My first race was yesterday morning. It was scheduled to begin at 8:30am but I awoke at 5:30. I wanted to be well-prepared and, most importantly, make sure I wasn't late. If you know me well enough then you know that I take forever and a day to get ready for things.
Due to a sore calf and the heart monitor I had to tote (ah, that is a post for another day!), I was convinced that I wouldn't do well. Originally, my goal was to run the 10k in 49 minutes. Sadly, I had bumped that up to 60 minutes.
I gulped down three cups of coffee and tried to eat a small breakfast. I could only choke down a third of it. I showered (yeah, I was going to get sweaty but it felt right) and got dressed. I rubbed some Ben Gay on my calf and wrapped the leg in self-sticking athlete's tape. I hoped, hoped, hoped that my leg didn't bother me. If it did, I was done. I would finish the race--my determination wouldn't allow for anything else--but I would finish it defeated and miserable.
I slipped my heart monitor into a small Aquapod waistband clip.
I was as ready as I could be.
When my husband and I arrived at the park, we quickly found my co-workers. A bunch of them were walking/running the 5k. The anxiety was overwhelming. After using the bathroom in the park's locker room, I milled about impatiently until it was time to line up.
We lined up at a stop sign. I was near the front but knew I would be starting slow, so I moved all the way over to one side to allow runners to pass me. Some guy talked in front of us. I looked at my husband questioningly. He stood off to the side and mouthed what I thought was "start". Yeah, we're at the start, what about it? I waited impatiently, not knowing what the hold-up was yet familiar with the situation.
I've been in it dozens, hundreds of times in my life. Something is happening, something that requires your ears to fully understand, and I can only wait for it to be over.
I looked at my husband again. Again, he mouthed "start". Huh? He did it again and finally he mouthed, "that song they play at sports events." OH! The Star Spangled Banner. It honestly never crossed my mind that they'd play the national anthem at a local footrace.
Hundreds of years later the starter finally raised his gun and fired it. That, I heard. I began running and like a wave, dozens of runners washed by me. The front runners for the 5k disappeared way ahead of me. I stayed off to the side until everyone around me was running at my pace.
I looked at my Garmin. It told me I was going at a 9:15 pace. That was OK for now. We moved off the road and onto an asphalt path. My Garmin said 8:45.
The first mile marker came up. A digital clock stood next to it. 9:01. I checked my Garmin. Yup, right on time.
I was running easily. My leg felt good--I hardly felt it. I felt the wrap more than anything else. I decided to try for my original goal of 49 minutes, or for as long as my leg would let me, anyway. It was time to move up. I began passing people. The path was crowded so I ran on the soft grass next to the path, mindful of lumps and bumps in the soil. It wouldn't do to fall flat on my face!
I passed dozens of people. I recognized several that had surged ahead of me at the start of the race. I am slow in my first mile and I had decided to use that to my advantage. I would conserve my energy and try to run each mile faster than the last. So far it was working.
8:10 pace. That was good for now. Mile marker two came up, and then mile marker three. The 5k runners branched off towards the finish line and the 10k runners ran on for another lap.
If I wanted to make 49 minutes, I would really need to push it now. I moved forward. 7:40 pace. I looked for another runner going the pace I wanted and found one. A girl with a long brunette ponytail. I settled in a few strides behind her, checking my Garmin every now and then to ensure I was going the pace that I wanted. Mile marker four came up. It was time to move faster.
I passed Brunette Ponytail. The runners were pretty spaced out by now. I was running easily. I glanced at the Garmin--8:30 pace. Oh, I better go quicker--what had happened? I focused on a man ahead of me. When he heard me approaching, he went faster but I was still able to pass him.
I checked my Garmin--7:15. I realized that it had said 7:30 before, not 8:30. The morning sun was casting long shadows. Or maybe my brain was tired and seeing things.
Probably the latter.
One by one, I focused on people running ahead of me and passed them. They were sometimes a dozen feet away, sometimes hundreds of yards. Each time, my determination carried me past them.
I stayed at the 7:30-7:40 pace. I was astonished that I could do it. Never before in any of my training runs had I run so hard for so long. My head buzzed with exertion. I was blowing hard. Like a racehorse.
I did a quick mental checklist of my body. Everything felt good. My legs felt good. They could go further than my lungs, it seemed.
I passed the five mile marker. Almost there. I thought about stopping. A short walk--just a few steps. It would feel good, it would refresh me. No! I wasn't going to walk. I recognized the wall before me and I pushed on, pushed through. My head sang and I felt loopy. I passed walkers from the 5k.
I got to the branch off towards the finish line. Yes! I ran harder; renewed energy coursed through my legs and I ran harder. Yes! Almost done! Yes!
I got ready to sprint.
But where exactly was the finish line? I knew, thought, it was off to the right. My husband had told me it was over there...somewhere. But here was this race official pointing to my left! Where do I go? I raised my hands as I ran, giving the universal signal of "I don't know".
I went to the left but just as I did, I saw a couple of my coworkers off to the side.
No, no, go right! they said. They pointed to my right.
I stopped, turned on my toes, and sprinted. It was so hard to resume running again after stopping but once I saw the
F I N I S H
it was easy, oh so easy. I sprinted as fast as my tired legs would allow.
48:13 flashed the clock as I passed the finish line.