Recently I ran in a 5k race. It was my first 5K.
Running (as exercise) has always been on my “list-of-things-to-do”. I have this long list going (my “list-of-things-to-do” which some call a bucket list) and since I’m almost 45 years old (how did that happen?) I figure I better start getting some of these things off my list before — well, just before.
The first thing I did once I decided that I was going to start running was look for a 5k race to enter. Because I’m like that. For motivation I need a deadline. If I have a goal without a date for a deadline, then the goal just never happens. So I looked online and found a race in Pasadena that was three months out. Three months seemed like enough time to prepare for it, so I signed myself up. Check!
The second thing that I did was find a running partner. After all, it’s much easier to stick to things like this when you have someone else who you are accountable to. Hmmm. Who could be my running partner? I looked around the room…and I saw her. Audriana! My oldest daughter. What a perfect way for the two of us to spend some time together. Lucky for me, she was onboard with the idea, and soon she was registered in the race with me. Running partner: Check!
Next was to begin training. In the first month of our training we ran-walked-ran-walked our way around the block a few times each week. Nothing too serious. Then the next month we kicked it up a bit, running up to a mile, a mile and a half a few days each week. By the end of the third month we could finish 3 miles but still walked about 1/4th of it. It was my personal goal to run the entire 3.1 miles during the 5K race without walking. Not even in my school years did I ever run more than a mile at one time, so this was certainly a stretch for me. But I was up for the challenge.
Race day. Audriana and I woke up early and were out the door by 6:30am. We both felt rested and were happy that the morning was cool. Perfect weather for a run. There were so many people at the race! I had never run in a group like that before. The run started out as a 5k and then the more serious athletes would continue on for the durathon and the triathlon. Serious athletes were all around us, in their serious running gear and with their race numbers written in black marker down their arms. Me and Audriana, in our bright blue race day T-shirts, looked every bit the amateurs that we were. But that was okay by us. We were just excited to be there!
The race started and we bumped forward, shoulder to shoulder with the racing herd. That was very strange, to be running so closely with other runners. It actually put me in a silly mood, because it was so quiet and it all seemed so serious, and truthfully I was not serious at all — yet. So about 2 minutes into the run, I said in a loud voice, “I’m tired!” and Audriana started laughing, and then I started laughing, and a few people turned their heads to look at us. No one laughed or smiled at my joke. Tough crowd.
So about 10 minutes into the run the herd thinned out a bit as everyone got into their rhythm . Audriana and I were no longer running side by side. The initial thrill of it went away and suddenly I realized that this was the real deal. I was actually running in a 5k and I had to finish it. My legs started feeling heavy. The silly mood was over. It got serious.
It was right around this time that I got my first Oh, crap…what did I get myself into? feeling.
About 25 minutes into the race, I seriously wanted to stop. It was all mental. Here is what it sounded like inside of my head: Gawwwwwd, how much longer? Where are the mile markers?!! They should at least tell us how far we’ve run. Have I done at least a mile yet? O.M.G. How much farther do we have to go? Why in the world am I doing this? Damn Bucket List! I wish I were still in bed. I could be sleeping right now. This is crazy. I must be crazy. This is the last time I’m doing one of these races, I swear. The first and the last time! I don’t know what I was thinking. People actually like doing this? It’s torture. My feet hurt. My legs hurt. My lungs hurt. Oh god, I can’t breathe. How much longer? Another runner just passed me. Am I running too slow? Have I even done a mile yet? Oh my gosh, how much longer? There’s no way I’m going to make it. Am I close? Am I at least half-way there?
For some reason this race didn’t have any mile markers. I actually have no idea if most races do, but I just assumed that they all did. It was frustrating not knowing how far I had left to run. It took all of my will power not to ask those running next to me, “Hey, any idea how far we’ve run?” or “Are we there yet? Are we even close?” Every runner that passed me, and every runner that I passed, I wanted to ask them that question. But I didn’t. I just kept running. I thought about Forest Gump and how he just kept running. “I just felt like run-ning” he said. I thought of a lot of crazy thoughts. I felt like I had hours to kill inside of my own head. I was used to running with music. I missed my music. No music this time. Just me and my crazy thoughts.
Every now and then I’d pass a group of cheering spectators. I always thought that I’d hate this part about running in a race. I didn’t think I’d want people, strangers, looking at me while I ran. But I was surprised to find that I actually liked it. They’d call out my race number and say things like, “You can DO this!!” and “Good for you!” — they clapped and hooted and cheered. For me! And even though I was tired and felt like I was dying at the moment, I picked up my pace a bit each time that I passed a group of them. I started thinking that maybe I could do this. If they thought I could, then maybe they were right. So I started listening to them instead of listening to the negative voice inside of my own head.
When I finally saw the finish line looming up ahead, and the crowd on each side of me started going wild with cheers, a crazy thing happened. All of a sudden I didn’t feel tired anymore! As a matter of fact, I felt like I could run another mile or two. What the what? Where did this energy come from? and where was it a mile ago? I pumped my arms and crossed over that finish line like a champ. I felt great! What a neat feeling. I ran the entire 5k and didn’t stop to walk once. I felt very accomplished!
after the race – we got medals!
Once I got home, another crazy thing happened. I signed up for another 5k race! I’m sure that while running in that next race I will think all the same crazy thoughts and wonder why I signed up for this and blah, blah, blah…but at least next time I will have the memory of what it feels like to cross the finish line. That will be enough to keep me going.
Well, that and the cheering spectators! Woot! Woot!