Some may say that, when it comes to exercise, I… am not an aficionado. Yes, I do it, but I never wake up in the morning and think, “MAN I WOULD LOVE TO DO SOME OF THAT EXERCISE TODAY!”
So far, the only two activities that have kept me staying the course are 1. kickboxing, and 2. running (or, in my case, run/walking). I love kickboxing because I get to punch and kick til I have nothing left in me. This works especially well at the end of the week, when I can direct every problem in the direction of a punching bag or thai pad. Running can have the same effect on me – it just takes about 3 or 4 miles for me to get there.
Today, I ran my very first race. Since November of last year, I’ve been training with a local running group, and am now participating in my second training session. Their training sessions are 10 weeks long, typically preparing for a half-marathon. I’ve done the training but have yet to do an actual half: They’re out of town which can get expensive. And since the races are on the weekend, I’d have to take a vacation day to run (I work on Saturdays).
So, as everyone and their mother was off in Antarctica running half-marathons, I decided to do an 8K known as the Shamrock Shuffle. Originally, two of my friends were going to run it with me; one ended up having a knee injury and the other never fully committed. This didn’t bother me until I got to last night and realized that I was running my very first race ALONE.
This thought set off a chain reaction of sorts. I had been nervous all week because of my official-race-virgin status, and all of the sudden, I was worrying. It wasn’t, “How I do I get there?” Simple. Take the El downtown. It wasn’t, “What should I eat?” I had that planned already. It was more like, “How do I pin this fucking bib on?” (the answer was use the safety pins that came with the bib.) And, “I finally washed my running shoes; what if they don’t dry in time?” (they did.) And, “Should I read the entire participant guide, plus everything that’s ever been written on the internet, just in case?” (I did.) And, “WHO IS MY EMERGENCY CONTACT IN CASE I DRINK TOO MUCH WATER AND BECAUSE OF SODIUM OR SOMETHING I DROWN WHILE RUNNING AND DIE?” (I chose my sister. Who lives in Iowa.)
I went to sleep slightly less freaked, and woke up at 6:30 this morning. I changed my outfit about 3 times (“Will the sun come out, or won’t it? 50 degrees? That’s like 70 degrees. Do I want to check anything?”). I decided on long pants and a long-sleeved shirt that I could roll up the sleeves if I needed to. I also decided that everything I needed I could carry with me, so no gear check. I pinned on the bib only to check myself in the mirror and see that I had pinned it slightly to the left instead of in the middle of my shirt. Oh well. At least it was pinned in the front.
I was told before I ran this race that it would be so crowded you would walk the first two miles. I was also told that there would be some crazy characters on the course, dressed up in costumes.( I was in the last corral and, not only did I run and walk the first two miles, but I also did not see anything particularly crazy. A couple ballerinas here and there. Some dude on rollerblades [made no sense to me, either]).
I used the RunKeeper app on my phone so that I could keep track of my intervals and see what my average pace was. It took forever to get to the actual start line, so that when everyone started to run I was a little confused. It took me a couple seconds to realize what was happening. I started my app and I was off. In the beginning, my legs kind of felt like lead and I wondered why I would have willingly signed up for this. But I remembered to breathe, and reminded myself that the first couple miles were always the hardest. Besides, it was only 5 miles, a distance I’d done before.
According to my phone, I was doing really well. I ran between 10:30-11:30, it said. I knew the distance was 4.97 miles, so when my phone said 2.88 miles completed, I inwardly jumped for joy. I was doing really well. By that point, my face was dripping sweat, I had sweat in my eyes, my hair was sticking awkwardly to my forehead, but I was running this damn race.
And then, my heart sank a little.
Because according to the course, I was coming up on mile 2.
WHAT?! How could this be? The phone says I’m almost done; the course says, “Bitch, I don’t think so!” AND I’VE BEEN DOING REALLY WELL.
Some part of me felt like there was treachery on the race course because there was no WAY my phone could be wrong (not my beloved RunKeeper app!). Nevertheless, I just kept on going. I meant to run along to music, but I couldn’t seem to turn on my playlist and run at the same time. So instead I heard things like, “Hey! Look! Downhill! We should run downhill all the time!” (I agree.) and “the litigations are…” (really? Now’s the time to talk about work?) and “Jafar! Jafar! He’s our man! If he can’t do it … GREAT!” (Oh, Aladdin.)
In addition to the music malfunction, I also discovered that it is very difficult to drink water and/or Gatorade from the cups the volunteers handed out and run at the same time (I just so happened to be on a running interval every time I passed their stations). I took them every time they were offered, and most of it landed on my face or shirt instead of in my mouth. At that point, I didn’t really care. I was sweating so much that you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.
I had slowed down a bit by the time I got past the 4 mile marker, and I walked a bit more toward the end. I found that I really became energized by the crowd as they cheered us on, but some of the people could have used the definition of the word “cheer.” If I am running past you, and you say, “Yeah. Keep going.” that’s not very motivating at all.
My last challenge came near the end: There was a slight uphill. Since I had walked more, I decided to run up. I got to about the middle before I started walking again; there were too many people who were dragging ass at that point and it was pretty difficult to navigate. As I turned the corner I saw the finish line.
And I took off toward it.
I finished the race hard and strong, with an official time of 1:06:16. That doesn’t make me the fastest runner by any means, but it does mean that I did it.