Wednesday, September 28, 2011
My son (the marathon runner) has been challenging me for a couple of years to run a 5K race. So, realizing that I was going to be 50 before I knew it, reading that running actually preserves people's knees rather than wrecking them, and knowing that running burns a lot of calories, and the pounds were not melting off, I decided to give it a go.
I started training in July with a Couch to 5K program (affectionately referred to as a C25K). The plan ran for 9 weeks, so I found a 5K in my area that looked like a great fit. One of the reasons that I signed up for this particular race is that it seemed like near perfect conditions for a beginner. The course was advertised as flat with a cinder surface so it would be easier on my knees than cement or asphalt. It was scheduled for a week after I would finish the C25K program if I stuck with the plan, and it was a good cause too. It was the "Bruiser 5K for Veterinary Cancer Research." I'm a dog lover, and although I don't currently have a dog, and never lost a dog to cancer, it seemed like a good thing to do. It was also the Saturday following the annual blessing of the animals at my church, so the stars seemed to have aligned.
At the blessing service a phone call came into the church asking if I would make a house call. A family had a dog that was too ill to come to the church for a blessing. After the service I drove to the home of "Storm" a beautiful black and white dog with a giant cancerous tumor growing out of the side of her nose. It had grown so large that it was blocking her left eye, and was splitting the skin on the top. The vet wasn't able to give them much hope. The family said that they were praying for a miracle. I told them we could certainly pray for a miracle, but with or without a miracle we could ask for God's blessing on this beautiful dog, and remember the blessing that was already apparent in the love that they had for her, and that the dog obviously had for them. The unconditional love that we receive from our pets is often one of the greatest illustrations of how God loves us. He is patient, but always delighted when we come home to to him. We prayed and cried. They promised to keep me updated on Storm's condition.
After my visit with Storm and her family I had a new reason to run.
I had two goals for the race. #1 I wanted to run the whole distance without walking. #2 I wanted to make it in under 40 minutes. I trained on a track, (and for about two weeks on a treadmill) but I figured that since it would be a soft flat surface, I would still be in pretty good shape for the race. On the track I had run a 5K twice before race day, and the second time I had completed it in less than 40 minutes. I figured that whatever I lost in the transition from a track to a trail I would make up in adrenalin.
The day before the race I received an e-mail telling me that the race might be called off because of flooding on the route. We have had lots of rain, and the water table is very high. The route was next to a creek, so there was a good chance that the rains on Friday, and the rain predicted for Saturday, would wash us out.
Saturday morning, early, I checked the website and saw that the race was still on! It had rained the night before, but the rain had stopped and they were going to give it a go.
I arrived in plenty of time to get my shirt, registration packet, and to warm up with a little walk. It was cool, but very humid. When it was time to line up I took my place pretty far back, since I knew that I would be slow compared to most people. I found a father/daughter pair that were thinking they might do the race in about 40 minutes and thought I had found my tribe. I was surprised to see that many people lined up with their dogs on leashes. I knew that a walk with dogs was planned as well, but I didn't realize that it would be on the same route at the same time.
When the buzzer went off we all started forward. The father and daughter took off at a pace that I knew was not going to be sustainable for me, and I had been warned by others that starting too fast is the biggest rookie mistake, so I kept my pace and watched them peel away. After about a quarter mile the route began to slant up and I realized that the course was not flat. I was on the first of two rather substantial (for me!) hills. The first hill was not too steep but it was quite long, and it took a bit out of me right near the beginning of the race. The second (much later on the course) was both long and steep. I just took my time, shortened my stride and pushed on.
There was a person ahead of me that was moving at a similar pace, so I just kept pace behind her. It was kind of discouraging when some walkers passed us, but I was determined to keep going no matter what.
There was one water station on the route but although I don't know exactly how far along it was, I suspect it was in the first mile.
The surface of the path was cinder, but there were several parts on the later part of the route that were flooded, so we had to run around those parts through the mud, under black walnut trees. It was like running through an obstacle course of mud and tennis balls! I kept running, but I went slow. I figured it was better to get through the race without slipping and breaking my neck!
The distance was not marked, so I just had to guess at how far we were along the route. They had a few places where people would tell us our time, but without knowing the distance it wasn't very useful information. I had my running watch so I could time myself.
I didn't realize at the beginning that, since I started pretty far back from the starting line, my time was going to include the 5K plus the distance before I ever reached the start. I was timed from the starting buzzer until I reached the finish line. I started my stop watch when I crossed the starting line, so according to my watch I was about 45 seconds quicker. When I realized that the finish line was near I put my all into it, and sprinted the last little bit. It took me quite a while to catch my breath!
I ran the whole distance (goal #1) and did it only three and a half minutes (or two and a half, depending on who is counting) past my goal time. My final official time was 43:20, but according to my stop watch, it was 42:30 from the time I crossed the starting line to the time I reached the finish. I came in 97th of 105 running entries, (I couldn't tell you how many dog walkers there were), but I'm still proud that I did it, and given the unexpected obstacles, I'm not ashamed of my time.
I've signed up to run another 5K race in November, so I'll try to get to that magic under 40 minute mark next time. The upcoming 5K has one long hill at the beginning of the course, but since it is closer to home I will have a chance to train on the actual course once a week. Beating 40 minutes gives me a challenging goal to work toward.
All in all it was a positive experience, and the proof is that I want to try again! I am amazed at myself!