If you had told me a year ago that I would run a 5k, I wouldn’t have believed you. And even if you had told me in JANUARY that I would run a 5k, I wouldn’t have believed you. I never considered myself a runner, always thought I couldn’t do it or wasn’t “built” for it.
I proved myself wrong.
The true test was on Saturday, the day of the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival 5k/10k Road Race (could it have a longer title?). I slept horribly the night before, dreaming about sleeping through my alarm and missing the race, and waking up every hour to see what time it was. When the alarm finally did go off, hubby and I listened to the thunder outside and wondered if I would be running at all that day. We got up, though, and I put on my running clothes (I say that as though I had some fancy outfit, when what I mean is, “I put on my t-shirt and knit capri pants”). Registration started at 7, and we arrived there about 5 minutes after that, the rain still coming down and lightning occasionally lighting up the sky. Great race conditions, no doubt. I was one of the first people there, so I got my goodie bag (which was not exactly the “monster” bag of goodies that the registration form advertised) and t-shirt and began to wait for the next 55 minutes. Hubby took a picture of me all geared up and ready to go:
The spots on my jacket are raindrops. It rained the whole time we waited for the race to start, and yet they didn’t cancel the race. About 20 minutes until the race, I did a quick jogging warm-up and stretched my legs and made sure my iPod was ready to play the first song at the right time.
The rain continued:
Finally, the organizers called for attention and explained that the 10k race would not happen due to part of the course being flooded but that the 5k would happen. She instructed the slower runners to line up behind the faster runners, and then everyone followed her to the finish line. I quickly said goodbye to hubby and positioned myself near the end of the running group because I definitely was in the “slow runner” category. Right after noting that the rain had actually stopped, I heard the word, “GO,” and there was a surge of people all moving forward at the same time, and I was caught up in it. I was tempted to try to keep up with those who were taking off at a quick speed, but I reminded myself to start slow and pace myself, so most of the runners soon faded into the distance. Heeding encouragement from a running friend to remember to have fun (thanks, Jen!), I didn’t worry about who was ahead of me but instead focused on my breathing, footfall, and posture.
Before the race I had been worried about the “rolling hills” this course contained, and while they weren’t the worst hills imaginable, for someone who trained on mostly flat surfaces, they were a slight shock to my system. However, I just jogged up them slow and steady and then picked up pace on the downhills. I was feeling good, loving the cool air and the light breeze hitting my face, and I smiled as I ran (I’m pretty sure that was a first). I was running!
Early on I really had no idea how fast I was running; there were definitely a lot of people in front of me, but I wasn’t last either, so I couldn’t tell. My goal was to finish the race in under 40 minutes, so every time I felt like slowing down I told myself I had to beat that goal. I kept passing and being passed by the same people, but I didn’t worry too much about where in the ranks I would finish; I just wanted to finish. I even ran through the first water station so as not to lose much time, only to choke on my water as I tried to swallow while running. (Obviously, I walked through the next water station.) I didn’t see a mile marker until the 2-mile mark, and then I looked at my watch and realized I had run the first 2 miles in 21:52! That is WAY faster than I’ve ever run in practice. It was then I knew I could beat my goal, and so then I allowed myself to take a walking break and catch my breath.
The last mile ended up seeming the longest. I blame that extra one-tenth. 🙂 I kept cheering myself on in my head, knowing I had come so far not to finish strong. With every step, I kept wondering how much further I had to go. Finally, I saw the last stretch of road, with the finish line just beyond (and on an incline–who thought up that idea??). I took one last walking break and then began to pick up speed. I wasn’t about to wimp out right before the finish. Then I was over the last hill and feet from the finish line, and there was my husband smiling and waving at me, and I sprinted to the finish, passing a girl who I’m sure was ticked at me for going past her at the last second. My eyes latched onto the time clock, and I saw the numbers 34:19 flash back at me.
34:19! I finished a 5k in 34:19! I was #89 out of 109 runners, but that pace was FAR better than I had hoped for, and I could not have felt more exhilarated. After crossing the finish, I hugged hubby tight and tried to catch my breath, basking in the joy of completing something I once never thought possible. It was hard, and it was sweaty, and it was amazing.
And you know what? I think I am more proud of finishing that race than I am of losing 69 pounds. It was a great day. 🙂