An Uphill Battle to Cross the Finish Line, But I Wasn't Alone

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you've been following my blogs for awhile, then you know that I started running about seven months ago. I began by running a mile just to see whether I could, which, for someone who formerly ran only when chased (and how often do you think I was chased? Um, never!), this was quite a feat.

I kept running not so much because I liked it, but because it was an effective form of cardio that, on weekends, allowed me to work out without driving to the gym. (My gym is convenient because it's close to work, but it's 12 miles from home, and I prefer to walk and bike on the weekends.)

So on Saturday mornings, I would wake up at 7, run around downtown Cincinnati for about 2 miles, then run to the farmers market. I'd arrive, sweaty and red-faced, buy my fruits and vegetables and walk home (getting a strength workout in as well--I buy A LOT of produce each week!). I covered about 4 miles, 3 of which were spent running. I am usually busy from Friday night through Sunday night, so any time I can multitask, I do.

Then, I had a change in plans one week and needed to miss my favorite Spinning class. Instead of skipping cardio for the day, I rose early and ran. I had so much energy that day, and I decided to keep running a couple of times a week.

I had no intention of running hills (painful and no fun, I thought), and though I had vaguely set a goal to run a 5K "sometime," I wasn't training for one.

Enter, our resident running coach, Nancy, who could sell milk to a dairy farmer. And now read the story of how I ran my first 5K, with the company and support of SparkPeople to guide me!

When Nancy told me that several SparkPeople members planned to run a 5K the morning after the Spark Your Life Convention, I got caught up in the excitement and agreed to run it as well.

Then I looked at the course map: mostly uphill! Still, I had committed, and I stuck with it. And, I lived near the course, so I could practice running the hills.

So I rose early two or three times a week, geared up and hit the road. The hills were brutal at first, and I walked half of them. Honestly, I wanted to quit, run home and go back to sleep several times. But by the week of the race, I felt like I was ready.

Coach Nicole, who ran her first 5K last year, also planned on running the race. She wanted to beat her time and asked me if I had a goal.

"Yes. I want to finish," I said, quite seriously.

"Anything else?" she asked.

"And I don't want to walk any of it," I replied.

Lofty goals, eh?

You see, I'm not an athlete. I faked cramps to get out of gym class, was the most awkward of all the belly dancers in my college rec course, and continue to be completely oblivious to organized sports of all forms.

Who was I to set a goal? I don't have a competitive bone in my body, and I didn't really care what my time was. I told Nicole I hoped to finish in about 40 minutes. I foresaw a brutal, sweaty and exhausting end to the race.

The week before the race was rough. We were all busy trying to get ready for the Convention, I was packing to move apartments, and I had a mighty large baking project for the Convention. I was stressed. I was tired.

The night before the race, I was exhausted. I left the post-Convention festivities around 9, grabbed dinner with my boyfriend (who had moved without my help all day!) and collapsed into bed at 11:30. Thankfully, Nancy and DANIERIN22 had asked for a ride to the race--otherwise I might have been tempted to sleep through it.

I was nervous that morning (see my face above!), but I was too sleepy to think about it. But as I saw how excited everyone else was, I perked up and started to really look forward to the race. I pinned on my bib, warmed up and got ready to go. Plus, a member whom I'd met the day before, KALORIE-KILLAH, was also running her first 5K. DANIERIN22, BOBBYD31, Coach Nicole, her boyfriend and his friend were also running, and ITGIRL74, was walking her first 5K! Nancy and MIAMIA7were there to cheer us on!

We lined up at the starting line--somehow near the front--and we were off. I hadn't run the start of the race, just the middle of it, so I didn't know just how steep and long the first hill was. I held slow and steady, focused on my breath (yoga really helps with running, I've learned!) and just ran. I was excited and wanted to run faster, but I worried I'd burn out.

It was a really small race, but the people along the course were so supportive. I felt good when I reached the top of the second hill--the turn-around. I got excited, and shouted "Woo-hoo" a few times when I saw other SparkPeople runners and walkers. I was actually smiling for most of the second half of the race!

I knew that I was prone to side stitches during downhill runs, so I focused on deep breathing (a tip I learned from Nancy's blogs) and kept going. This time--no side cramp.

As I headed toward the last downhill stretch, I knew my legs had something left in them. I picked up the pace, focused on the woman in front of me and--surprisingly enough--set out to beat her. A few hundred yards from the finish line I saw BOBBYD31 running toward me. He had already finished but wanted to run back to support other SparkPeople runners and walkers. I got really excited when I saw him, and I just focused on the finish line. I deliberately hadn't looked at my watch, but when the clock came into view, I was elated: 28 minutes. "Just make it across the finish line in under 29," I told myself.

And I did: 28:38!

I was so happy to have finished my first 5K and even happier to see KALORIE-KILLAH at the finish line! And I beat the woman I set out to pass. (Guess I have a smidge of competition in my bones after all!)

We stretched, rehydrated and watched our fellow Sparkers cross the line. We all hugged, cheered and posed for photos. Then we watched the awards ceremony. Coach Nicole's friend Brett won the race, but the biggest surprise was yet to come.

I won a medal! So did several others in our group--we couldn't believe it!

Nancy, who'd been tearing up intermittently throughout the weekend, looked at me with happy tears and said, "You're a runner, Stepfanie!"

I am a runner, Nancy! And I'm running my second 5K this weekend. I want to run the entire thing, match my time and have a good time. I'll start setting timed goals after this race, which will be considerably larger (no medal this time, I think!).

But I've caught the running bug. I'm still rising early, lacing up my shoes and hitting the road. And I'm doing it with a smile on my face!

I couldn't have done this without the support of all the SparkPeople members who were there that day: BOBBYD31, Coach Nicole, Nancy, MIAMIA7, ITGIRL74, DANIERIN22, and KALORIE-KILLAH, plus PATTYSH, who suggested that we participate in the race! Running this race together really bonded us in a way that sharing a meal or a conversation never could have!

Check out the blogs from everyone else who ran and walked the race (on their SparkPages, which are linked above. They're really inspirational!

What goal have you set that you never thought you'd achieve? Have you ever run a 5K? Do you enjoy the competitive aspect of running or do you just run for fun?