5 things I learned running my first race


Two weeks ago, I ran my first 5K race. Before the race, I was fully prepared to write a post called "I just finished my first race, but here's why I'll never be a runner." Even though I could run 3.1 miles on the treadmill and around the track at the gym, as of race day I hadn't run three consecutive miles outside.

As a result, I was majorly panicking. The night before the race as I picked up my race packet, I said to Hubby, "I can always change my mind and do the the 5k walk instead."

"No, you won't," he insisted. "How do you even know you can't do it if you don't try? If you don't try, you're sure to fail."

That night, I made plans for my friend to pick me up, decided what I would wear, chose my old shoes over my brand-new ones, and loaded my iPod with 40 minutes of funky, happy music. I tried not to think about the crowd (crowds give me anxiety), my shins (shin splints), or the fact that on previous practice runs, I gave up when the going got hard (ie: hills).

Once at the race location the next morning, I was nervous. Surprisingly, it was nervous excitement! My friend, who was running the 10K, started ahead of me; and I was kind of glad that I had just myself to concentrate on. Even standing in the crowd with all the runners jockeying for a spot close to the front didn't bother me.

And then the gun went off. Over a bridge and around a corner. I noticed people already walking, which surprised me. Around another corner and . . . a hill. I thought surely this would be where I would give up.

On my my iPod came one of my favorite Prince songs. No, not THAT Prince, The Fresh Prince. Boom, Shake the Room. Hey, it got me up that hill. I thought about stopping a dozen times, but my legs kept going. Even as I grabbed water, I kept running. It had to be around two and a half miles that I stopped and stretched my calves, but continued on because I saw that same bridge I started on.

Crossing that finish line felt amazing. And my time shocked me: 30:53. I was clocking almost a 13 minute mile before the race.

On Sunday, my friend ran a half marathon. As I looked at her pictures and the pictures and Facebook posts of others who ran the race, I felt jealous. But not the kind of jealousy I'd previously felt when I saw runners. Before I would think, I could never do that. Now I think, maybe I can do that. 

I'm even looking forward to my next race. :)

I'm so glad my friend asked me to run it. Without her - even though it was something I've always wanted to do - I don't think I would have done it. And I definitely learned a few things along the way.

1. If you don't try, you have already failed. I spent so much time avoiding races afraid that I would fail. The failure was in not even trying in the first place. If you try something you've always wanted to try, count it a success.

2. You just have to tell yourself that you can do the hard things. When I was training, I would walk at every hill. I thought surely the hills would be my undoing. But I told myself I could do it, and I did. I've done harder things. My Hubby is right: it's all just a mind game.

3. It's okay to walk. Walking is not failing. Walking is not weakness. Everyone walks in life. Everyone has to realize what their limits are and care for themselves. You're still in the race, after all.

4. The crowd will carry you along. Truly, I didn't care that people were passing me. I was passing other people, too. The energy was keeping me going. I needed it, and my time showed it. There was another time I needed the crowd because I didn't believe in myself, and they kept me going then, too.

5. It's addictive.  I scoffed at people who told me this. I will never be a runner, I said. Once I do this I'm done with races, I told myself. Now? I'm looking for another 5K and thinking of friends I can ask to run with me. I'm even considering a 10K. (Don't talk to me yet about marathons. I still can't wrap my mind around running for 2+ hours.)

So here it is, the words I never thought I would say, the post I never thought I would write. Who knows, maybe I'll tick off some more of the goals on my bucket list - now that I know I can.

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