Today I ran my first 5K event ever! Being able to finish a 5K race without stopping has been on my “bucket list” for a long time. Today I achieved this goal. Today was a good day and I’m very happy!
I have always felt as though I was never a good runner, by this I mean that I never managed to run very fast or very far. I was planning to take running more seriously last year, and I actually agreed to train for a half marathon in January with my friend Jordana. But as fate would have it I broke my foot the morning after making the pact to run the half marathon. I broke my foot in August of 2013, and the healing process has been long and slow. My foot is mostly healed now (it still hurts a little, but I can do almost everything on it.) In December I signed up to run the 5K course in the Sedona Marathon Event with some friends, and I decided that I’d walk the course if I have to, but I would at least try to run it.
I trained for the event by running around in my neighborhood as my foot would tolerate it. My goal each time I ran was to run as far as I could without stopping. At first I couldn’t run much more than a mile, but I improved as time went on. Earlier this week I actually ran 3.7 miles (a little over 5K) without stopping. That was the farthest I have ever ran without stopping in my whole entire life. I know that it may not be much to some people, but I was very proud.
I felt confident that if the race was flat and at sea level that I could finish, but in Sedona, I wasn’t so sure. Sedona has much higher altitude and it also has hills. As a bonus added challenge to my goal, I have also been fighting a cold over the past two days. I decided that I’d try to do my best anyway and see how it goes.
Today the race started at 9:15am. Me and three friends, Eric, Jordana and Carolyn, all carpooled up to Sedona last night and spent the night at a cute, locally run motel. We woke up early this morning and had a light breakfast and then went down to the race.
The “Sedona Marathon Event” consisted of a marathon, a half marathon, a 10K race and a 5K race. Everyone who had registered in the race got a t-shirt and a “bib” with a number. The bibs were color coated for the four different races, and every runner needed to pin their bib on their clothes in a visible location on the front part of their body.
The full marathon started at 9am and everyone in the race had to herd themselves into a “corral” in front of the starting line before the race started. At nine o’clock the runners for the marathon began their race. Immediately the half marathoners corralled themselves at the starting line and their race began at 9:05am. The 10K racers started at 9:10am and then me and my friends and the other 5K racers shuffled into the corral like cattle and waited until we could go at 9:15am.
At the start of the race, I was jammed pretty much at the back of the corral and had to walk for the first few yards just because it was so crowded, but by the time I made it to the official starting line it was less crowded and I was able to jog at a slow pace. There was a large mix of people in this race and the backdrop of the scenery of Sedona was very beautiful. It was about 45 degrees fahrenheit and it felt quite cold.
I concentrated on jogging a slow and steady pace that I thought I could maintain longterm in order to not ever walk or stop if I could help it. There was a large variety of runners in the 5K. Fit young adults were running, old people were running, disabled people were running, teenagers were running, even kids were running. Little kids who had entered the race with their parents ran excitedly as moms and dads ran more steadily after them. Some people were running with strollers. Some people were wearing shirts or signs stating that they were running for cancer, or running for a loved one, or running some other cause. I wondered what my cause was. What was I running for? I never really thought about a cause: just good health, I guess. Yeah, that seems like a pretty good cause.
My friends Eric and Jordana ran ahead of me pretty quickly, and they briefly looked back at me as though they expected me to keep up with them. Yeah right! Jordana kept the pact that she made back in August to train for the half marathon, and she ran it and finished it last month, and Eric, well… Eric is a guy. Eric entered today’s 5K on a whim. He doesn’t even own jogging pants, and he was running the race in hiking pants. I, however, did not for one second think that I would be able to keep up with Eric. In all of my past experiences participating in active sports with guys, I have found that they annoying do great even if they don’t train, and they usually do better than me, even if I trained my ass off. I supposed he would have no troubles in this race. Of course he didn’t have any troubles, and he seemed to breeze through it, even beating Jordana to the finish line in the end. My friend Carolyn ran more at my pace, which was nice for me, not that I really felt like I required a running partner. For me the race was more about my own personal goals.
