I took my shoes off less than a mile into the race. I had strained my soleus muscle a week before, and the shoes I had decided to wear at the last minute were not doing me any favors.
I ran and walked barefoot for 7-ish miles. The shoes made an appearance at the end when I saw the gravel road ahead. I finished the race, but didn’t walk through the banner at the end. I was pissed, tired, and hungry.
It took months for my leg to get better. Months of physical therapy and little to no walking or running. I kept my running to light jogs. No more than 3k after that.
Years later, and I mean years - like, 5 years later - I ran a virtual 10k to prove I still had it in me.
I was living in an RV and decided to take the run around the RV park where I was camped at the time. It was early evening and cloudy when I started. The weather said there was zero chance of showers, but around mile 3, the sky split apart and the last of the warm summer rain fell on and around me. I ditched my jacket on a picnic table and embraced the rain. My armpits burned with chafe, and bugs were attacking my ankles, but none of it mattered. I was a machine whose only purpose was one foot in front of the other.
By the end of the race, every last bit of me was drenched and electric with achievement.
I had finished. After a shower and a tall glass of water, I started thinking about my next race.
This is what it is like to race. You forget the blisters and chills entirely, and you simply can’t wait to do it again.