I’ve never considered myself a diva. But when my M.I.L. signed us up to run the DC Wine Country Run Like a Diva half marathon, I no longer had a choice. I’d have to be a diva for a day.
After almost a year of nursing a nagging knee issue, I had finally started back into running, albeit very (very!) slowly. At times it felt like I was dragging my leg along with me to finish a measly 3 or 4 mile stint of jogging with walk breaks. I was out of running shape for the first time in years. It was discouraging but also exhilarating to be back outside in motion again. I slowly got the confidence to let the cat out of the bag to my Dad (the daily runner and multiple-time Boston Marathon qualifier) and my M.I.L. (the running a marathon in every state/multiple Boston Marathon finisher/tri-athlete/Iron Warrior). They are both avid supporters of the sport (although for different reasons I suspect) and of me.
When my M.I.L. found out, she decided that my birthday present would be signing us up for a half marathon. Once the applications and entry fees were paid, I really couldn’t go back on it so with a lot of anxiety and hesitant exuberance, I started training. I have always loved the training process leading up to a marathon or half marathon. For me, running is my meditation, my Zen. Unfortunately, the actual race day is probably the worst part of it. There is no room for meditation and rarely any space to spread out your stride. I put this aside as I ramped up my long runs from 4 miles to 10 miles.
Like everything else in life, the time to go to the race crept up. We flew out on a Friday early afternoon and N’s parents picked us up from Dulles and whisked us over to the “Diva Boutique” (aka race registration packet pick-up).
I’ve not seen this much pink in….I don’t know, maybe forever. And the crowds of women. The thumping of House music. It was intense. We got our race bibs and wandered around the (obnoxiously) loud race expo looking at gear and such. There’s only so much of that a claustrophobe like me can handle though so I got a shirt and N and I waited outside the expo while my M.I.L. bought running inspired jewelry. My dread was growing.
I put it aside, though, and decided to have a nice relaxed dinner and c’est la vie. Dinner was a fantastic surprise, really. We found Tuscarora Mill in the Market Station area and asked about a table. I gave it 50-50 because it looks like the kind of place you’d need a reservation. But disco! They had a table immediately.
Small plates and some adult ginger ale? Yes, please. I ordered the asparagus salad that came with truffle aioli, egg, shaved Romano and bacon. I don’t usually dig so much on swine but this salad was outrageous. For my main I got the seafood salad and a side of sweet potato polenta. Note to self: sweet potato + polenta = major deliciousness. I will make this at home. I also had some of N’s bacon braised brussels sprouts (also ridonk). And to drink: Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Pretty sweet name, right? This beer kind of sneaks up on you and is honestly, way too easy to drink. I didn’t mind.
We decided that night that we’d meet at 6:15am to head over to the race start—a mere 11 miles from the hotel. For a 7:30am race start, we figured we’d have plenty of time to get there and stand in the port-a-potty line before the race got underway. About 2 miles down the road that morning, though, we had a rude awakening. Traffic. And not just heavy traffic. More like a parking lot traffic. We had the GPS recalculate our route and we did a quick U-turn. We thought we were being clever. And we were pretty damn clever until about 4 miles from the parking area. I guess the race director didn’t calculate the number of runners (4500 or so) with the number of cars to drive said runners and the fact that the winery hosting the event has basically 2 roads that funnel into one road to get where you are going. Cluster-f@*!c ensued. We watched as the clock raced past 7:30am and headed directly for 8:00am. And then some. It was very uncomfortable. Obviously. The 11 mile maybe 20 minute drive turned into a 90+minute creep fest as we car-accordianed our way to the parking area.
We weren’t the only ones and we weren’t the last to arrive. Our 7:30am race ended up started at 9:00am. Which meant that my 5:30am breakfast was pretty much all burned off by the start. At mile 3 I was already hungry. Not a good sign. By mile 6 of the supposed “pretty flat” race course (read: excessively hilly), I was having serious doubts about whether I could complete this Diva bitch of a race. Every couple of miles I treated myself to some sour gummies (aka my “energy chews”) and forged ahead. At mile 10 something miraculous happened: I got a second wind and some hope. By mile 12 I was actually feeling….good?!? I turned to my M.I.L. and said, “Let’s kick this last mile’s ass!” She looked at me like I was nuts. It was probably a hypoglycemic moment but whatever, it happened. So we started booking and passing. Truly exhilarating. At mile 13 instead of a handing out one last paper cup of water or Gatorade, they handed out tiaras and hot pink feather boas. I’m not kidding. So here we are, booking it with boas and plastic tiaras and looking utterly ridiculous in this sea of hot pink dresses and tutus and the last 0.1 can’t come fast enough. In the finish chute they give you a red rose and then they have these big, muscle-bound men with no shirts on award you with a medal the size (and weight) of a small child. The sparkling apple juice in a plastic flute never tasted so good. And the cookies? Thank god for chocolate.
The mile or so walk back to the car through a hay field was less than ideal but not surprising, as this race was pretty ill-conceived logistically. I will say this: the runners were the most friendly and laid back participants I’ve ever encountered in a race.
I made a realization though. Races are not for me. And I’m ok with this. It’s ok for me to run for myself and myself only. I don’t need the validation of a medal or a t-shirt or the push to keep training from an outside source. I also don’t need to schedule a race in order to make travel plans to get out of dodge every once and a while. And: I can run again!
It was kind cool, though, to see my M.I.L. in her tiara and boa-induced Diva-liciousness get a big bear hug from our medal presenter. He looked at her and said, “I’ve been waiting for you alllll day!” That, my friends, was worth the hassle.