running albeit with a moderate pace, enough to take me to the finish line. The viral bout which started February end and the relapse the previous week added fuel to the fire and certainly didn’t make things easier. Nevertheless, I kept persisting to build back my strength.
I grabbed a couple of oranges and a few raisins placed on the refreshments table before the next leg began. The 3 k was scheduled to start at 9:45 am and I decided to replenish my muscles in the meantime. Just as we all gathered near the start point, I ended up getting into a conversation with a few people. A lady was doing the 100-mile event in a couple of weeks and it was quite intriguing to hear about her schedule and training plan. Doubly inspired, I geared up for the 3 k and once again I decided to trail Bob. Oblivious to him, he ended up becoming my pacer. At the 1.5 km mark, the thumbs up again from him spiked my energy levels and I cruised the 3k course in 16 minutes.
Collecting my medal, I hung around for a bit chatting with Bob and some other runners, one of them who was a triathlete. Soon we were immersed in a discussion about the upcoming triathlons and duathlons when I suddenly heard my name being called out. I looked up curiously and to my surprise, I had come 3rd in my age category.
Wow! My first podium in the US! I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming. It was a privilege to receive the winners’ medal from Bob who said there was a remarkable improvement from my first double road race in August 2017. “You were running fast today”, he said which was a huge compliment as I stood there beaming like a student who had received an A grade report from her teacher.
Glancing at both my medals, all those thoughts about me being a useless runner which had haunted my mind last 2 months, were dispelled instantly. Most importantly I realized that the minute I decide to go to an event with the intention of just merely enjoying it, that’s when I ended up doing my best. I looked around at the cherry blossoms and the flowers blooming in their full glory while going back home. Spring was already on its way and it felt like a new beginning!