This past weekend I did something kind of great. I ran my first 5k. It was for the Liz Kelly Run for the Sun race. And I totally surprised myself with how much fun I had.
First, let me tell you why I ran a race: For as long as I’ve been running (and even before) my mother has been bugging me to race one race with her. I like to run alone, I complained. And it’s true, I have this phobia about running with other people around. When the boardwalk got too crowded over the summer, I just couldn’t run there. So I had no plans to run a race ever.
But then my company started this program where you get a huge discount on your health insurance if you participate in “health events.” Donating blood counts, so I did that. The MS Walk also counts. I only needed one more event. Finally I figured I might as well run.
I have to be honest, I picked the Liz Kelly run simply because it started later in the day (10 am). Most of the races started so early, that I knew I wouldn’t want to get up on my weekend and drop out of bed and run.
I was extremely nervous about the race, and set myself a reasonable goal (36 min) just to calm myself down. My mom said she would run with me, and would even run at my pace (yes, my 70-year-old mom has to slow down to run with me). For the few days leading up to the race I even considered dropping out, but then what would I do for my health event?
When I told friends and coworkers that I would be running my first race the answer was always the same: “Oh, I’m sure you will finish it.” Well, of course I’m going to finish it. I would have to break something or be seriously injured to not finish it. The point is, how fast am I going to finish it.
I’m not sure why my speed is important to me. Even though I’m not a fast runner, the concept that I’m getting fast and can run farther all the time is critical to me when it comes to running. I always want to out-do myself. This is one of the reasons I call myself a runner, not a jogger. To me, a jogger just goes along at a nice easy pace. Runners want to go faster than they did before.
For my first race, however, I didn’t want to get my personal best. I just wanted a respectable time. I just wanted to beat the average pace for women my age. Middle of the pack is respectable enough for me.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned. A few things happened on race day. First, my mom fell down some stairs and hurt her derriére the night before. She told me to not worry about her, and just keep my own pace. Then we got lost going to the race. (as if I wasn’t nervous enough). Then the race was delayed almost 20 minutes while we waited for a ferry to dock. (I don’t know how common race delays are, but I found it unbearable.)
By they time we got going I was in a state. There were only about 200 runners, so it wasn’t a giant race, but it was about 199 more people than I was used to running with. I lost track of my mother almost immediately. For the first few minutes I focused on not tripping over anyone and not tripping up anyone else. By the quarter-mile I had moved away from the pack and was trying to get a nice pace going.
My GPS was acting weird. It was telling me how far I had gone, but not my speed. I was worried that I was running way too slowly, so I tried to pick it up a bit, but my heart was thudding so hard from nerves, I didn’t think there was enough left for the race. I saw a woman in yellow way, way, waaaay ahead of me and figured that somehow my mother had passed me by and now I was really going slow. Great.
It took about a mile before I calmed down enough to enjoy the race. By that point I had given up on my GPS and was just blasting tunes to keep going. I tried to just keep going and reminded myself that the time didn’t matter. I just had to finish the race.
The second mile was the best. I actually enjoyed running down to the water and through the town. I really enjoyed having the whole street blocked off so I could run, and not having to worry about drivers honking or coming too close. Sometimes people passed me, other times I passed other runners or people who had stopped to walk. (that never happens in my regular runs.) A few times I would run with someone for a while, and then one of us would move ahead or fall back. It was actually quite nice.
The third mile was really rough. I felt wiped and knew my time must be just awful. I couldn’t understand why I was so tired. I had lost sight of the woman in yellow. But here’s the thing. Usually I run 4 or 5 miles. I knew I was stopping after 3.1, so I figured I didn’t need to save any strength for the end. I just pushed as hard as I could. When I felt myself slowing down I would pick a tree or a telephone pole and think “Take it easy until you get there, then speed up again.”
And then finally I could see the finish line. I pushed it as hard as I could and with that the race was over. I found the woman in yellow, only to realize, it wasn’t my mother (apparently she was behind me the whole way, struggling with her soreness). I must have looked terrible, because another runner gave me his water when he saw I finished mine.
And here’s the irony of the story. I actually had run faster than I ever had before. My time for the race was 32:31! A full minute and 12 seconds faster than my best time ever. I came in fourth for my age group (which was a pretty kick-ass group of women, I must say) and I’m super proud of myself. My mother came in first for her age group (beating the second place 70+ woman by 25 minutes) despite her injury.
And yes, I would totally do that again. I know, I’m surprised myself!