Monday, May 10, 2010

5K Post Race Report

Good news: I finished! Bad news: There is no bad news! I finished!

I picked up my Atlanta girlfriends at the Grand Rapids airport Friday afternoon. We checked into our hotel, met up with Sean and the kids, then headed downtown to get our race packets. When we got close to race central there was a wall of traffic. “How big is this thing?” I wondered. Hey – guess what? Picking big. Huge. Ginormas. Over 20,000 runners were signed up and 5,000 of them were running the 5K.  Wow.

Upon realizing the enormity of the event my stomach turned. I was nervous and seriously considered injuring myself so I could avoid the thing altogether. I realized I couldn’t because I had to tell y’all about it and I felt certain no one would believe that on the night before the race I accidentally hurt myself. Darn this blog…

I couldn’t sleep Friday night. I saw 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 o’clock. The wake-up call came at 6 and by 6:30 we were out the door. Only one of my friends, Kathy, was running with me. My other two girlfriends, Hope and Carolyn couldn’t run for various reasons, so they, along with Sean and Rebecca made up our cheering section.

Kathy helped me get my number on but I opted against wearing the little chip that tells your time; I figured if I didn’t do well I didn’t want the world to know. And my goal was simply to finish – finishing in any time under my own power and not on a stretcher would be a major accomplishment.

I had no idea how the line-up worked. For the uninitiated (which was me Saturday morning): there are signs with mile times on them and you’re supposed to line up behind the mile time you run. The slowest time was a 12 minute mile; we lined up in the back of that section. Way. Back. I was hoping for a 14 minute pace which would bring us in under 45 minutes. I realize that doesn’t sound very ambitious but remember, when I started this endeavor it took me an hour to do the whole thing.

Before the race there was a prayer over the loudspeaker, someone sang the National Anthem, then a buzzer sounded and we were off – well, not really. After all that adrenaline and momentum had built up we just stood there. Seems it takes a while for 5000 people to get their jog on.

Ever so slowly we inched toward the start line. When we finally got there the crowd broke up and we were jogging. After two minutes I realized I should have gone with the self-injury tactic because I was in no shape to run a 5K outside. It was cold and drizzly and there was no little treadmill belt pushing me forward. Then I remembered what Stefan, the woman who encouraged me to do the race, told me: running is 95% mental, 5% physical. So I made myself keep going. At the one mile mark I was exhausted, not from the running as much as the mental gymnastics I was performing to make one foot go in front of the other.

Amy and Michael were rock stars – they didn’t complain one bit. As a matter of fact they and Kathy laughed for a good portion of the race. I, on the other hand, did not. The only thing I was thinking was, “Just keep moving.” I couldn’t use any mental power to join in their conversations which at one point centered on coming up with favorite movie quotes; Amy rattled off the entire, "Mawage" monologue from The Princess Bride.  As she was running.  I remember thinking, "Just move and breath."  My only concerns were breathing and not falling over. I couldn’t expend any energy thinking about anything that didn’t involve taking in oxygen and staying vertical.

As we neared the end I wondered if we’d see Sean, Rebecca, Hope and Carolyn. Sure enough, when we rounded our last corner there they were, snapping pictures and waving like we were front-runners. When I saw them I assumed we were at the end. Then I realized they were standing at the 3 mile mark; we had a tenth of a mile left to go.

Sheer determination and encouragement from Amy, Kathy and Michael spurred me on because I was fairly certain I could not make it. That was the longest .1/mile I have ever run.

We crossed the finish line and the clock read 48:18. I was disappointed because I really was hoping to be under 45. And then Michael told me he’d kept his chip on so we were able to look up our actual race time which was, ta-da, 44:10. Under 45 minutes. Yay! And we were not last! Double yay for that!

So my foray into road races has come to a close. Thanks for all the encouragement, kind words and prayers. You have no idea how much they helped me.

And now, dear friends, celebrate with me as I check, “Run a 5K” off my Bucket List.