Thursday, June 26, 2008

My First 5K: A Story about Coming in Last

(Stupid arms-behind-back pose. What's up with that? Also, I am very proud of my sweat stains! I took a few photos of pre-race stuff with my phone, but didn't get any taken of me, except after I got home and had C. take a couple of me still in my sweaty outfit. Maybe next time I will have a buddy there with me to have photo duty!)

I did it! I finished my first 5K race last night. It feels amazing, if a little (OK, a LOT) achey and sore. People, I am 300 (and some) pounds of RUN!

I was nervous for nothing, really. I got to the registration table early and got my number (200, cool!), chip, and goody bag (neat!), and then had over an hour to kill. The race took place on Goat Island in Niagara Falls, NY, so it was a beautiful park setting (the oldest National Park in the country, in fact), with an amazing bonus view of the falls right at the starting line.

It wasn't a huge race. I'd guess maybe 300 people? It was an exciting feeling to be among all the people as we waited for the signal to begin. I positioned myself back with the walkers (who were doing a 1.5 mile route as opposed to the full 5K), since my pace is probably slower than even some of them! (More on that shortly, heh.) Of course there was a great surge forward at the start, but I was cautious to not let it get the best of me and I stayed at my usual pace: SLOW. People of all types passed me: very old, very young, walking soccer moms, people with strollers... eventually pretty much everyone passed by me. Yet somehow, I didn't get discouraged. I kept going. It felt weird and disconcerting, yes, but I had one goal that I was going to achieve no matter what: finish the damn race.

Early on middle-aged older lady and a young girl of about six walked by me. The girl asked the lady, "What's she doing?", looking at me. The lady answered, "She's doing a combination!" I turned to them and said, "No, actually, I am running. I'm just really slow." The lady smiled and said, "Well, you're doing great." Ha ha.

Not too much longer after that, a motorized cart came by, and the driver said something to the people behind me, who were part of the walking group. I turned around and asked the group what was going on. This man was like, "There's a marathon (sic) taking place here," like he didn't realize that I was participating in it! When I told him, "Yes, I KNOW that, I am running in it, too!", he acted all surprised and apologized, and said that the cart driver told him that the elite runners were starting to come through, so we'd need to watch out and stay out of the way. I admit, I threw him a dirty look, not very sportsmanlike, I know. But come on! I've got a running outfit on, sneakers and all, and I am making running motions with my body! What would make you think that I was not IN the thing? I don't know why, but it really pissed me off.

That was the only thing that threw me off a bit. The rest of the race was great, but hard. During the first mile, I really didn't think I had it in me to finish. But, once I passed by the guy who was announcing the first mile marker along with the time, I started to feel better. At one mile I was at 18:38, pretty standard for me. Plus, I tried to keep in mind that the first 20 minutes are always the toughest for me, so I just kept going. Also, seeing the "elites" -- actually, seeing all of the other runners pass by -- was really inspirational. Big bonus points go to the few that said, "Good job, keep going!" and the like as they zoomed by me. Truly, it meant the world to me and made a big difference in my mental state. Ah, to be a gazelle. Maybe someday.

I was glad once the walkers were out of the picture. The route looped around the island twice, so for the second loop I was essentially on my own. It's what I am used to, and I preferred it to the annoying chatter of the gaggles of walkers who seemed to smugly stroll by me. Bastards. Ha ha, just kidding! While I was on my second loop I started to see the occasional elite runner coming toward me on their cool-down. They, too, gave me encouraging words and told me to keep going. Again, I appreciated this more than I could ever express.

The last 700 meters was weird. (I know it was 700 because some guy was walking by said, "You've just got 700 meters left! Keep it up!") The race route was also the island's trolley path, where the sightseeing trolleys take tourists around the island. They had stopped service during the race, obviously, but since I was out for so long, it had started up again. So twice, I was honked at to get out of the way by a trolley car, which threw me off a bit, both mentally and into the grass. Still, I kept going.

Then, finally, I could see the finish line! They kept it up for me, and the clock was still ticking away. The only people left there were the official and a few volunteers, but they cheered for me. I could see the clock read 59:30... 40... I think I crossed the line at 59:50. A little slower than my time on Friday, but that's OK. I finished! I did it!

The folks at the finish line were awesome. I had a brief sob of relief and happiness, had my chip cut off, and headed to the after-race party for a banana and a beer.

Overall, it was an amazing experience and I can't wait for my next race! But, I can't help but wonder if I got a little overzealous and tried to do it before I should have? Of all the reading around I've been doing about slow 5Kers, or on forums and the like, everyone says, "Don't worry about being last. There's always going to someone slower than you." Not in my case! I mean, it doesn't really bother me that much -- just a teeny bit -- but I have never heard about someone running as slow as I do in a race. I don't know... maybe it would have been different if the walkers had been doing the whole 3.1 miles as well, but maybe not. I guess it is a moot point, really. Someone's got to finish last, and I don't mind it being me, as long as I finish.

From here on out, I plan to continue to work on my 3 mile runs until they become easy. One mile is fine, two is fine, three is still an effort for me. I want three to be like one and two, and I don't think it'll take too long for me to achieve that. I'm going to keep shooting for distance and endurance, and continue to lose weight. It's bound to get easier naturally!

