Three years ago I ran my first 5K. I didn’t train for it, it wasn’t a new hobby, it was just something to do for fun. I was so proud of myself for trying something I’d never thought I could do. I’m still proud of myself for pushing myself out there.
The course was at the county fairgrounds which are less than a mile from my house. I walked over by myself, and walked home by myself afterwards. I will never forget how hard it felt to finish those 3.1 miles. My finish time that day: 34:11 and the fact that I kept it under a 12 minute mile was the biggest celebration for me.
That race also flipped a switch I didn’t even know I had. Soon I wanted to see if I could get to the point where running three miles didn’t make me want to throw up. And the rest… well the rest is an important part of my personal history.
This fall I’ve taken on a new running challenge. I took a speed work class – not necessarily to be a faster runner but to have a coach teach me some new running workouts and to have someone push me. It was so hard and so fun. It was definitely a new challenge and I was pleasantly surprised how after six weeks or so I actually was comfortably running faster. I decided it was time to try and beat a goal that has loomed in front of me for a while now: the sub 30 minute 5K.
I found a race that was just a few days away. At the fairgrounds less than a mile from my house – the same fairgrounds where my running passion began. I registered.
And then I spent five days feeling like I was going to throw up. I told very, very few people I was going to try this. Those poor people had to listen to me the night before as I nearly had a panic attack. I honestly have not been that nervous about a race since my very first half marathon. I was convinced that this was the dumbest idea ever. I have never broken 30 minutes on a three mile run and I couldn’t believe I was going to pay for the chance to try.
The race started at 9am, packet pick up at 7:30. So I headed over at 7:30 to pick up my packet and then came right back home to eat a little breakfast and try to relax with my feet up. Around 8:40 I stretched and jogged over to the fairgrounds to warm up my muscles. I still had 10 minutes before the start so I paced and did some active stretching to keep things loose.
Me and a whopping 116 other runners lined up at the start line. I was probably six or seven people back from the start – it wasn’t a chip start… it wasn’t even a gun start… the organizer thanked us all on behalf of the race charity (Habitat for Humanity) and yelled “Ready, Set, Go!” Off I went reminding myself how it felt to run fast and trying to settle into a rhythm. About .1 mile into the race I saw my husband. He surprised me by walking over to cheer me on – he knew how big a deal this was for me and I can’t tell you how nice it was to see him there.
My plan was to run the first mile hard. Catch my breath a bit in the second mile. Then gradually increase until I was pushing all out by the end of the third. The course is all rolling hills with one short steep hill just before the first mile. We did two loops of the course and I have to admit the doubt fairy was pretty insistent that there was no way I was breaking 30 minutes on a course full of hills. I tried my best to ignore that voice.
Mile 1: 8:55
I saw my husband a couple times and just after I hit two miles he asked how I was doing. I was able to gasp out that I’d hit two miles in less than nineteen minutes. I was right on track. I tried to settle in. I cut tangents like nobody’s business on a twisty, turning course. I charged up hills and when I got to the final .25 the course leveled out and I went all out.
I was really hoping for 29:30 – just so that it couldn’t be rounded up to 30 minutes. To see a 28 in front of my finish time was… well it was enough to keep me smiling all weekend. I finished 31st out of 117 runners. And get this… I was first – FIRST – in my age group. I know all too well that I wouldn’t have won my age group in a bigger race but it’s still so exciting to see my name first. Too bad I didn’t stay for the award ceremony 🙂
It’s hard for me to explain how huge this feels.