The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race; it’s to test the limits of the human heart.
- Bill Bowerman
With apologies to the 80s hair band Europe, we’ve arrived - the final countdown. The gauntlet has been thrown. The opportunity to do work has passed, and the only thing between us and the start line at Lenox Mall is a mere two days.
Before we know it, we’ll be pinning numbers, affixing timing chips and walking towards the start line. The days just prior to races always give me pause. They force me to consider why I choose to race, why I choose this path of being a runner. It’s hard to articulate, so I have boiled it down to feelings instead of reasons. The feelings that running, preparing and then racing give me.
I live for this.
I live for the feeling in your stomach that comes race morning. The one where excitement and nerves and fear all mix together in one glorious pit of nausea. The visceral reaction, the overwhelming accuity experienced before crossing a start line. The one that equally cripples and inspires you. The feeling that follows you from bed to the car to warm up to gearing up… but that magically disappears at the start line.
I live for the feeling that courses through your veins in your trek to the finish. The anxiety, the exhaustion, the digging into a well to find more, to push more. The feeling of doubt, then the feeling of overcoming the doubt. The feeling of never thinking the finish line will come, and the feeling of relief in seeing the finish line… of crossing the finish line.
I live for the feeling of slowing to a trot, slowing my heart rate, of walking through the chute. The feeling of quietly accepting that it’s over. The feeling of being equally happy and sad that it is, actually, over.
I think this is what it feels like to be an athlete. And I do live for this.
However my job here is to provide tips and assistance to get you happily across that finish line on Sunday.
So I will remind you to hydrate and to avoid alcohol and excessive caffeine Saturday. I’ll suggest you pin your race number and timing chip on the night before the race to avoid accidentally forgetting anything or being late race morning. I’ll remind you to get your MARTA tokens or faithful drivers ready ahead of time.
I’ll suggest checking out the race expo at AmericasMart. Race expos are a buzz of excitement, a chance to score some cheap gear, and an opportunity to dive head first into the wonderful world of the running obsessed.
I’ll encourage you to bring an ID, any special health information, and possibly some emergency cash. I’ll suggest you make prior arrangements with friends and family for after the race (You think Atlanta traffic is bad? You haven’t seen gridlock til you’ve experience Piedmont Park and surrounding areas on the morning of July 4th).
I’ll remind you to eat lean protein and a small amount of carbs Saturday night before you bed yourself early. I’ll even throw in a suggestion of sticking around to see the awesome band Yacht Rock in the post-race area Sunday morning (because they do in fact, rock).
But my best advice?
Remember to soak it all up. Experience the race, and know the feeling of being an athlete.
“Now bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible.”
– Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
***Searching for last minute race details? Fox News Atlanta has extensive info/links up online to help!