I set a goal for myself way back in January. Run a 5K. My first BIG challenge and I did it! Hours of boring time on the treadmill, miles on the road, a new pair of shoes, an assortment of hip stretches and exercises, a time-tested playlist, one running coach (thank you, Mona!) and a lot of good advice, guidance and support.
By the time Andrew and I rolled into Raleigh late Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet I was finishing up my final day as an employed librarian and fresh off of a wonderful send-off by my coworkers. I was a tad emotional, so it was nice to have this challenge to focus on. If you’ve ever participated in a large race series you know something about the Health and Fitness Expo: part packet pick-up, part museum gift-shop for the running set. I was first introduced to this type of event when I walked the Shamrock Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach. Andrew was unfamiliar with this particular aspect of the racing industry. I think he found it both exciting and a little overwhelming. It always makes me feel like I’ve wandered into an alternate universe where everyone is fit, motivated and runs for fun! Yikes. It is quite the spectacle, though, and served as my first reality check as to just what I had gotten myself into.
I tried hard to remind myself that I had earned the right to call myself a runner, to be a part of this. No one made me feel this way. I was battling myself and that disparaging little voice inside my head. I guess, I won that argument because the next morning I found myself in corral 8 waiting for the start of my first official 5K.
When I registered for the race I had to estimate my finish time. The time I gave was overly optimistic and so when I received my corral 6 assignment I was worried that I would be starting with much faster people. So, I ended up closer to corral 7 which then morphed into corral 8. However, it quickly became apparent not everyone was as worried about being in the correct corral. Walkers in the front corrals, sprinters in the back. I ended up running around people and stepping aside for others. When will I learn that time spent worrying is time wasted?
Once we actually started I could feel my anxiety release. It was a relief to finally get going. This was really no different from any other training run. It also served as a refreshing reminder that runners come in all shapes and sizes. I trained in coastal Carolina and the rolling hills of Raleigh provided a challenge to my run-the-whole-thing goal. But, I allowed myself to just relax and keep moving. As I climbed the first long, low hill I could hear Lee in my ear, “Accelerate up the hill when others slow down. That’s where you make up ground”. Which, I think is probably great advice if your goal is anything other than just surviving. I quickly realized that if I wanted to run most of the race I’d need to walk the hills. Luckily, there weren’t too many. I’d like to be clear here, Lee did not give me that advice for this particular race, I’ve just heard him say it before.
I can’t say the time went quickly but I played my regular playlist and pressed on. I know that part of the fun of the Rock ~n~Roll series is the live music but I needed my music. There was comfort in knowing how much time I had left in the race based on where I was in my playlist. I listened to music when I trained to walk my first half-marathon. It motivated me. Sometimes it was the only thing that motivated me, especially on the longer walks. The day before that race I picked up my race packet and I was instantly anxious when I realized that headphones were not allowed on the course. Now, I’m a rule-follower. It’s who I am. So, I followed the rules. You are already probably well ahead of me in this story and know, of course, that I was basically the only person who did NOT wear headphones during the race. I walked the entire 13.1 miles alone with my thoughts and without an accompanying soundtrack. Fun. I did that race again and, you are correct if you’ve guessed, that I listened to music that entire race. Sorry, that’s a long story just to say, not without my music! Never again.
One of the worries I had while I was training was my hip. When I first started I had some issues with my knees. Luckily, those were short-lived. Unfortunately, my right hip, or more precisely, my right IT band was not loving my transition from couch to 5k. I endured a lot of painful runs and even more painful days following runs. I became well acquainted with a foam roller and got better at stretching but many of my runs were still painful. So, I was more than pleasantly surprised that as I ran I had no hip pain. Maybe it was adrenaline. Maybe all of my preparation and foam work helped. Maybe I was just lucky. Doesn’t really matter. All I know is that running without hip pain is so much better than running with hip pain.
As much as I’d love to impress everyone with a remarkable time, I’ll be keepin’ it real.
I would have liked to have finished under 40 minutes, but I’m happy with the results. When I started this challenge I was more interested in finishing than in putting up a particular time, and finish I did. I will admit to being somewhat emotional as I made my way toward the race start. I’m a pretty unassuming person (not sure how that squares with writing a blog about my own life and expecting people to read about it–I’ll leave you to discuss that later) but I let myself feel a bit of pride and, dare I say, accomplishment for having even gotten to that point. Approaching the finish line my primary emotion was relief. Seeing my kids cheering me on motivated me to pass the lady running in front of me. I felt like I had a good final kick but my finish photo looks like I’m barely strolling! Ah, how the way we imagine ourselves doesn’t always align with reality. Kind of like how, in my head, I still look 30 and then I walk by a mirror. Don’t worry, young’uns, age will come for you, too!
The best part of the race? When it was over. Is that true for all runners? Does anyone actually enjoy the race during the race? I’m asking honestly. I’ve considered running another 5k, but upon reflection, I think I’ll stick to walking and leave the running to someone else. Thank you for your encouragement. I couldn’t have done it without you. I told you I’d do it and because of that I did. My friend, Ofie, actually made the trip up to Raleigh and ran it, too! We didn’t find each other before the race but we caught up after. In fact, she took the photo of me “sprinting” across the finish line.
Can I admit now that there were several times during the process of completing this challenge that I was harboring some serious regrets? In the end, I’m glad I did it. This blog has served an interesting purpose in my life. It’s pushed me to push myself and I’m better for it. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, now that I’m officially unemployed, you’ll probably be hearing more from me. I can only spend so many hours a day cleaning out my garage. Thanks for reading along. If you’d like to get emails notifying you when a new post is published just click the FOLLOW button and do anything they ask you to…within in reason, of course.
Before you go…I’ve discovered that I’m an angry runner. You may be more familiar with this concept in reference to the term “angry drunk”. I myself am not an angry drunk. I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I would have even qualified as being drunk and I can tell you I’m more of a giggler than a jerk. But, during the course of training I discovered that the songs that motivate me the most during a run are not the fun, inspirational ones. Apparently, I run best with a chip on my shoulder. I need the Gym Class Heroes to tell me I’m a fighter, Busta Rhymes to yell at me, and Eminem to feed some unresolved respect issues I didn’t even know that I had. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m not sure I like it.