Text by Ashley L. Conti
Photos by Nick Sambides, Rachelle Bourgoin and Matthew Moore
Last Sunday morning I woke up a little nervous.
Because in a few hours I was going to be running a 10-mile race. The Bridge the Gap race had runners travel over the Penobscot Narrows Bridge where they encountered an endless supply of hills while traveling around Verona Island.
I have always been an athletic person. I played soccer my entire life and even played DIII collegiate soccer at Rochester Institute of Technology, but running was never my thing. If you would have asked me a year ago to run a mile, I would have done it but would have felt horrible after. Ten miles never seemed like a distance I would ever be able to run.
But something changed. One day I decided I wanted to get back into soccer shape, so I started running. A few miles here and there slowly turned into 12 miles a week, which turned into hitting 90 miles last month.
My body started craving longer and longer distances, so I gave in. Two mile runs turned into four miles, four miles turned into six miles, six miles turned into doing 13 miles on my day off because I could.
So Sunday I wasn’t nervous about not finishing, I was nervous about how far I could push myself. How long I could hold my pace. How long I could ignore that little voice in my head telling me to stop.
The weather was perfect, finally a spring day.
At 10 a.m. the race started and a wave of runners started across the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. My running partner and I took off. We were holding about a 7:30/mile pace. Perfect.
At mile five something went wrong. My running partner was having issues with his leg, it was cramping bad. Not wanting to leave him, I walked with him for about three quarters of a mile. My legs started to get tight from slowing down. I told my partner I was sorry, but I had to go.
I’m competitive and I tried my best to pass all the people who had passed us while we had slowed down. I got my pace back up to just under 8 minutes a mile. But the slow down/walk to speed up weakened my legs and I had to knock my pace to 8:30/mile.
Miles seven through nine were a blur, up and down more hills. So many hills, they seemed endless. My main focus was keeping my legs from stopping. My lungs felt terrific, my legs were feeling heavy. I kept pushing.
With half a mile left, I kicked it up. I felt tired, but not exhausted. I wanted to finish strong.
As I came over the final hill the finish line finally came into sight. I stepped it up again.
About 100 feet from the finish I looked to the sidelines at the spectators cheering everyone on and noticed someone taking photos of me. Why would anyone be taking photos of me?
As I ran closer the person looked more familiar. Then she removed her sunglasses and I was shocked. My friend, whom I hadn’t seen in months while she backpacked through Asia, was standing there. I didn’t even know she was back in the States. I ran over and gave her the biggest hug ever. In shock I sprinted across the finish line, 1:28:10.
Not the best time in the world, not the worst either. But I’m proud of myself.
I ignored my body telling me to stop, that it was too hard, and pushed myself. One step closer to achieving the real reason for running, hitting 30-miles at the World’s Toughest Mudder.