For 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.
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!