In an uncharacteristic move, I rung in the new year creating a vision board with my best friend. When I started my vision board in the last waning minutes of 2012, I had no idea what would be the final result. Surprisingly, one large goal was to complete my first ever 5k. Throughout 2012, I ran off and on. A cheaper alternative to a gym membership. But, that workout routine was largely unfocused. Represented on my vision board as a pair of running shoes, a racing number, and finish line sign, I began 2013 with a clear goal in mind.
It was several weeks before I decided on what cause I would run for. I based my decision primarily on which run would be in warmer climates. (I can’t stand to run in the cold!) It was then that I stumbled upon Stroehmann Bakeries Walk+Run Against Hunger. This particular run had meaning for me as it reminded me of a brief time in my childhood when hunger was an issue. I was older maybe 13 or 14 years old. Money was tight. My dad worked long hours and my mom picked up a second job to make ends meet. There were a few times where I can remember the only meal I ate was lunch from school. I remember vividly what its like to be a kid in school finding it hard to concentrate because you’re hungry. In remembering this moment in my life, I made the decision that I would run for this cause.
Making the decision was fairly easy but it took a while before it really sunk in the amount of work required. I had signed up and I had paid the money but, in all things, life happened and I got distracted. It was about 11 or 12 weeks out when I remembered this race I had signed up for. While surfing the internet, I realized that training for my first 5k should be anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks. Suffice to say, I freaked. I was already starting slightly behind.
I wasn’t quite a beginner when it came to running but I wasn’t in top physical form to be considered an experienced runner. Ultimately, I came up with my own training schedule based on my skill level. And, I had to take into consideration the awesome (read: sarcasm) of winter weather in the Northeast US. So I had a training schedule and a gym membership to get me to top performance for race day.
For the most part, training wasn’t too difficult. Training wasn’t the issue but the commitment to staying on schedule tested me at times. Who wants to go run 3+ miles after working an 8-hour day? Not only that, but who wants to walk or drive to the gym when its freezing cold and snowing? There were plenty of times where the thought of walking the block and a half in the snow when my warm apartment beckoned tested my resolve. Yet, I had a deadline to meet.
It wasn’t until week 8 out of 10 that it hit me that the race was happening. By that time, going to the gym 3 times a week was old hat. Just another part of my routine. Suddenly I felt nervous and jittery. Would I really be ready? How prepared would I be? It was during week 10…literally in the days leading up to the race…that I decided it was time to take my training outside. It was a bright and sunny day with temperatures in the high 60s. My running mix blasting through my headphones I set out for my first run outside.
It wasn’t a bad run. About half way through the run I suddenly felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. Perhaps it was a dip in the adrenaline but I felt like I wanted to stop. Luckily I pushed right through it. I focused my mind on the songs and not on my body yelling for me to stop running and just walk.
Cut to the day of the race. I was a ball of nerves. I didn’t know what to expect. I still felt unprepared. As the runners arrived outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I thought to myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” Having successfully avoided the urge to run away, I lined up with the other runners.
Nearly 400 runners lined up to run this race with me. With the firing of the gun, we were off. I still remember the surge of adrenaline as I started. I was tempted on more than one occasion to quicken my pace to stay with the pack. But I mentally had to tell myself that the race wasn’t about them but me. So I settled into my pace and ran. 10 weeks of training had prepared me for this moment. On the day, running that 3.1 miles felt old hat. Like slipping into a comfortable pair of shoes. And I knew in that moment, I got this. I can do.
And, I did. When I saw the finish line and heard the cheers from the crowd, that last surge of energy kicked in. In the last 50 or so feet, I sprinted toward the finish line. I was tired but felt accomplished.
Several days later, the results came in from the race. I came in at 339th place with an overall time of 40:47 with a 13:07 per mile pace. To be honest, those stats surprised me. In my training session, I ran much slower. My pace fluctuated between 15:00 and 15:23 per mile for an overall time of about 45-46 minutes. My race was my personal best.
Now that I’ve run this race I’m often asked by friends, “now what? or will you run another race?” I’ve never really seen myself as a marathon runner. And in many ways, I still don’t. Will I run another race in the future? That’s a definite yes. I’d like to bring my time down even further. Will I become a marathon runner? Well,….the jury is still out on that one. My motto is never say never.