“The Day”

By Renee Calo
District Work Program Coordinator

Am I crazy?

This was my first thought when I even considered signing up for the first-ever Skyway 10K. Immediately after questioning my sanity, my next thought turned to the lucky person I would have to convince to do this with me. I turned to my fellow non-running friend, Leesel, to join me. Thankfully, she was just as crazy as I was. We agreed to begin our training once the new year arrived.

Happy New Year (and so it begins…)

Our typical training week went a little something like this:

Wake up at 4 a.m. once or twice a week and run 1.6 miles through my neighborhood.

On Tuesdays, Leesel and I would meet at the Upper Tampa Bay Trail and run back-and-forth on the pedestrian bridge over Gunn Highway. Super-early on Saturday mornings, we would meet at the Courtney Campbell Causeway to run four miles, including over the pedestrian bridge.

We held strong as a team through the first month, then our schedules changed in February and we were only able to meet on Tuesdays – which meant the weekend training would be an individual effort.

I missed my partner being there to motivate me, and she missed me, too.

Go Time

With each passing week leading up to the run, we both grew more excited and nervous for “The Day” to finally arrive.

The wait was over. March 4th was finally here.

We headed down to Tropicana Field at 4 am. Traffic was almost at a standstill once we hit I-175, but we finally parked and made it to our bus lines at 5:45 am. From there, things ran rather smoothly, well, except for the bus in front of us that got a flat tire. (Bummer for them) We passed them up and headed to the starting line. The mix of extremely cold wind, news cameras everywhere, a cannon firing off for the second wave, singing the National Anthem, anticipation and energy from the crowd; the scene was exhilarating!

BOOM – we start our run.

Heart is pumping, returning buses whizzing by. We can see the tiny dot of the finish line and the huge bridge we must climb ahead of us.

Mile after mile is filled with continuous motion and motivation.

You can do it.

You got this.

It’s time to climb this bridge.

Wow, this isn’t so bad!

What a view!

Over the top we go – and now – down, down, down. It was like flying. So easy to go down.

We hit Mile-Marker 4 and Leesel ’s knee starts to bother her. She insists on pushing through.

Mile-Marker 5 and we’re almost there. I pick up the pace. The finish line is so close. Surprisingly, nothing hurts and I’ve got a good pace.

FINISH!!!

Cheers and high fives from the line of volunteers and military folks.

My legs didn’t want to stop.

Hugs.

Tears.

Everyone who passed that finish line had a new achievement story. This was ours.

We did it!

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