On Sunday, May 2nd I competed in my first race since 4th grade Physical Education, the Second Empire 5k Classic in downtown Raleigh, NC.
It was a hot day for a race, with temperatures in the low 90s and high humidity at 2pm. There were a lot of sweaty people roaming around Hillsborough Street.
Since the race wasn’t until early afternoon, Patrick and I got up and headed to church like normal. We left after Sunday School and dropped into Starbucks for a little caffeine bolt. I had been trying to convince Patrick to run with me, but he maintained that he is simply not interested in endurance events (he, the guy who going mountain biking for a whole afternoon).
We got home around 11:30 and I got really nervous out of nowhere. I guess there are a few reasons for this. 1) I haven’t actually run 3 miles in years. 2) I don’t know any logistics for the day…parking, registration, etc, making this sever Type A person extremely unsettled. 3) It’s hot (did I mention that already) and I know its going to be a tough day.
Finally I get dressed, eat a sandwhich and pronounce myself ready to go. On the drive into downtown, Patrick teases me by saying that maybe he will run afterall. I get excited, but question his lack of suitable footwear, and he pretends to be upset that he can’t run in flip flops.
We get downtown, park easily, get my race bib and timing chip easily, and walk around easily. I get geared up and am ready to go. All that worry for nothing. We do a little people watching, listen to the speakers talk about adoption (the race was raising money for an adoption related non-profit) and soon it was time to line up.
Everyone lines up facing the Capital and we wait. Gun time isn’t for 10 mintues. Since I don’t have a running buddy I keep people watching. There is a guy near me running in Vibram Five Fingers and it was amusing to listen to people around us wonder what the heck he was doing in a foot glove. He had earphones in, so people were wondering that very loudly, it was pretty funny. Also, I kinda assumed that race shirts were like concert tees. I mean, you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing the Tom Petty 2010 concert tour shirt at the 2010 concert (I think tour etiquette is 5 years?), but maybe this isn’t the case with race shirts as lots of people were wearing them. I’m still learning the ropes of racing, but I don’t see myself ever doing this. I was feeling excellent up until the point where the announcer said that there was one minute to go. Why couldn’t we just go now? The last 60 seconds were ticking by slowly, but finally we were off!
I had positioned myself towards the back of the pack so there was a bit of shuffling around the walkers and people starting slower than I was (not sure how that is even possible?).
Now, I’m a researcher at heart, so from all of the race reports I have read I knew that I would sub-consciously want to run faster than I needed to starting out, and my legs did indeed feel ready to go. I kept telling myself to keep it fun and easy and finally I found my groove behind two girls running together. They were definitely keeping it easy and around half a mile I realized that I was doing little more than a bouncy walk and passed by them. We passed the old Capital building and headed back up Hillsborough Street to the main crowd and the first water stop.
This seems as good as a place as any to mention the intentions I set for the race. First and most important, I wanted to keep it loose, easy and fun (as mentioned earlier). Since this was my first race I knew that it was important to come away with a positive experience and be ready to go again. Second, I wanted to walk as little as possible, preferably only through water stations. That was all, not much of a game plan.
Coming up to the first water station, I tried to keep just faster than a walk, but couldn’t drink anything so I had to completely stop to take a sip, but after that was able to keep going. I had just passed Patrick taking pictures, so I wanted to look tough :).
Running up Hillsborough Street was super hot. They just put down new pavement on most of the street, so it was nice and black and reflecting the heat up. All I could think was about the marathon portion of Kona, and how this is basically what they run 26.2 miles in. Somehow, that didn’t make me feel any better. I did felt better momentarily when I saw the first place runner because I thought that must mean the turn around spot was close. Then I saw how fast we was running (he finished around 16 mintues) and realized that the turn around was probably far, far away.
So, I’m truding along and a nice race volunteer (thanks volunteers!) tells me that the next water stop is right around the corner. I figure I could use a little break to catch my breath so I can actually drink some water this time, so I start walking, turn the corner and see the water stop…waaay off in the distance. Oh well, the walking felt good, so I did it until I hit the aid station. This second stop was in the roundabout at Pullen Street, and possessed a beautiful sight…a guy holding a water hose with a spray attachment! It was heaven sent. I downed a cup of water, got in front of the water hose, raised my arms and began to spin. Keeping it fun! Finally he told me to move on, which is good or I might have stayed there all day. Feeling refreshed, I picked up running again, this time on the sidewalk where it was much cooler, if not that much shadier.
The run back in was slow and uneventful for the most part. It felt a little cruel that we could see the finish line from so far away, like a mirage in the desert. I had to stop a couple of times and walk a few paces to wipe sweat out of my eyes or take an extra deep breath, but for the most part I was moseing along nice and slow. I could feel my legs pick it up a bit when I got maybe and 1/8 of a mile from the line, I could see Patrick (who went for a beer in the middle of the race, what a guy) and I was ready to be finished! Finally I crossed the finish line in 35:56, well behind hundreds of runners including about 15 kids, 2 moms pushing strollers and a few people old enough to be my grandparents. It’s all good though, I finished and I was proud!
The volunteer had a hard time removing my timing chip, and standing there while she struggled with it was the only time the whole day that I felt like throwing up. I needed to keep moving and get something to drink. Once out of the finishing pen they gave us water bottles and cold wet washcloths which were absolutely divine. A friend I saw on the course came over to chat about the heat after she finished with her boyfriend, then I went to grab some food. They had a good spread of bagels, bananas, grapes, apples and Gatorade. I filled up with a banana, apple and bottle of Gatorade and we found a shady spot to watch the kids 100 yard dash.
Those kids were so stinkin’ cute! A lot of moms and dads ran with them which was even more adorable. I’m glad that we stayed to watch.
Oh and the best part? On the way home Patrick says, “I wish I would have run it now, just to see what I can do.”
The seed has been planted my friends.