Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Haven 8K Run for Home by Leah Connor

The Haven 8K Run for Home

I felt like there was a lot of symbolism in my experience running The Haven 8K Run for Home on Saturday, March 19. I experienced compliments and rejection, recognition and invisibility, joy and sorrow, hope and despair. Pretty intense stuff for a fun run and my first “race” of 2022.

I was fortunate to receive a ride to the race with my friend and frequent trivia teammate, Hernan. He was a few minutes early (which I love), but it put me in a panicked scramble to get myself out the door so I forgot my race bib. #RookieMistake

I realized I didn’t have my bib as soon as I got out of his car. I didn’t want to be "that person" who has to admit they messed up and then beg for a new number at the registration table, but there I was in that exact situation.

I expected this race was going to be challenging because my running pace has slowed significantly and I anticipated seeing people in the running community for the first time in 6 months. Having to start the day by asking for a new bib was not exactly what I had planned in terms of just "laying low."

Luckily, Audrey Lorenzoni Sackson was at the registration table and was more than willing to help me with a new bib. When I saw her husband, Stewart, I asked them how married life was going. I remembered the best recommendation I ever got from a couples therapist was to read How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. I recently gave that book as a wedding present to a close friend because I found it to be so useful and insightful.

I ran a couple miles before the race and smiled every time I saw a Ten Miler or other race shirt that I designed. It's the little things that lift my spirits and I felt pure joy when I saw the designs I created being worn by my fellow runners. I greatly appreciate this continued connection with our local running community.

My identical twin sister, Malinda Ann, came with us to cheer the runners (and entertain the spectators) as an inflatable T-Rex. I was excited to snap a few photos of her proudly displaying her sign, "You'll be Dino-SORE tomorrow!!" and her "TWINS RUN in our family" tote bag.

I started the race off slowly and tried not to pressure myself or worry about my performance. Lately, I’ve been running 12-14 minute miles so my only goal was to run faster than that. It felt good to see familiar faces along the course, to hear personal shout outs (“Go Leah!”) and to receive compliments on my sparkly running skirt (a version of the asexual flag in honor of my daughter). My playlist (RUN FOR HOME PLAYLIST) kept me going and I even passed 5 or so people in the second half of the race which is always great for a boost of confidence. As I approached the finish line, I saw my twin cheering and it made me smile.

Mark Lorenzoni called my name as I crossed the finish line and I kept running because it has been very difficult since he walked away from me. I miss his presence in my life and I am sad I had to end my volunteer work with the Charlottesville Track Club. Even though the transition has not been easy, I am grateful for the opportunities I had to help him with the Charlottesville Track Club for more than 13 years and Ragged Mountain Running Shop for over 6 years. While I know it can be uncomfortable, difficult or painful when friendships, partnerships or collaborations end, I understand and accept that some relationships cannot continue for reasons beyond my control.

I was lucky to see my friend, Marti, after the race and I got a great photo of her standing beside my twin, the T-Rex. I’ve always appreciated Marti's warmth, compassion, and willingness to lend a hand, especially with the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon. I thanked her for all she’s done and for being the light when I’ve seen a lot of darkness. I gave her a huge hug and went to get a mocha with extra chocolate and whipped cream at Mudhouse.

After the race, I checked the results and saw that I wasn’t listed. At first, I thought it was a blessing in disguise because my time was so much slower than my performance two years ago, the last time the race was in-person. However, I did use the online form to report the issue because I am not ashamed of my time. I’m actually proud of myself for still getting out there when I know I’m not in my best shape and nowhere near my PRs from 2012. Although I’m no longer competitive, I’m still showing up because running has been and continues to be such an important part of my life. I can find happiness and connection in being a part of the communal race experience even when I know I won’t take home an award. I always want to appreciate the joy of running and to support important causes in my community.

The Ten Miler is next week. It’ll most certainly be my slowest time ever on the course and I’m looking forward to enjoying every minute I have on the streets of Charlottesville with other runners and community members.


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