Three Point One

5K copyFor some, it was a warm-up. They were stretching their legs, ready for some warmer weather and the beginning of spring. They were preparing for the real races down the road. Just another morning jog.

But for me, it was my greatest achievement. Well, as far as my running attempts go.
I finished my first 5K race on Saturday morning. I said I would do it, and I did.

I was most definitely not planning on running in the March Mad Dash. First of all, it is March. It’s cold and snowy and gray, and I like to run in nice, warmer weather. Second, I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t been working hard enough at the gym and I wasn’t ready.

But my sister came home from school for spring break and it didn’t take too much to convince me. I like running with a buddy, and I will accept any motivation to get out and go. When she first asked me, I instinctively said no. And then I remembered my lifelong dream of running 3.1 miles and caved.

We registered in advance (couldn’t back out now) so when the day of the race came we got there early to pick up packets and get free T-shirts. (You know that’s really the only reason why I agreed to do it.) I was so eager to get there and warm up and get free stuff that I guess we got there a little too early. We ended up standing out in the cold for about 45 minutes. It was supposed to warm up later in the day, but at 8 AM, it was still hats-and-gloves weather.

As we walked from our car through the parking lot, we saw stickers on the backs of other people’s cars. 13.1… 26.2…140.3…I was so out of my element. We didn’t know where to go, or how the 5K course went. We were (are) such amateurs.

5K2

They told us to line up behind the starting line, according to how fast we thought we were in comparison to the other 750 people around us. Yeah right. I had no idea if I would be slow or fast compared to anyone. So I stood in the middle of the crowd with my sister, vowing to stay together. As it turns out, some people seriously underestimated their speed and tried to trample everyone in front of them, and some people seriously overestimated their speed and got trampled. More of the latter. And staying together? That didn’t work for very long. Too many people were ducking and weaving and dodging. We got separated, and, even though I maintain that I totally could have kept up, she pulled out ahead.

The whole race was kind of exhilarating. This gun goes off and this big mass of people starts moving, looking like a bouncing sea of bodies all headed in the same direction, slowly sprawling out into a long, snaking line. I played little games in my head–picked people to keep up with and people to pass. I tried to keep my stride longer than the person next to me, or my breathing more even. Just trying to keep it interesting.

Volunteers were standing along the sides offering drinks and encouragement. “Gatorade first, water second!” “Keep it up, you’re doing good!” I felt like a runner. Like someone who runs 5Ks all the time. Until I grabbed a paper cup of water and spilled it all over myself trying to drink and run at the same time.

I felt good until I got about 2.7 miles in. It was at that moment that one of the volunteers cheered, “You’re doing good! Just up the hill!”

“Up the hill?!” I screamed at him.

“You’re doing good,” he said a little more quietly. And I staggered past him.

This was a killer hill. At the end of a 5K. I had not expected a hill and so had run a little harder in the middle of the race than maybe I ought to have. So I basically died. I hadn’t eaten enough breakfast, so my stomach was audibly growling, I still had my gloves on, so I was hot and sweating, and pretty much felt like passing out.

I gave myself a tiny break about 3/4 of the way up the hill and let myself walk for approximately 15-20 seconds. Just long enough to take my gloves off. Then I picked it up and ran a little faster to make up the time.

On the way down the hill, I felt great. I felt like I could keep going, do the whole loop again, maybe do a marathon while I was at it…

My mom was cheering for me as I came into the finish line. My dad was fumbling around with a camera trying to figure out how to take a picture. My sister had beaten me by a few minutes. But I made it.

My official time was 28 minutes and 51 seconds. I came in 41st place overall for the 5K, out of 168 5K runners. I came in 10th in the 20-29 women’s age group (out of 39). Some 11- and 12-year-olds beat me. So did a 58-year-old. But that’s okay.

I successfully completed my first 5K race. On to the next one!

Post-race

Post-race

Tales of a Swimmer, Attempting to Run

My whole life, I have never been a runner. I have skinny flat feet, weak ankles, knobby knees and sore hips. I succeeded as a swimmer because I failed at everything else. I couldn’t kick a soccer ball, or run the bases. I was afraid of the balance beam and lacked the grace to dance on stage. Even a game of tennis contained more running than I could manage. I accepted the fact that I would never be a runner. That was okay. I love to swim.

But today, I ran around my entire neighborhood–without stopping, without walking. Let me tell you one thing–my neighborhood is no joke. The route that I take is about three miles and there are ten hills, varying in difficulty (most of them hard). So my run today was an accomplishment for any non-runner, especially me.

The beginning of my running journey

When I stopped swimming competitively almost two years ago, I knew I had to stay in shape. I wanted to stay active and try new things. I thought, What better place to try new workouts and activities than a college campus? But I found that I didn’t have as much free time as I’d thought. The idea of going to fun workout classes drifted farther and farther from my mind as I got more involved with the student television network and took on a part-time job. I did join UD’s yoga club and went to classes when I could. I went to open swim a few times and to the gym to ride a stationary bike.

But I found that the easiest thing to do was to run. No time limit, no gym or equipment necessary, no experience needed. I downloaded a free app for my phone called CardioTrainer and hit the streets. It was fun to track how far I’d gone, how many steps I took and how many calories I’d burned. I could also compare all of my past workouts. Last summer, I bought new running shoes, convinced that having new shoes would motivate me to run even more.

And yet, running is hard. It’s hard to tell myself to run everyday when I’m tired or sore, but if I miss more than a week I feel like I am starting all over again. I refuse to run in the rain or the cold or the dark. I prefer to run in the morning, but not the early morning. I can’t run after I eat, but I can’t run on an empty stomach. I hate running in the extreme heat of summer. I want the conditions to be perfect, the hills not too steep. In other words, I’m a picky runner.

My running goals

I’m never going to be a Runner, with a capital R. That’s never going to be me, so I’m allowing myself to be picky. I set a few goals for myself to keep me getting out there, and I have a community center membership where I can run on a treadmill when the weather isn’t ideal.

My first goal was to run around my neighborhood. For the past two years, I have tackled the hills of my neighborhood in various ways. I’ve tried running with the dog and without the dog. With my sister or my mom, and by myself. With my iPod, without my iPod. I’ve run the first part and walked the end, or vice versa. I’ve run up the hills and walked down them. I’ve run as far as I could then took a break. No matter how hard I’ve tried, the few roads that circle my house have defeated me every time.

Until today.

Another goal I’ve set more recently is to do a three-mile run once a week. It has usually been on the treadmill, since it’s gotten cold out, and I can easily keep track of the miles and speed. But there are no hills on a treadmill (none that I do) so today was a test. Run the three miles with hills. I didn’t think I would make it the whole way. I usually get about two miles in and slow to a walk. Today, however, I was feeling good. Today was a triumph.

My final goal is to run a 5K. Someday. A real 5K, where I get to register and get a little piece of paper with a three-digit number that I can pin to my shirt and a free T-shirt to show the world that I participated. You know, the whole shebang. And I want to not suck. So my efforts for now are to keep up my three-mile runs and continue running all the hills.

I thought that I hadn’t been getting any better. I couldn’t see any noticeable difference. But today I ran three miles with hills. Not bad for a swimmer. Like I said, today was a triumph.

(photo via)