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I'm a winner! First ever 5k race!

Monday, June 11, 2012

I've been meaning to compete in a 5k for the past several years, but I've never got around to it. I've actually managed to sign up once or twice and then chickened out. You know the voices: "You're too fat. You're too slow. You'll finish last. You'll have to walk and no one else will . . ." I would start training, and something (life) would always get in the way of training, so I used to bail a few weeks before race day.

I was especially intimidated because people who race here tend to take it pretty seriously - the whole concept of a 5k walk/run doesn't really exist - either you run or you don't. However, my friend E., who used to swim competitively, finally talked me into doing a charity run for UNICEF. She said "Trust me, you won't finish last. And even if you do, it is a 5k and 10k that start at the same time, so there's no way you'll be the last one across the finish line. And even if you are - so what? At least you tried. You're one better than all the people who didn't even try!"

So I signed up. The day before I was pretty nervous. I hadn't had time to train for nearly two weeks, and it was making me antsy. My husband took me by the shopping center where the stand was so I could pick up my jersey and - shock!! - a gift bag with a running magazine. Just reading the magazine helped me get pumped up for the big day. I went to bed early (for me) at 10:30, since I knew I'd have to be up by (gasp) 7am on a Sunday if I wanted to have any breakfast before the race and not chuck it back up once we passed the 1km mark.

At 7am I got up, had my milk and cereal and did some housework to kill time. Much to my chagrin, I had forgotten to plug in my garmin the night before, so I would have no record of the race for posterity. Sniff. I put on my running clothes, including a long-sleeved t-shirt under the jersey, and we took off.

We parked around 8:30 and I went to pick up the crono-chip (new to me) which took me a while to figure out how to lace onto my shoes. I knew that E. and some other friends from my Spanish-English conversation-and-beer-drinking club were supposed to show up, but I couldn't see them anywhere. I realized that no one else was wearing a t-shirt under the jersey, so I stripped it off and gave it to my husband to put in my gift bag. Everyone else was warming up by jogging around the little park near the starting gate. I looked at my husband and said "If I try and warm up, I won't have any gas left for the race!!!!"

Finally I spotted my friend E. Her dad was also there for the race, and her mom as well, but she couldn't run because she'd broke her ACL in a skiing accident a few weeks back. E. looked ridiculous - she was wearing some lemon yellow pyjama shorts because she put all her running pants in the wash the night before - which made me feel better, as I felt like a seal stuffed into running gear. She gave me a big hug and told me once again not to worry about coming in last and to just focus on keeping a steady pace. I told her I expected to finish in around 35 minutes, since that was the time I had been achieving on my practice runs.

At nine am we all lined up, all 5,000+ of us and started off to the sound of the cathedral bells tolling. E. took off and was out of sight in the crowd within seconds. The first km went great - I was right in the middle of the pack and not too many people passed me. It was a great feeling just to be running with so many other people. However, looking back, now I think I must have probably been going far too fast at that point, especially when we got to the (gasp!!!) hill.

I was not expecting the hill. For some reason, I thought the race route was through the (flat) tunnel and not up the (giant) hill. Once I got up most of the hill, I had to walk to take a breather. At that point, my three friends from the conversation club chugged past me. When the hill crested I started running again. My friend E. passed me at about the 2km mark, heading back down the hill - at that point she was in 2nd place overall in the women's category.

I had to walk another two times for about a minute each (not too sure without the garmin or a watch), one uphill and one downhill, when my heart got to beating way too fast. The downhill part was great. I didn't even care that I was getting passed by most of the remaining 5k racers. It was just such a glorious day with views of the bay, the perfect weather, and the feeling of accomplishment that grew each time my foot hit the asphalt.

When I was close enough to see the time marker, it read 32 minutes, and I realized that despite the hill and the bouts of walking, I was really going to make it in under 35 minutes. About two hundred meters from the finish line the first 10km racer zipped past me and the other 5k holdouts. I couldn't believe how fast he was going! 100 meters from the finish my buddies from the conversation club were there to cheer me on! And 20 meters from the end I saw my husband, E. and her parents cheering and clapping their hearts out! I ran past the finish line with a big smile on my tomato-red face and arms raised in victory.

I tried to walk it off, but the race crew made me sit down and take off the crono-chip then handed me a bunch of gatorade, water and and apple. My husband gave me back my long-sleeved t-shirt to use as a towel - I was soaked in sweat. E.'s parents told me that she had come in third overall in the women's category, and E congratulated me on finishing the race under my goal time (34:25).

I don't care that I came in number 18 in my category - I honestly feel like I won the race. I won because I competed and because I finished and because I had a great time doing it.

I feel so inspired to keep running. My goal for this summer is to get my 5k time below 30 minutes and to run a 10k before my birthday in September. WOOHOOO!!! Here we go!!!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Congrats on the first race!!! It is an exhilarating experience. Isn't it awesome to surprise yourself some time?

    2459 days ago
    Way to go!! I am training for my first 5k on June 30. I am way slower than you and I dont care if I finish dead last. I have never done it before, so if I finish I have won! I am a very slow wogger walk/jogger. I am very overweight and I hope to just finish.

    Way to go! You should be so proud!
    2506 days ago
    You did great!! You can do it!!! Keep it up!!!

    I can't run due to both my feet have hairline fractures and they hurt alot.
    Walking is the best I can do with that.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2506 days ago
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