It had just reached 20 degrees as we pulled into the downtown KC airport. A few hundred other runners were lapping the parking lot around us, attempting to keep warm. We fastened our race bibs, pulled on our gloves, secured our earphones, and stepped out of the car into the icy cold Valentine’s Day morning. The sun was peeking out but the wind blew so briskly, tears formed but immediately froze on our cheeks as we made our way to the starting line.
As the runners gathered in the minutes before the race, shielding us from the wind, the thought occurred: this isn’t so bad. But the horn sounded and hundreds of feet spread out across the pavement, allowing the frozen air to chap our cheeks and lips. Not five minutes in, we noticed we could no longer feel our faces and toes.
The cold air in my lungs was extra heavy today. I’ve run a few times in these extreme temps, but this time the bite was far more noticeable. Ronnie ran alongside me, slowing down often as I sped up to keep up with him. I had to focus on every step to keep my muscles going, while he had to focus on shortening every step to stay with me. I kept hoping and waiting for that “runner’s high” to kick in, usually around mile 3 for me, but it never really did today, except for maybe a fleeting 2 minutes that ended in hitting a cold hard wall.
As we rounded the final turn and saw the finish line clock several yards ahead, it said 39:40. “Let’s make it by 40!” yelled Ronnie and we broke into a dead sprint. I had nothing left but the will to do 4 consecutive 10 minute miles, which I had never done or tried. We crossed the finish just at 40, my lungs tightened up, and I almost puked.
It’s strange how 40 minutes of self-imposed misery can bring on such a thrill of accomplishment and joy. My mind immediately raced on to the St. Patrick’s Day Westport 4 miler and what training I would do between now and then to beat this personal record, for which I had half-a$$ed the training in order to just survive the run.
What else is inspiring? Ronnie hadn’t even been training! A fast mile here or 800 meter run there as part of his CrossFit workouts was all the running he’d done in the past few months. But that means his workouts have been doing what they’re meant to, which is create strength and endurance for any situation. He could’ve beat our time by several minutes, I’m sure, but since it was a couple’s run, he swallowed his pride to hang back with me. So I’m hoping the photographers got a good picture of us crossing the finish line together to commemorate this unique Valentine’s Day.
As miserable and hard as it was, looking back on this morning I have a feeling it’s going to be a great memory for both of us, as well as something to be proud of.