I think that every runner has his or her top 10 running moments. In all of the races that I've done since 1989, it was hard to narrow down the list. It was also hard to rank them because some of them were very close. Numbers 2 to 4 were especially difficult to put in order. On another day I may have them in a different order. Without further ado...
10. 2005 Munich Marathon (Munich, Germany). I didn't run Munich that year, but my friend Kim did. I ran a lot of long runs with her as she trained for it, passing along bits of my experience with marathons and advice from my former running partners. When Kim finished the race and achieved her two goals (not to finish last and to finish before the 6-hour time limit), I had the feeling that a coach would have when her athlete wins an Olympic medal. Training with Kim also gave me motivation to train for another marathon. Before I started running with Kim, she said that she was looking for a Sunday morning training partner. I told her that I'd be happy to run with her and we made arrangements to meet at her house the following Sunday. On that Sunday I knocked on Kim's door, ready to run. It turns out that I got her out of bed. She didn't think that I would really show up to run. But she got dressed and we ran together that morning. That turned out to be the first of our many runs together.
9. 1992 San Dieguito Half-Marathon (Rancho Santa Fe, CA). My half-marathon personal record (PR), which I set at this race, still stands. San Dieguito is a tough course that is all rolling hills and an uphill finish. My late running partner Bill prepared me for San Dieguito. But somewhere in the very last part I started walking. I was on track for a PR at that point, but figured I wouldn't get it because of my walking break. It was at that point that I heard Bill's voice in my head telling me, "You're wearing a black shirt, so stop being such a wimp and get your butt going." (I wore a black t-shirt to feel "tough".) I started running again and ended up finishing with a PR. This experience really showed me that even when things got difficult, I had the mental and physical toughness to work through it and keep going.
8. 1989 Thanks for Giving 5K (San Diego, CA). This race was special because it was the only one that my husband and I ran together. We stayed together the whole way until just before the finish line, where he finished two steps ahead of me.
7. 2007 Munich City Run Half-Marathon. This was the first half-marathon that I ran after a 3-year absence from long races. I spent those 3 years running 5 and 10 km races to give my body a break from hard long-distance training. I did a lot better than I expected to after a long break from half-marathons. Because of my performance in that race, I trained for and ran the Munich Marathon later that year. I now do the City Run almost every year.
6. 2004 Mainly Masters 10K (San Diego, CA). This was a 10 km race for runners age 40 and over. I won my division (W 45-49), but that's not why it was a special race. It was the race in which I finally broke 50 minutes for a 10 km race. I had been very close to the 50-minute mark since running 50:12 in a race in 1991, but never seemed to be able to break it. I paced myself well and ended up finishing in 49:55. The course was flat and perfect for a PR.
5. 2005 7-Minute Mile (Hohenfels, Germany). Like trying to break 50 minutes for a 10 km race, a 7-minute mile (1600 meters) was another goal. Since 1992, when I ran a 7:20 mile, I had been trying to run a mile in under 7 minutes. I had come tantalizingly close with mile times of 7:08, 7:05, and 7:02. Finally my friend Charlie, a former elite-level runner, offered to pace me. We did track workouts together and I was able to hold the right pace. When it came time to do the actual test, Charlie paced me. But at the start of the 4th lap (a mile is 4 laps of a standard track), my hamstring acted up so we aborted the attempt. A few days later I went back to the track on my own, determined to redeem myself. The first two laps were at the right pace, but the third lap was slow and I was behind where I should have been. Going into the last lap, I told myself it was now or never. I heard the line, "Gonna show you what I'm made of" from Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer." I gave everything that I had on that last lap. When I stopped my watch, it showed a time of 6:55.40.
4. 2005 Hohenfels Box Run 10K (Hohenfels, Germany). That was the year my team won the team title in this race. The year before we were second by 20 seconds and we were fired up to win. Charlie, Lee, Frank, Jack and I really gave it our all. It was an indescribable feeling to stand on stage with my teammates to receive the first place trophy. I was also the 3rd place woman overall and 2nd in my age group. But the team award superceded the individual honors. I call this race my "1-2-3-4 finish" because of being part of the 1st place team, 2nd in my age group, 3rd woman overall, and the 4th finisher from my team.
3. 2007 Munich Marathon. This was special for two reasons. First of all, it was my first marathon since 1996 (also in Munich). Secondly, I ran with a photo of my former running partner Bill pinned to my shirt. Bill trained me for my first half-marathon and motivated me to try for a marathon. For this marathon I trained "smarter, not harder" and it paid off with a new marathon PR. I took 5 minutes off of my old PR and had the most fun ever running a marathon. During the race I had imaginary conversations with Bill. One of these conversations got me through a rough patch at the 39 km mark, when my legs turned to lead and I wanted to stop. I have worn Bill's photo in subsequent races as a good luck charm.
2. 1991 San Diego Half-Marathon (Carlsbad, CA). This was my first half-marathon. Bill and I ran together on many Sundays before the race. I soaked up everything he told me about running a half-marathon and performed better than I expected to. My time of 1:50:37 was much better than the goal of 2 hours that I set for myself. I ran a perfect race that day, starting slowly and increasing my speed at each mile. I felt like I was flying during the last mile, which was mostly downhill. When I got my finisher's medal, I felt like I received an Olympic gold medal. I was on Cloud 9! After that race I told Bill that I wanted to run a marathon. His advice was to get a few more half-marathons under my belt before doing a marathon, which I did.
1. 1993 Munich Marathon. This was my first marathon, which I finished in a respectable 4 hours and 17 minutes. I trained following advice that I got from Bill and Pat. Pat was another former running partner (she currently lives in Nebraska) who ran ultra marathons at that time. Even though I had moved to Germany, I kept in touch with her and got great advice for my first marathon. One piece of advice that Pat gave me was that there would be a point during the marathon when I would feel crappy. She said to give myself affirmations to get through it. Pat told me that she used to sing at the 20-mile (32 km) mark of marathons, which would make the other runners around her upset and even mad. Maybe they didn't like her singing. When I got to the 32 km mark, I started singing, "I Feel Pretty" from "West Side Story." It was a combination of singing and affirmations, right? It was better than what I thought I would be doing at that point (blubbering incoherently or asking where the nearest subway stop was). When I made the turn into the Olympic Stadium tunnel, I felt like the Olympic marathoners in 1972 must have felt when they knew that they were in the home stretch. Nothing could compare to crossing the finish line. I let out a big, "Yessssss!!!" The race volunteer who put my finisher's medal around my neck gave me a strange look until I told him that it was my first marathon. I got a nice hug from my husband at the finish. When I got home, the first thing I did was call Bill and Pat to tell them that I was offically a marathoner.