You couldn’t have asked for a nicer day in” Happy Valley” for a nice little 3.1 mile jaunt. The sky was blue, the sun was blazing as it came over the mountains, and the temperature at race time was threatening enough to consider wearing wind pants, but I opted to chance it and wear shorts. Sure enough my heart started thumping in anticipation as I headed up the hill towards Beaver Stadium (the start of the race) with the goal (quite literally) of finishing on the 50 Yard-Line in Beaver Stadium. Upon arrival, the pre-race activities were exquisite as well.
As we all knew, the walk aspect was fairly simple. I “blasted” out of the gates and was passed by hoards of participants immediately. It was a fabulous day to be on campus, so I set a solid pace and meandered past the sights of the PSU campus. As we hit the two-mile mark, I couldn’t help but get gut-busting anxious for the finish line. Not because I was exhausted or something was off kilter, but my anticipation to stand on that field was intense.
At around the 26 minute mark as I made my way onto Park Avenue, the destination was in sight. The stadium looked as glorious as ever! And today, in the coming moments, I was going to be part of the whole experience. Not as a fan but rather as a participant! I made the right turn onto Porter Road where on so many fall days I trekked up the slight grade in anticipation of watching the Nittany Lions host their weekly rivals. And not helping but to take notice to my right where my hero, Joe Paterno’s, statue once stood and where all his fans and family, including myself, came to gather when he passed away last year. And for just a moment, I felt that coach was there with me and he was really proud of my journey over the past seven years. I felt really good. It was time to do this!
With one last turn I saw the entrance into the tunnel. Upon arrival into the facility I slowed down to just above a snail’s pace. I wanted to take this all in…I saw those two huge steel gates reading “PENN” on the left and “State” on the right which gives access to the field.
I stepped onto that plush manicured grass and picked up as much speed as I possibly could. The end zone, the 5, the 10, hell, I gave Franco Harris a big high five on the 20, and hit the 50 yard line in give or take 30 minutes. The time was the last thing that I thought about in that moment.
Immediately after crossing, I did something that was on my mind for so many years…I bent down, felt the grass of these most important grounds in my life, ripped up a few shavings of grass, put them to my mouth and ingested them so that I can say that this field is part of me. I looked up and around at the massiveness of the facility as if I was standing at the base of the world’s tallest mountain and stood in awe of the whole experience if for just a few moments.
I don’t think I came in dead last, but I’m sure I was pretty close. All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I do believe next time I’ll aim a little higher and take on a half marathon perhaps…