I’ve been a dairy farm kid and dairy farmer my entire life. I’ve been running as long as I can remember. These two things are part of my identity.
They both have challenges, but the rewards they bring are numerous too.
This Saturday morning as I stood on the start line of the Earth Day Half Marathon in freezing 18 degree air, I was thinking about these things. I was thinking about the ups and downs of running, of farming, and of life.
I was thinking about how fitting it is that this Earth Day race has become an annual tradition for me — 4 years strong!
As farmers we care about and celebrate the earth everyday. We have to care and we get to care.
We make our livelihood from the land of this earth, and we feed the world from the plants and animals we raise on it.
Many farm families, like mine, have lived on and farmed the same land for over 100 years and many, many generations. Those roots run deep.
I smiled when I looked down at my “Team Dairy” shirt and thought about the connection. It really does combine the “farmer” and “runner” parts of me into one neat package.
Team Dairy was created by Midwest Dairy, who does dairy education, research, and promotion in Minnesota and other midwest states. There are no big sponsorships or endorsements; it’s just a bunch of dairy professionals, farmers, and supporters running races in Team Dairy pink. (I think they give the guys blue.)
They really welcome everyone, and we’ve got everybody from beginning runners to accomplished ultra marathoners running as part of the team.
Their mascot, Bessie, was even updated in honor of Earth Day.
(Or maybe just in honor of my race. :-))
Along with pondering the Earth Day and farming connection, of course Boston was on my mind. I think the most important aspect of the run may have happened before any of us runners took a step. It happened when we signed this banner and all it stands for.
The level of care everyone felt was strong and evident, especially as we stood in a moment of pre-race silence.
I also want to express my sorrow and prayers for those affected by the explosion in Texas. While accidental, their tragedy is just as real and just as painful.
If you’re reading this post to see how the race went I won’t keep you in suspense too long.
In a nutshell, I started out quicker than planned and never really let up.
I think my success was due largely to the 1:55 pacer. She tricked me! She told me she was right on pace, and I kept loosing her and catching up. By mile 3 I was way more fatigued than I wanted to be, but I wasn’t ready to give up on my 1:54 goal.
I breathed deep and tried to focus as I willed my legs to find their rhythm. We came upon a small off-road section that is normally grass, but this year it was frozen snow and mud. I totally would have fallen on my butt if it weren’t for a nice man behind me. He put a hand on my shoulder to steady me on an icy downhill patch. Thank you mystery guy!
I took a gel at mile 6, and by mile 7 I decided to put my earbuds in and let the music give me a boost. Well – I only put in one earbud so I could hear the loyal supporters cheering for us in the cold.
I’m not against music during races, but I don’t like to use it the whole time or let it block out everything else.
By mile 8 I realized I was just steps behind the 1:50 pacer. I looked back for the 1:55 gal, who was several people behind me, and she thought he must be off pace. She thought she was about 1 minute ahead.
I don’t know exactly what the splits were, but I think several watches were probably confused. I just decided to relax and run my own race. Relax being a relative term of course.
When I hit mile 10 in 1:24 I knew I had it. I absolutely knew.
The finals miles were tough, but the crowds were big along the last quarter mile stretch. I gathered energy from them as I passed runners one by one. My quads are still protesting the pounding they took on that final downhill.
1:50:XX was the verdict on the clock as they called out my name.
Officially I finished in 1:50:18, which I can still hardly believe. It’s a big personal best for me, especially considering I doubted whether I would even run 1:54.
If I would have realized just how close I was to breaking 1:50 I wonder if I could have pushed just a little bit harder?
But then I have to remind myself that’s the question I’m always left asking; no matter what my time is.
A strange twist on this particular race was the length. Because of all the snow we’ve had they needed to re-route the finish line, leaving the course a touch short. Instead of 13.1 miles, we ran 12.975 miles. Now I’m wondering if this is really a PR or not, but I realize it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. It doesn’t bother me the way I know it would have even a few weeks ago. Perspective is a powerful thing.
And I still had a great race. Nothing changes that.
This earth day race means a lot to me — perhaps this year more than ever. Nothing can change that either.
Happy Earth Day, and thanks for following along with me on my farming and running journey.