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Few chore min a mall list.

I’m in a period of growth. While my physical height is more or less unchanged since high school, I’m trying to learn and adapt to new things professionally, physically and mentally.

Sometimes, I’m the one responsible for recalibrating my goals and expectations. Other times, someone or some people do something so amazing it gives me pause, and forces me to reevaluate my own expectations and capabilities.

A couple of weekends back, I entered yet another 5k run race – this time a fundraiser for Diabetes. It was on the trail system I know and love – Tsalteshi. The morning started in the most unpromising of ways – ridiculous winds and rain. Live music, enthusiastic volunteers and hot coffee quickly cast aside my doubts. The sun also came out and arrived just in time for the race start. I noted that my main competitor Sean (whom I had barely finished ahead of in the last Salmon Run, but had beaten me each time previous) had also shown up, looking fit and ready to race.

I started fast, knowing that the early uphills would be my chance to get any sort of lead. Turns out that technique didn’t work too well, as Sean stuck right behind me until the Beaver downhill, where he passed me and stayed ahead on the Raven uphill. He built on his lead during the very muddy and slick flatland section, and I thought I had no chance to catch him again. I pushed hard on the Wolf uphill and to my surprise, saw him less than 15 seconds ahead. I knew we had less than a kilometer of the race left – on flat and downhill – both of which he’s generally faster than I am on.

I urged my legs to increase pace and edged ahead on the flat. Bursting out of the woods, I could see the finish line at the end of a long downhill. I abandoned all self-preservation instincts and ran flat out over the uneven terrain, going wildly out of control, a condition that persisted more or less until the finish line.

My time was under 20 minutes for the first time of my life, at 18:47, but that’s a bit deceptive since the course had to be routed around a rather sizeable lake on the Wolf Trail, which took a bit of distance off.

But I was thrilled regardless, and after loading up on some more coffee, I headed to the other side of Tsalteshi where the real run competitions were taking place.

Because of the considerable flooding in Seward, the High School Cross Country Running Region Championships were moved to Tsalteshi. Thankfully, the Tsalteshi Trails system is large enough to host multiple races coincidentally and not have any overlap. The Regions races were held on the Wolverine Trail, and thanks to a huge and amazing volunteer effort, the event went flawlessly. I was lucky enough to watch tremendous student athletes battle it out  in an effort to reach the State Championships. The largest race had well over 100 athletes, who came storming by en masse, school colors proudly displayed.

I left the race humbled by the student athletes and the dedication they have not just to their sport, but to their education and school.

I kept up with my after work running for the following week, culminating Friday where I was lucky enough to get snowed (!) on during my run. Despite the mess, I still managed to put in my hours.

During the weekend, I went by the Kenai River Marathon to cheer on a number of friends who were competing. I had a few offers to run as part of a relay team, but even that reduced distance (6.55 miles) was far too much for my shins on pavement. I hope to be able to do it next year.

My relay friends had a great race, finishing third of over a dozen teams. Some of my friends competed in the half-marathon – a 13.1 mile march on punishing pavement. I was happy to see my Diabetes race rival Sean do exceptionally well – finishing fourth with an incredible average pace of UNDER 7 minutes per mile. I haven’t made up my mind if something like this is within my desires. I guess I’ll wait and see.

By far the most inspirational case for me was my friend competing in her second ever half-marathon. She moved to Alaska only a couple of years ago. At that time unable to run a mile without stopping to walk, something possessed her to train – and train hard. She entered last year’s half marathon, and finished – a fantastic accomplishment in itself. This year, she pushed herself to her limit, and absolutely destroyed her time from a year ago.

She came in 28 minutes below her previous time.

28 minutes.

That means that if This Year Her and Last Year Her were running together, This Year Her would have had OVER A TWO MILE LEAD by the finish. She would have been a speck on the horizon.

I’m still completely blown away.

She would say I’m crazy, but I know for a fact that that 28 minutes will soon be her target time for a 5k.

Just wait and watch. She’ll do it.

Inspired by teen athletes and inspirational distance runners, I ran 9 miles Monday.

It nearly killed me.

But it did keep me motivated to improve, and reminds me that dedication to a task is fundamental in achieving it.

So I owe a huge thank you to everyone who has inspired me to push out that extra rep, run that extra lap, take that extra step.

Now, if I could only just be a little bit taller…

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