Update on the 2014 Army Ten Miler

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October 13, 2014

Last Sunday, the 2014 and 30th Army Ten-Miler came and went, as I suspected, without major security problems.  The police and military personnel were everywhere, some with their big canines.  Their visible sight, I am sure, brought some comfort to most of us.  The marines who were serving us and cheering for us, as usual, were our heros. 

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, considering how rainy and cloudy it was the day before.  I was not happy with the possibility of running in a raincoat, as I tend to get hot after just a mile or so. 

I had very little training this year, and was happy that I came to the finish line more than eight minutes sooner than I expected, although 6 minutes behind my 2011 run.  Saturday night, I went online to check my “historical record” for the Army Ten-Miler and was surprised how fast I was at my last race; I was ranked 42 in my age division.  I had ran the Army Ten-Miler four times before this one, starting when I was 47 years old, with each year being faster than the year before.  I broke the trend this year, not having run this race for three years, being three years older, and have had much less training.  I was ranked 139 for my division this year, among the oldest ones for my age bracket, so that was not so bad, I told myself.  

Saturday night, I went to bed late, not knowing what I should be wearing for the race, as the weather was unpredictable, long sleeves? Short sleeves? Long pants? Jacket?Minimalist shoes?  I kept tossing and turning in bed, wondering about little things such as what to wear, whether to check in or not check in a bag, whether to keep my jacket on for the earlier part of the run when it was expected to be chilly in the low forties, how much should I drink or eat before the race… The same questions I had with every running event.

In the morning, I ended up, at the last minute, putting on something totally unexpected.  Do all women act like me, losing sleep over nothing?  

What I learned this time is not to try anything new that you think will improve your speed.  A patient told me how she improved her pace by wearing “minimalist shoes,” ones that I happened to have bought for my medical mission trip to Myanmar last March.  I bought this Merrell pair at LL Bean because it was a trail running shoe, on final sale and the shoes were waterproof for the possible heavy rain in Myanmar.  Minimalist shoes are probably like sport cars; you are supposed to feel the road more. 

Well, as I ran the ten miles, I sure felt the road beneath my shoes.  I tried to remember my patient’s instruction of landing on the “balls” of your feet and not the heels with these shoes.  However, beyond six miles, with my oxygen level a little bit lowered, it was hard to remember which part was the ball of my foot versus the heel.  I think my patient was right.  I should have tried to run a long distance in these shoes for a month before deciding to use them for this race.  I don’t think it affected my pace, or it might have with all the times I kept asking myself “Are you landing on the balls of your feet, Thu?” instead of just running effectively.  At the ninth mile marker, people around me were gasping at a young, tall and slim woman who was running in bare feet!  She was dashing past us as a man breathed heavily behind me while screaming for people to look at her.  She was the ultimate minimalist.  Good for her. 

To push myself, I used the technique of referring to myself in the “third person.”   I heard the interview of a psychologist on NPR the other day who advised us to  think and talk to ourselves in a third person when being in a stressful situation.  This trick helps keep a psychological distance, thus lower the anxiety level and emotional pain.  It worked well for me as I became more relaxed but focused.

I managed to take some photos of this Army Ten-Miler for those of you who have never done it.  One of the photos shows the pile of mostly outer clothes runners shed along the way when they felt hot.  I heard the unclaimed clothes will be given to homeless shelters. The event was wonderful with so many supporters lining the streets of Washington.  We ran past many beautiful streets with historical buildings.  The sight of the Washington monument against the blue sky is always among my favorites.  It is a treat to be able to run freely in front of the Watergate building with the Kennedy Center around it and not having to worry about being run over by a car. I also saw many young wounded warriors walking on their prosthetic limbs, a heart-warming sight!

These races always remind me of how wonderful and free our lives are in this country. Ironically, I had listened to the TED talk given by Malala Yousafzai’s father the night before this Army Ten-Miler.  Mr. Ziauddein Yousafzai talked about how he did not, like other typical Pakistani fathers, clip his daughter’s wings.  He has always recognized how much women can do for their society, and how they should have the freedom to live their lives to their utmost potential.  He has always wanted his daughter Malala to be a free bird.

As I was running, I was thinking about how It is so good for the world to have people like Malala and her father who have the courage to fight for women’s and children’s rights.  Without people like this young Nobel Peace winner, women like me would not have been able to run in sleeveless shirts and shorts.  Can you imagine running ten miles in a burqa, if women are even allowed to run, and if there was a race in that part of the world?  What would I have done?  Knowing myself, I might have shaved my head and taken David’s bib number to run! 

It was a good week.  I ran the Army Ten Miler without pain, and Malala won the Nobel Peace prize.  I am glad I wasn’t spending all that time worrying about the dangers of running this race.  All went well and all was safe.  

After the race, we went to my brother’s house to pick up Sandy who stayed there overnight.  I walked into my mother’s room.  I always visit her room whenever I go to my brother’s house.  On the wall, my brother still has the 2012 calendar hanging, the year my mother died.   I always love the quote for February, the month my mother went to the hospital and never came back. It summarized her and my view of life:

“I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.”

I hope you enjoy the photos!  Someday, maybe you can train to run or walk the Army Ten-Miler.  You can do it!