Every year since I can remember, my town has had an early morning 5K race right before the Fourth of July parade. Also every year since I can remember, I have slept in until about ten minutes into the start of the parade. I remember thinking, “How on earth can those people wake up so early? And how can they run, of all things, when the temperature is so high?” This year, I decided that I would find for myself by registering for the race the day before on a whim. I had already done The Color Run (see my entry here) and I figured that this was the perfect opportunity to level up!
I woke up about an hour and fifteen minutes before the race so I could eat, drink, and use the bathroom. My biggest fear associated with running is having to go to the bathroom badly in the middle of a race! I ate a piece of cinnamon raisin toast with peanut butter, which I thought sounded like a pretty good choice (I’m no expert on the best pre-race food). Next, my sister and I headed over to the start line, where we met up with our very dear family friend, Vanessa. This 17-year-old is a huge inspiration to me because she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about four years ago and today she’s cancer-free! What’s more, she joined the school’s cross country team and runs 5K races like no one’s business. Meeting up with her at the start of the race was the perfect thing to get my spirits extra high for the race. We stretched for a few minutes while chatting (from left: me, my sister, Vanessa). As you can see in the picture, I’m on the way to placing my palm flat on the ground for maximal stretch.
We joined the ~500 other people at the start line. Unlike The Color Run (which had ~50,000 people), there was only one wave. I knew to pace myself from the start because I had one main goal: not to be the last person finishing. My secondary “bonus” goal was to finish the whole 3.1 miles without stopping. I ran and I ran. My younger sister ran ahead of me after getting fifteen minutes into the race. I just kept chugging along, listening to my music, and fueling myself on bystanders who smiled, waved, clapped, and otherwise cheered me on. The water break was at the two-mile marker and I knew that I was nearing my record time for running without stopping. I kept going. Even though my jogging slowed down, I was not walking. I passed a few people. A few people passed me. I ignored the fit and trim mom pushing a jogging stroller past me on the left. I focused on me and my own internal rhythm. Toward the end, I had lost almost all of my energy, but I kept going on adrenaline. I felt fueled in a very unique way by the other people chugging along around me. I had thoughts, like “That woman has fat rolls in her thighs and she’s ahead of me!” and “That women looks like she’s 65 and she’s still plugging away!”
When I saw the finish line, I was overwhelmed by relief and triumph. I pumped my fist and yelled “Wooooo!” at my dad, who videotaped me as I crossed the finish line. At the last moment, I found strength inside of me that I didn’t know I had and I sprinted as fast as I could, passing up a woman who had been ahead of me for most of the race. After finishing, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment (and a little wave of nausea from pushing myself so hard). I did it! I actually did it! After reenacting crossing the finish line (my mom didn’t have my dSLR on the right function during the real thing) and grabbing a bagel and Gaterade, I revealed to my parents that I felt the challenge of running the whole 5K without stopping was one of the hardest things I had ever done in my entire life. I told them that getting a college degree was almost easier because I have never doubted in my life my intellectual ability to excel in academic classes. Running, on the other hand, was a whole different story. To me, this was the ultimate challenge of physical strength and stamina (even if it was “just” a 5K). And I conquered it! The first thing that came out of my mouth after finishing was, “I’m never doing this again!” but now I’m already thinking about when my next race will be. Now that I have overcome the major hurdle of the first big run, I’m ready for another round. Maybe next time I can even shave a minute or two off my time! What can I say? I’ve had a taste of running races and I’m hooked!