Big finish at the Chilmark Road Race
The first mile and a half is going surprisingly quickly, though my panting reminds me that I have been running for well over 15 minutes. Not bad for my first race. Ever.
Sweat stings my eyes and my calves burn with lactic acid. My brain tells me to keep running, but my legs are growing tired, partially due to lack of training, but also from darting back and forth across the road to avoid crashing into people walking and mothers with strollers.
"I'm not going to make it,'" I think to myself as I start ascending an enormous hill located just past the two-mile marker of the Chilmark Road Race.
As I lean into the incline, willing my legs to keep a pace my breath can match, a group of four dash - to be precise, dance - by me to the tunes coming from a portable Bose SoundDock. They are blasting Ace of Base's "All That She Wants," and they seem to be having a lot more fun than I am.
I slow my pace to a walk in a vain attempt to stretch my legs, but I find myself just getting in the way of other runners. I shift my location to the far right side of Middle Road, and watch two young girls - who can't be more than 10 - fly past me and into the swarm of runners ahead.
I take a deep breath and look up at the sun in the nearly cloudless sky. The weather could not be more perfect for a race day: It's a sunny and clear Saturday, but cool enough, lacking the mugginess that is customary in New England in August. "At least I'm outside on this gorgeous day," I think - faint compensation for my probably being the last 23-year-old to cross the finish line.
The beautiful day, coupled with Chilmark's scenic green landscape, is what makes the pain in my legs bearable as I trudge along at a weary speed. "Pick up. Pick up. You have to move it after this hill," I try to psyche myself. "Children less than half your age are beating you."
My mind always wanders when I am jogging, and as I lope back into a moderate stride, I think about the families cheering on runners that are lining the racecourse. Most of them are camped out in front of their houses or friends' houses, and seem unbothered by the 1,500 people preventing them from driving to the beach on a gorgeous summer morning.
They appear to be perfectly happy to be bystanders. Several people hold signs with the names of their friends and family members who are running the race, and I hear crescendos of shouts when familiar faces are spotted amidst the throngs of runners throughout the 3.1 miles.
One little boy holds his hand out for high-fives, and as I run over to slap palms, I receive an elated grin and an enthusiastic, 'Keep it up!' in return.
Finally, I see the sign indicating I have a little more than half a mile to go - reason enough to start celebrating.
The last leg of the race is by far the most exciting: As the road dips into a valley and the sky opens through the trees, sprawling fields and ocean views emerge off to the south, and hundreds of runners are racing to the finish.
The announcer's voice shouts out times from the town hall and talks the crowd through the event.
With one-tenth of a mile left in the race, something sparks inside of me: All feelings of tiredness evaporate and I take off at a sprint. The crowd and other runners become a blur, and all I can see is the finish line, which I cross with a gasp. A bystander cries, "Congratulations!"
I bend over gasping for air with my hands on my knees, waiting for the dizziness to subside. I hear my time and though it is over my personal goal of 30 minutes, I am thrilled that I have finish my first road race - and that my legs are finally at a stop.
This was the first race for Lauren Folino, a News intern for The Times. She finished in 34:44.