The layout of the course for the 5K was sort of a circle. The start and the finish line were in the same place. The course ran down a paved path and then merged with the main highway. After a short way along the highway, the course turned left onto a side road. After a stretch on the side road, the course doubled back on itself at a turnaround point, and then turned right onto another road that circled through a hilly neighborhood. After circling the neighborhood, the course headed back along the original path to the start/finish line.
Along the first section I was getting passed by all sorts of people. I got passed by old people, I got passed by people who appeared athletic, I got passed by people who did not appear athletic, I got passed by kids overflowing with energy, and I got passed by people pushing strollers. I got passed by super skinny, 20-something year old girls, whose legs were so tiny I wondered how they carried themselves.
By the point of the race where the course turns onto the side road, the shear numbers of people passing me seemed to decline. The super high energy levels of some of the children were starting to visibly fade. One kid lost his shoe and limped backwards along the course towards it. Another girl, approximately 8 years old, sat crying with a skinned knee on the side of the road. Two boys who looked 12 years old had stopped and were doubled over and panting, and another boy who looked 10 years old announced to his mom that this was really hard and he was going to run really fast so he could just get it over with.
I kept up my slow and steady jogging pace and I began to pass up hoards of exhausted kids. I also started passing several people who had begun to walk. I made it to the turnaround point and doubled back. Generally, people everywhere seemed happy. There were people standing along the sidelines of the course cheering on the runners: “Good job, nice work, looking good” etc. It started to seem warmer and the sun was shining and the day was really beautiful. The views of the surrounding area and the big red rocks of Sedona were gorgeous. I was actually enjoying myself.
The course took a turn and went into the hilly neighborhood. It went up a fairly steep hill. I kept jogging, at a very slow pace, however I didn’t stop, and I didn’t slow to a walk either. I passed several more people on the hill. I found that I was one of the few people in my vicinity actually jogging up the hill and not walking, and it made me feel proud. I passed the skinny legged girls on the way up the hill. I had had my suspicions that their legs couldn’t really take them very far and now I was glad to know that I was correct.
I made it up the hill, and by then Carolyn was behind me; she had to stop at a “porta potty.” I didn’t want to wait for her because I was on a mission to see if I could finish without stopping or walking.
People continued to cheer me and all the runners on. I passed water stations without getting any, because I was worried it would break my pace. I didn’t think I was skilled enough to jog and drink water at the same time, and I usually didn’t drink water on my practice runs at home anyway. The downhill part of the course through the neighborhood was really nice. I passed a boy and his dad; the dad was telling the boy that we were about 2/3 of the way done. I actually felt pretty good. I thought maybe I was going to make it. I was amazed that I felt so good. My foot was doing really well, although it was a little stiff, and my lungs were actually doing ok too!
During the last third of the race I was passing numerous people who were walking, and it felt good to be passing people instead of them all passing me. It was a nice feeling to know that some of the people who had smoked past me earlier couldn’t actually keep up that pace the entire time. It made me feel more normal.
It was really nice to see all the different people running the race. It was inspiring to see people of different physical abilities working toward their own goals! It was nice to know that my goal of running a 5K wasn’t necessarily a small goal, and although I sometimes felt like it, I wasn’t the “last person on the planet” to do it.
As I rounded the last corner of the course, I saw the finish line in the distance and started to run faster toward it. I felt really good. I never would have guessed that I would actually HAVE FUN running a 5K, but I was having fun. I was actually really enjoying myself. I sprinted toward the finish line and felt so happy to know that I was completing another one of my “bucket list” items. A group of people at the finish line were handing out medals to people, and a woman handed me a medal for finishing the race. I thought maybe this was in error; I thought perhaps she thought I was finishing the 10K instead of the 5K. Surprised, I asked her “I get a medal for running the 5K?” and she responded “Of course you do, good job!” It was so cool, and it was nice to know that others understood how important these personal goals can be! It may seem small to some people, but it is a big goal to those who have never done it before.
It’s funny, now that I have checked “running a 5K” off my bucket list, I still don’t feel “done.” Now that it’s crossed off, I think I might add “running a 10K” onto the list.