When I went back on Methotrexate in April, one of the first things I did was to look at my calendar for upcoming races that I was signed up for. As part of my goals for the new year, I committed to myself that I would run 3 races this year: mud runs, fun runs, obstacle races – basically whatever me and my bionic hips could manage. I kicked off my race season in April with Muckfest MS and last Sunday I rocked The Color Run.
The Color Run is not a race that most serious runners would bother with which made it perfect for my very limited running ability these days. But when I woke up Sunday morning, I might as well have been starting down the barrel of a marathon. I was still in the clutches of the chemo hangover from Friday night’s dose of Methotrexate – riding waves of nausea, stomach pain, and cramping. My nerves went into overdrive and I panicked thinking “I hope they have porta potties on the course”. I focused on taping my knees, and finally, before I could talk myself out of going, I just said “fuck it” and headed out to meet my friend who was driving. An hour later as I was standing in line for my race bib, I told my sister in law “I just want to lay down on the pavement while we wait”.
In a brilliant twist of fate, my sister, Emmy dropped her phone in the parking lot (don’t worry, she found it!) while changing into the sneakers I brought her for the race. This mini-crisis bought me some valuable time before we had to make our way to the starting chute. That extra 25 minutes gave me time for several porta potty trips at which point there was simply nothing left in my stomach to make me sick. Not exactly ideal race preparation, but you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got!
While we were waiting in the chute, I kept joking that I was going to “leech energy from everyone around us”, and the funny thing is I kind of did… Particularly a group of girls in front of us teaching everyone around them the dance to some song I’ve never even heard of. It was fun to watch people of all ages jump in and try to keep up, and as we inched our way towards the starting line I was only mildly aware of my stomach discomfort… And then we were off!
The toughest part about running a race with people you don’t regularly run with is that it’s hard to find a pace that works for everyone. This led to half of our group taking off at a pace bordering on a sprint, while the rest of our group paced themselves more wisely (I was in the sprinting group, of course). This continued for a lot of the race, and I eventually found myself holding the middle of the pack so that I always knew where my teammates were whether they were ahead of me or behind me. It helped that we were in the Run/Walk/Dance/Cartwheel/Party Wave and often times the non-runners in this wave caused congestion that forced our group to slow down and regroup or even walk for small stretches. Under different circumstances, this would have probably really bothered me, but at the heart of The Color Run, which refers to itself as the “happiest 5K on the planet” is the spirit of a giant party, and so I just went with it!
For me that party spirit translated into my own internal celebration of my body and its ability to come back swinging every single time it has been knocked down – and these past few weeks it’s been knocked down a lot. Last week’s Methotrexate dose knocked me down hard, but there was simply no way I was missing The Color Run – especially since doing it was a condition of Emmy doing Mudderella with me in October. And even though I recently wrote about not being a runner anymore – my body had different ideas about that too. As I settled into a comfortable pace, I felt my body taking over as if to say “you’re still a runner. You know how to do this”. And even though it was only for short spurts within a three-mile stretch, I felt unbreakable. I really hope that the finish line photographers captured the look on my face as I crossed it because it was that of pure joy.
Which is why the finish line festival at The Color Run is so awesome! Along with your medal you’re handed packets of the paint powder that’s been thrown at you for the last three miles (ours were purple and gold), and from there you join the crowd as if you were at a concert. With the music blasting, the emcee counts down until the entire crowd tosses their paint powder into the air at the same time only to dance around like crazy in the giant cloud of purple and gold dust. It was absolutely exhilarating and I’m already looking forward to next year.
While proofing this post, I doubled checked The Color Run website to confirm the exact wording of “the happiest 5K on the planet”, when at the bottom of the page I noticed this little blurb “The Color Run, also known as the Happiest 5k on the Planet, is a unique paint race that celebrates healthiness, happiness, and individuality”. I aspire to do exactly that every day, but The Color Run was an awesome way to really live that message out loud.