It all began a few months ago, in the cold of winter, when my name was dropped into a discussion about participating in a relay race with a team of women.
“Hell, NO!” I screamed, as I tried to virtually run the opposite way in cyber space, while my name was tagged and tossed around as a potential racer on Facebook.
However, my deepest inner athlete, if you will, stopped and pondered, “What if?” That is how, with some persuasive words from our valiant team captain (I swear she winked her eyelashes at me, she had to have); I was suddenly on a twelve member team that would conquer a 200 mile race within a 24 hour period. Yes, I was officially committed to the MA Reach the Beach Relay, where we crazy nutcases would race by foot from Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts to Horseneck Beach in Westport, Massachusetts.
Oh, I had grand plans of losing thirty pounds in these few months of anticipation, as well as getting my mileage up and decreasing my minute per mile time. I was now in uncharted territory and my teammates all look like models from the Athleta catalog. Before I knew it though, May 16th was upon me and I was packing my bags for my girls’ night out adventure with four women I do know and seven women I did not.
I seriously packed enough for nearly a week, let alone 24 hours. The list that was given to us at a prep meeting was longer than the list of items I pack for my entire family to go to the Cape each year (minus the booze, of course). three sets of running clothes (yes, I was running three separate times in this 24 hour period), four sets of shoes, clothes for in-between runs, clothes for after runs, a towel, toiletries, food, a first aid kit, all kinds of blinking lights and reflector items including a sexxxy headlamp, and yes, more clothes in case it was cold, a sleeping bag, a pillow (when there’s no place to sleep in a van), and lots of Gatorade.
I arrived at the mountain at 8:30 am on Friday, May 17th with massive butterflies in my tummy. These women, the ones that I knew at least, were fast……like, REALLY fast runners. I did not know any of the women in my van but had prowled their FB pages or tried to absorb their personalities at our aforementioned prep meetings. I started to panic: What was I in for? Who was I kidding? I do not know half of my team – who are these women? Really? Do they understand just how slow I really am? Almost 16 miles in 24 hours when my longest training run was 10k distance?
Before I knew it, I was embracing my silly side to offset my nerves and to have the unknown women warm up to me. How can anyone not like a grown woman wearing knee-high Wonder Woman socks with capes? We were instantly bonded simply by virtue of our choice of apparel!
The race began and hour after hour, stories were shared and the insanity of what we were doing slowly linked us to one another. Missing items were quickly replaced by an offering from a teammate. Food was shared. Words of support were delivered with sincerity as the baton was passed 36 times. Twelve women coming together for the first time and yet, the experience operated like a well-oiled friendship machine.
Fears of running in the dark were detailed, including a fear of being approached by a bear or being sprayed by a skunk. Farts were released with ensuing laughter and quick escapes (not in MY van, thank you very much). Underwear went missing and bras were swapped out en route, whilst BodyGlide was reapplied on upper thighs. Sleep was alluded, despite cuddly attempts to try. Body rollers were passed from one to another, as were race belts and headlamps.
Some 34 hours later, we were exhausted and spent. We were sweaty. From 28 years of age to 55 years of age, we had all accomplished what we set out to do – we reached the beach and were headed home again. Our blisters were taped; our muscles were drained, and around our necks hung the finisher’s medals. Amongst the piles of worn clothes, tossed pillows and empty water bottles, our vans were full and our hearts continued to swell with pride. Not only had we gained an enormous sense of accomplishment, we had made new friendships along the way.
Our weekend may not have been your typical girls’ night out, much like the one Kate wrote about earlier this week: In The Company of Friends, but I came home feeling empowered, renewed, and happy to have spent these hours with women who share some of the insanity that I am well-known for.
Runners are a special breed. The cliché says you are only as good as those you surround yourself with. I am honestly looking forward to my next girls’ night out, Team Wonder Women, Reach The Beach-style.