Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Last Tenth of a Mile

I ran my first 5k in a long time last Saturday. I had been wanting to run a race for a while - the last 5k I ran, I injured my foot 2 weeks before, so I was really only able to run the first 2 miles at any sort of good pace. I've been trying to run at least a couple of times a week, in addition to my regular workouts. Sometimes if I'm in the zone I'll run three miles straight; sometimes I'll run some, walk some, jog some. It just depends on the day. Needless to say, I was still a little nervous Saturday morning - so much so that I woke up at 2am and started to get ready for the race, only to realize that it was 2am...

I got to the race site at about 7:30am. It was a fairly small crowd: probably only a couple hundred people there, and only some of those were actually running. (The event also had a 5k walk and a couple of other "just for fun" events.) Being a pretty small event, the chips only counted your time crossing the finish line, so to get an accurate count you had to have started right at the start line (written in chalk). You could tell who the serious runners were - the guy with his high tech gear and gps timer, stretching on the side, and the ladies jogging around the parking lot to warm up. I did my stretches and walked a couple of laps by the start of the race, and started to get pumped up.

When the race started and I heard the gunshot, I suddenly started to get really nervous, but all of a sudden I was running! For the first minute or so I had this anxious feeling in my stomach that I was going to wimp out and quit running. After what seemed like the longest mile ever, I saw the sign that said "1 mile". Without a watch or timer, I had no idea what my time was like, so I just kept going. The terrain kept changing - road, dirt, gravel, through the woods - and it took a lot more concentration than my usual one mile loops around the pond on the bike path. I started to get a little tired, but I knew I would be mad at myself if I stopped halfway through. Seeing the families stationed around the course for motivation really did help! The other thing keeping me going was watching the two sets of dads and kids a little bit ahead of me. If they could do it, I certainly could!

Finally nearing the end, I saw the 3 mile sign. I was already planning to sprint the last 0.1 mile, and it felt awesome. When I saw the finish, I honestly felt like I was floating across the path. Although initially I wasn't thrilled with my time, I realized that I still hit a personal best - and the biggest accomplishment for me was knowing that I didn't give up. There were a lot of excuses I could have given for not even showing up: I hadn't preregistered, I was going by myself, I had just finished a long week at work, etc. But I am SO glad that I took the leap to go. It has given me the motivation to continue running, and has set the bar for me for future races. There is no feeling like the accomplishment of completing a race. The most surprising thing about this race was that I actually placed first in my age division, which I didn't find out until looking at the results online today! Even though it was a small race, that is a huge accomplishment for me. I would have been happy regardless, but that just goes to show you what can happen if you just go out and do something! You never know what might happen!!

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