Warning: This is a long post detailing my training and challenges up to the race. Feel free to skip to the bottom if you're not a runner or potential runner who's interested in that kind of stuff. :)
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I started running last summer using the Couch to 5K plan. I was on and off with it, becoming discouraged when I found the running parts hard and the summer heat made it difficult to breathe. I gave up about three weeks in, starting and stopping several times. I ran on and off last fall, and I completely gave up running for the winter since I didn't have anywhere to run inside, and outside the snow and ice made running precarious. In late March, I joined a gym and started running again on the treadmill; not a week later, I signed up for the 5-miler... committed to train properly and finish the race, running the whole thing.
And I trained... three days a week, pushing myself just enough to prevent injury and burnout. Then April came, and with it, awful allergies and a work trip to Orlando -- which caused me to miss almost three weeks of training. I forgave myself (really, what else can you do?), and I got back on the treadmill as soon as I could. And I lost everything I had gained. It was like starting all over again, and I beat myself up for being weak and not training while I didn't feel well.
Then the fear sank in: "Oh my God, I don't know if I can do this? I'm out of shape. I can barely run a mile; I'm never gonna achieve my goal."
Well, I ran my first full mile about three weeks before race day, and it wasn't easy, but it wasn't terrible either. I changed my goal: finish the race and feel good about my run. If I had to take walk breaks, so be it. It is what it is.
I spent those last three weeks running three days a week: 2-2.5 mile runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a 3-4 mile run on Saturday or Sunday. I started running outside when I could to get used to running on pavement. I mapped out runs around my neighborhood, and I kept track of my pace (which scared me even more because I was averaging about a 13-min. mile).
Last Saturday (one week and a day before race day), I did five miles for the first time. On a treadmill. In 70 minutes. I wasn't thrilled, but I knew I could at least finish the race, and I felt good after my run.
Week before race: I hydrated like crazy, drinking six ounces an hour. I ran my 2-2.5 miles on Tuesday (outside) and Thursday (treadmill)... still not beating the 13-min. mile. I went to bed early the night before the race.
I woke up before my alarm Sunday morning, grabbed my pre-laid out race clothes -- checking the weather to make the game-time decision on shorts or pants (pants... it was in the 50's) -- and jumping in the shower to wake myself up. I made myself my normal breakfast of Greek yogurt, granola and blueberries, with a cup of coffee and some water. I filled water bottles to keep in the car and packed a bag of everything I thought I could need (thank you Amber for the Spibelt recommendation; it worked out so well, and everyone was intrigued by it!).
By the time I parked my car in Boston, I was literally shaking. I thought I was going to throw up, my stomach was in knots. Thankfully I knew people running, and after meeting up with everyone, I had calmed down. We walked up to the starting line, and I almost panicked again when I saw the banner, but I held it together and waited around the 12-min. mile pace. I was grateful my running buddies hadn't trained a lot and hung out with me at the start. I knew I wouldn't keep up with them, but it was nice not to wait at the start line alone.
I heard the pistol go off, and I shook out my legs a final time as I walked up to the actual start line. I reached the banner, and I was off! I kept telling myself to keep a steady, slower pace to start to conserve energy; I wanted to see how far I could run/jog without stopping for a walk break. I made it to the one-mile marker, and I allowed myself to slow down for 30 seconds. Mile two was up and down, scattered with walk breaks, especially through the first water station. I jogged most of mile three, and at that point, I could see one of my friends up ahead of me, but not that far ahead, which made me feel great. I was keeping pace! Whenever I felt discouraged, I would look back and see a crowd of people behind me -- reassuring myself that I was doing ok, I wasn't the slowest one.
On mile five, I actually recognized another one of my friends within reach, so I sprinted up to her, and we ran together until the last corner before the finish line. I was extremely thankful to have found her because she kept me running; I didn't want to stop and lose her. Finally I had to walk a few paces, and she wanted to speed up and finish fast. As I rounded the corner to the finish line, I broke into a sprint and pounded pavement as fast as I could until I crossed that line. It's so difficult to describe the feeling of crossing the line and knowing I had completed my first race -- no matter what my time. Those of you who are runners can relate, I'm sure.
I was confident I had kept within my 13-min. pace, but when I walked past the finish line and saw my friend, he told me I did an awesome job and had finished within 55 minutes! An 11-min. mile! WOW! I was sooooo excited. I felt like I had been initiated as a runner; I was legit.
|Post-race party: Me, Liz, Mike, Tom, Erica, Amy, Stacy, Andy|
Within 30 minutes, I was ready to sign up for my next race, knowing I had a list of summer races at home. The after party was so much fun; Harpoon gave all of the runners a plastic pint glass and two free beers, as well as some lunch.
As we were leaving, I found myself on the results board... I actually had a pace of 10:42! That was an awesome record, and I'm looking forward to building on the momentum from this race. I know I can run faster, and I'm going to push myself during my weekly runs to keep that pace.
I think my next race is going to the be annual Fourth of July race in my town -- four miles. Then I have a 5K in August and another in September I want to run. Next year, I'll up the ante to a 10K.
Do you run? Have you run your first race yet? What was it like? If you're a "seasoned" runner (I consider that being that you've run more than one race, LOL), what advice do you have for me? How can I increase my endurance to be able to run an entire race? How do you get faster?