June 13, 2016

To the Finish Line

There's only one thing that could've gotten me to sign up for a 5K race, especially now that I'm in the absolute worst shape of my life.

It would have to provide access to a place I couldn't get into otherwise.

That was the story with this year's Norco Founder's Day Race, which took place on the grounds of the former Lake Norconion Club Resort, now occupied by the Navy.

Like many military bases, it's pretty tightly secured—and access to it is strictly limited. We even had to walk across the athletic fields of Norco College just to get to the starting line at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division.

Fortunately for me (and my bum foot), it was a Run / Walk / Ride so it had a kind of "Come One, Come All" feeling to it. The runners lined up first, followed by the walkers and those pushing strollers.

And then there was me. I knew I'd be limping the whole way—and taking photos—so I was in no hurry to get ahead of anyone else. I hung back and started where the crowd had thinned out.

I'd had to leave at 6:30 in the morning to get there by the sound of the starter pistol at 8 a.m. It rained nearly the whole time as I headed east out of LA County and into Riverside County, stopping just on this side of the 15 Freeway.

That meant it would be raining in Norco soon, too—and while I did not relish the thought of trudging through the rain and getting raindrops on my camera lens, I knew I had to get at least a peek at the old resort and its historic hotel and lakeside pavilion.

Still, I watched the crowds thin out before me and found myself alone on the route, passing the occasional emergency vehicle and military personnel, thinking I might have to ask for help or (God forbid) for a ride back if I couldn't finish.

I mean, while a 5K is only 3.1069 miles—a distance I can easily walk, even uphill—I've never had to do it limping before. I wasn't sure that I'd make it, especially because in relieving pressure on my right leg, I've been relying heavily on my left leg, which is now hurting, too.

They called it a "Race," and it was timed, but I certainly wasn't there to compete. And truth be told, I had six hours before they closed up the event, after the equestrians had taken their horses out on their own course. I could certainly finish in six hours, couldn't I?

I didn't bring my headphones to listen to music. I didn't wear a watch or keep my eye on the clock on my phone. I just tried to keep going and take it all in.

By the time I'd reached the halfway / turnaround point, I couldn't believe I was only half finished. I'd already slowed down considerably and was now visibly limping, no longer able to hide it or shift my weight elsewhere to compensate for it.

But in many ways, it felt like I had that historic property all to myself. It's not abandoned, of course; but without any cheering spectators, fellow racers, or Navy cadets running around, it was pretty desolate.

And so, it felt kind of perfect. The clouds kept the heat off my shoulders and back, and the rain only started towards the very end, at just a light (and kind of refreshing) sprinkle.

As the maintained road gave way to a crumbling asphalt and dirt path, I knew that I could finish. I'd trailed behind other racers who were either much older or much younger than me—and even much heavier than me—some pushing strollers and carrying babies. I was slow, but I was there. And I was almost done.

Photo by Holly Cheshier

In that final stretch as I approached the finish line, I thought about all the runners who'd spent far less time on the property, probably not taking any pictures, and I wondered what the point was. Why rush through the journey when you can enjoy it as you go?

In the end, my time wasn't too bad. At an hour and 13 minutes—and a little bit of elevation change—I was only about 10 minutes behind my normal pace of a 20-minute mile (with no elevation change). And that could easily have been the amount of time I stopped to snap some photos to get just the right shots along the way.

This 5K was a fundraiser for the Lake Norconian Club Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to preserve the history—and the structures—of this historic site, ideally working in tandem with the Navy. The medal I received just for finishing the course is something I'll treasure for a long time.

Now that I've done one 5K, it's a whole lot more likely that I'll do another. But the criteria still stands—because why make something a race, if it doesn't have to be?

Stay tuned for my photo essay on what's left of the former resort.

Related Posts:
Keep On Moving
Knowing My Limits

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