The good thing about a road trip is that is gives you time to think and it reintroduces you to things you might have forgotten. On my recent road trip to St. Louis, Chicago and Savannah, I made my way through my mp3 player and rediscovered Flogging Molly. Sure, I’ve got a couple of their songs on my regular rotation, but it had been a long time since I got into the Irish mood and listened just to Flogging Molly for an hour.
The song, “Us of Lesser Gods” always brings back a flood of memories. It brings me back to what was undoubtedly the best moment of my running career. I woke up the morning of the 2010 Walt Disney World half marathon with doubts about my fitness and doubts about the weather. It was 29 degrees when I boarded the bus at the hotel – not the weather I expecting for a race in Florida. I was experiencing the usual pre-race nerves as I sat on the quiet bus. It was dark and it was cold and few people were talking. I placed my headphones in my ears and this is what began playing:
I know this probably sounds sappy, but my mind zoned out. It was like I was watching a slide show of still photos of myself. There I was running through cold, empty corn fields outside of St. Louis over the holidays. Then, a shot of me doing one of hundreds of fast laps around Crescent Lake Park. Next, me doing an 18 mile run on the treadmill in my parents’ basement. The non-existent still photographs flipped through my head as the music played and I set the song on repeat as the bus pulled away from the hotel and drove toward Epcot.
Eventually, the photos turned from my training and into the race itself. I saw myself running along the most desolate stretch of the course all by myself, chasing a small pack of runners ahead with the song playing in the background all the while.
Many things went wrong that morning. It snowed. Then, it sleeted. I was buffeted by a fierce headwind in the first 5 miles. I couldn’t find the pace group I wanted to run with. I ran the first mile 25 seconds slower than my planned pace. I was almost a minute off my pace by the time I came through the 5 mile mark. Raffi got misdirected by a volunteer and never made it to the finish line.
When I entered the magic kingdom, the only visible runner in front of me disappeared around a corner on Main Street USA. Behind me, the road was empty for another 100 feet. For a fleeting moment, I had the crowd lined street all to myself and that crowd fed me enough energy to last the rest of the race.
I ran the 7th mile in 6 minutes, 20 seconds. When I was near the 9 mile mark, I was on the most desolate stretch of the race. I was running all by myself with a small pack about 100 meters ahead of me. A monorail passed by and honked its horn at us. The smooth violin began playing in my head and I realized the people in that monorail were seeing the same image of me I had pictured in the bus on the way to the start.
I caught the group by the ten mile mark and dropped most of them by the eleven mile mark. I entered the finishing chute with a huge smile on my face and crossed the line in 1:29:11 – 49 seconds under my goal.
The song always reminds me of that day and the images always flash through my head like a slideshow. Now, the slideshow always ends with me crossing the finish line with a big grin and my hands in the air.
You can read about the whole experience here.