After months of training and anticipation, I finally ran my first 5K road race today (July 19, 2008). It was part of the Las Fiestas de Amarillo celebration sponsored by Our Lady of Guadalupe church.
I arrived a little after 7:00 to pick up my race packet, which contained my race number–22, the race t-shirt (which is the real reason runners show up for races), a Budweiser visor (which I will never wear), a keyring/flashlight from BSA, a tiny first aid kit from Northwest Texas, and what appears to be a one-person-sized cooler that is blue and says “Bud Light” on it. Where was Shiner Bock for this race?
I was pretty nervous because it was a totally new experience and there wasn’t a single person there I had ever laid eyes on. So after I got my packet I went back to my car to eat my Power Bar. Eat might imply that I was enjoying myself, so let’s just say I consumed the Power Bar. Or most of it. While I was chewing and pondering the gritty stuff in the supposedly nutritious hunk of chocolate…stuff, I amused myself by watching a very sinew-y man shave his legs. After he shaved his legs, he took off his well-worn running shoes and put on even more well-worn shoes. Then he taped up his shins, removed his shirt and jogged over to the starting line for the one-mile race. (Hello? 1975 called and wanted their running shorts back!) NOTE: He turned out to be an awesome runner. I think he ran the mile in about 5:00. Maybe I should run topless in short shorts? Mmm…maybe not.
As it got to about 7:40, I drank some water, went to the bathroom and walked around the church a few times…jogged a bit…tried to warm up and stretch and all the stuff that makes you look like a real runner before a race. At that point my main worry was having to pee during the race, but I don’t think anyone could tell. Finally, they had everyone line up at the starting line.
The good thing about having my first race sponsored by a church is that it started with a prayer. The monsignor actually specifically asked God to watch over and be with all the new runners. Hey–that’s me!!!
This race wasn’t chipped, which means we runners were not given small electronic devices to attach to our shoes. In a chipped race, that’s how they tell what your official time is. To time this race, they simply started the clock when the starting gun went off. I suspected this might be the case, so I wore my heart rate monitor to get an accurate time for myself. I started my clock as I crossed the starting line and took off. Of course, I was at the very back of the pack of runners, so my first few minutes were spent watching all those people–maybe a hundred or so–run away from me. Soon, though, I was passing people.
The past couple of weeks I’ve been treating runnersworld.com like some sort of bible and all the “first race” articles said I would pass people. I did not believe them. Sure enough, though, I was passing people. I made myself slow down a couple of times to keep a steady pace, but when I passed the one-mile marker, I was at 10:30. That’s a really fast pace for me! I don’t think I believed the numbers at that point, but I fell in behind a very small Hispanic woman who was calling out periodically, “Give it to God!” Works for me.
As we approached the halfway point, there was an aid station and the drink of water tasted really good! But then the mile two marker was at the bottom of an incline. If I wasn’t in a race, it would have looked like nothing. After two miles of running, it might as well have been Mt. Everest. I walked most of it. But then it got tricky.
I had checked the route the day before and they had painted arrows on the streets where we were supposed to turn. This stretch of the race was alongside a park and the route dictated that we run all the way to the service road of I-40. However! Half a block before the service road was a turn off along the south side of the park and I noticed the ten or so people ahead of me turning there. I got confused…did they know something I didn’t know? Did they change the route? Should I follow them or run the extra half block? I opted to keep running and sure enough…there were the arrows to turn on the service road. I said a quick prayer thanking God for keeping me on the straight and narrow and on I ran. Funny thing about that…even though the next turn brought another incline, I passed most of the people who had taken the short cut.
That was the final stretch. I could see the finish line and most everyone who started the race had already finished. I let myself put on a bit of speed and crossed the finish line at 35:09. 35:09!!!!!!! It’s my fastest time ever! That’s an 11:19 pace, in case that means anything to you…and a 1:30 improvement over my last 3.1-mile run. Woohoo! I’m so stoked and even more than before, I feel really REALLY addicted to running. Can’t wait for the next race!
I’m really proud of myself for sticking with my training, for not sleeping through the alarm clock, for not taking the short cut and for running through the pain as I developed a ginormous blister on my left foot in the last half mile or so. And now there are two questions in my mind:
1) Is it possible to develop a taste for Power Bars?
2) Can one truly look good in the finish line photograph?
I’m thinking the answer is no for both.