It was cold, very cold. My body was involuntarily shaking, and I had to grit my teeth to stop them from chattering. The wind was brutal, but after a few minutes, my face was so numb I couldn’t even feel my nose. I pulled my headband as tightly around my ears as I could, trying to keep them a little warmer. A mile warm-up helped shake my legs out, but I was still trembling.
Despite the less-than-ideal weather, there was absolutely nowhere else I wanted to be. It was just before 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, and I was standing near the Susquehanna River, outside of the possibly-haunted Accomac Inn in Wrightsville. My bib from the Dallastown 10K was carefully pinned to my long-sleeved Under Armour shirt. I was seriously regretting my decision to only wear one shirt, and I desperately wished I had thrown on another layer. I was not envious of the gentlemen I saw wearing shorts, far braver runners than I am.
It was my second race (the fourth in the series) for the York Road Runners Winter Series. This race was the Accomac 8K, my first race of the new year. As we prepared to take off, I lined up with slightly fewer than 300 runners. Everyone braced themselves with their hands paused above their Garmin watches, waiting for the official go-ahead to hit the start button.
“On your mark … Get set … GO.”
The 8K (4.97 miles) was an out-and-back course on a relatively flat road right next to the river. The first kilometer was crowded, as everyone settled into their pace. It was a humbling experience when I was passed by a guy with a stroller before the 2K mark. During the first half of the race, we were faced with a strong headwind that was difficult to power through. The scenic views of the river were somewhat distracting, but not much. After four kilometers, we looped around a cone and headed back down the same road. Luckily, the wind was much less brutal running in this direction.
No matter what distance you’re running, the last mile (or 1.6 kilometers) always feels the longest. I pushed my legs as hard as they could carry me and desperately craned my neck looking for the finish line. I could hear my heavy breathing over my headphones as I continuously checked my watch seeing how much further away the finish was.
I think these mid-distance races are the toughest. It’s difficult to find a proper pace. I certainly can’t sprint five entire miles, but I know I can push harder than I would in a longer-distance race, like a half marathon or marathon.
As I later tweeted that day, “There is no greater sight than a finish line.” I was so glad to finally fling myself across it and catch my breath. There is no feeling like crossing a finish line, and it’s worth every second of discomfort to know you gave it every effort you had. I love that this series is a breath of fresh air into my normally boring and unmotivated winter running. Yeah, it’s cold and yeah, it’s early. But it’s so much fun. I can’t wait to see what they throw at us for our next race.
Oh, and even better? Stopping by the Mudhook Brewing Company for a well-deserved glass of wine (me) and a flight of beers (him) after. York, you’re winning me over. See you on the 19th for the next round.