I'm going to make the Run in the Mist 5K "my" race -- this year was its first and my first, a match made in heaven. I'll run it every year that I am able. It seemed well-organized, the scenery can't be beat, and it's less than five minutes from my house!

Got on the scale this morning and I'm back down to my lowest weight again. Yesterday was a fluke after all (I hope!).


Kitzzy said...

Congratulations! You did it! You are amazing and this is an amazing race report! It is so cool that they held the finish for you. Is like it was YOUR race! :)

I don't think you did it too soon at all. You finished it, didn't you? :) Did you run the whole thing? I had to walk at the 1st 3 races I did.

Don't get discouraged by stupid people on the course or walkers. There are some race walkers (young and old) that can out race much faster runners too. As you keep doing this and the weight comes off, your speed will improve.

I know what you mean about wanting 3 miles to feel easy. It is still not easy for me either. Today I could only run for 1.5 miles. I think yesterday's speed intervals was too much and I should have rested today. I'll rest tomorrow and hopefully have it in me to do that Virtual 5k this weekend.

Keep up the great work!! =)

Gala said...

I think it's awesome that you did it at all. Don't let "coming in last" deter you or make you feel like your achievement is anything less than BRILLIANT.


Anonymous said...

OMG - How flippin' cool are you? Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

What a FANTASTIC race report! You look exhilarated in those post-race pictures. Love that feeling!

I look forward to reading about your 2009 Misty 5K. :)

The Len said...

Im here from the LJ runners comm - just wanted to say congratulations, youdid an awesome job! I wouldn't worry about being last if I were you - I've been running since January, am thirty pounds lighter than you and I can still only do one mile. Three seems like a mountain! So good job, you rock!

Jesse said...

you are so awesome!! congratulations!! i got a little misty just reading about it. i'm glad you didn't let the trolley and the other stuff throw you off your stride. this is just amazing and i know it will just get better and better for you :)

Emily M said...

I mentioned this already - but amazing work and you look INCREDIBLE - look at those gams ;)

Miss you, lady...

teri said...

go you!!! i'm really impressed. it takes guts to run a race and i'm in awe of anyone who takes that step. and you look so beautifully smiley in the pictures!

Cammy said...

What sweat stains? Look at that gorgeous smile! Congratulations!!!

I read something awhile back along the lines of "the one who finishes last is the one at home on her couch." That would be me. So you finished ahead of me, and that's FANTASTIC!!

Ruby Khan said...

Congratulations! (Why didn't I know this blog even existed? I'm not the thorough stalker I thought I was.) Running 5k at one time is more than I can do, so I'm wicked impressed that you even gave it a shot, let alone finished the race. xoxo

Boilergrad1993 said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am SO inspired now!! I want to run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure next May and I'm about 10lbs heavier than you are. You just proved when you put your mind (and heart) into something it can be done regardless of the obstacles. You should be VERY proud of yourself!!

Anonymous said...

WOW impressive girl. I think you are way more impressive than the "gazelles" it takes heart and drive to run when you yourself have to wrestle with the perception that you might be too slow. If you feel good about what you did and if you are not getting hurt then you are going at the right speed - period. I'm going to try and cover 5K in my virtual 5K this weekend but I have been having shin issues I have never gone that distance before so not sure how long I will take but I know I will finish even if I have to walk it.

Since I started running, I go out some times from work and come back after lunch to get a shower. I often get people ask me on the way back in if I've been walking. Note that I'm wearing tights and a workout shirt and I'm red in the face and soaking in sweat right through my clothes and they are thinking I was out for a walk! Come on people! We just need to keep changing people's opinions of what a runner can be.

I'm super proud of you!! You rock. Keep up that running.

Anonymous said...

I'm also from the LJ community. WAY TO GO!! I wish I could have been there to cheer you on in person!! Keep up the great work. =)

Ayesha97 said...

Delurking to congratulate you! I started the couch to 5k program around the same time and have been reading up on your progress. I think you are inspiring. If you can do it, so can I! I had my first 5K race a month ago and I loved the atmosphere that is at the race! Everyone cheering for everyone else! Keep going!

Michelle said...

I'm so proud of you!! Of course you should have done it, and you did! I always remember that somebody has to be last. If the walkers did the whole length you probably wouldn't have been but what matter? You finished! I got misty eyed reading how encouraged you were by people cheering you on because I felt the same way during my event. I'm just so happy you did it. And think, you will always remember this and have something to compare it to as you get faster. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Congrats! The important thing was FINISHING. I imagine quite a few people don't finish their first race, but YOU DID IT!

BikiniMe said...

Great story! How cool is it that you stuck with it to the vry end?? I'll tell you how cool it is -- INCREDIBLY COOL. *grin*

High five on finishing the 5K! And now I'm off to read some more of your blog. :) (You had me at "proud of my sweat stains". haha!)

Lillian said...

Congratulations on finishing the race.

Katschi said...

How AWESOME are you?!
You're 1st in my kidding!

Mama Bear June said...

Congratulations on your 5K. That is so cool and you have every right to be proud of yourself. Keep making healthy choices! :-)
Path to Health

Ruthie said...

oh I wish was at the finish like to scream and yell for you!! how exciting! what an inspiring race report!!!

congratulations on finishing! i am so inspired!


Sarah said...

Ruthie above sent me your link and I loved reading about your experience! You are one inspiring girl.

-Sarah, who's never run a 5K simply because the whole idea of a race intimidates her.