Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just keep running ...

Last weekend, on a mercifully cool and overcast morning at the Berkeley Marina, I ran my first ever 10k race. For those of you more versed in miles than kilometers, 10 kilometers is 6.21 miles. For those of you who are more vertically minded, 10 kilometers straight up from the Earth's surface is around where one finds the edge of the troposphere (the lowest level of the Earth's atmosphere) and the beginning of the stratosphere. I ran this distance horizontally, however, at a less than record-breaking time of 58 minutes and 42 seconds. It did beat my (now rather dismal sounding) personal best by 15 minutes, however.

To be honest, I've probably run a 10k that fast before, but I certainly had never timed it, so this is by far my best "official" time. But boy, did I have help! If it weren't for my friend Colin, who gallantly paced me the whole 10 km, I probably wouldn't even had made it under the 1 hour mark. It continually amazes me how, as Colin put it, we are so much more capable of physical feats than we think we are. While training, when I believed I could get through 7.5 km without stopping, I just barely did. On race day I believed I could keep pace with my athletic friend, and I did (although he also would have run much faster if it weren't for wanting me to keep up!).

Colin and me (number 40) bearing heroically down on the finish line under the UN flag and the watchful eye of a woman in a pink vest.

I found that following Colin made the run a lot easier since I wasn't worrying about whether I was going the right speed or not and could instead focus on regulating my body and making sure that each stride contributed to a sustainable pace. Most of the run felt good, until about 2/3 of the way through when it felt like I was in no man's land, struggling to get to the point where I could see the end. But even then there was surprisingly little strain on my body - perhaps that means I can improve quite a bit on my speed next time.

The run was sponsored by the United Nations Association of the East Bay, a wonderful group that organizes events to build awareness of the United Nations and its impact throughout the world. The event I participated in was the 13th annual Run/Walk for Peace, a fundraiser, the proceeds of which ultimately end up in the coffers of the World Food Programme (WFP). From there they are used to distribute life-saving  nourishment to the starving poor of the world. It's worth noting, if you were previously unaware, that the WFP is a branch of the UN established in 1960, not an external organization.

The walk/run did not take place on but was in honor of the International Day of Peace, a day that calls on the people of the world to recognize the efforts to strive for worldwide peace. While I admit that I initially struggled to find the value in such an event, which is almost purely symbolic and promotes such a vast goal, the more I reflect on the meaning of the day, the happier I am that such days exist. It is, indeed, important to have a day symbolically uniting the world in a common desire for peace and all that it means, precisely because it seems silly at first - we rarely verbalize enough the fact that this is our deepest, overarching goal. And besides, I am, after all, joining the Peace Corps.