My first race of 2017, appropriately, was a 5k. I have been searching my memories and I really think this is the first 5k I’ve run since I was in high school. Since then I have run lots of other races: A 4-miler, 8k, 10k, Spartan’s Sprint, Super and, Beast races (The Beast is usually around 11-13 miles). But this is the first 5k. While I’m not 100% happy with the results, I think I learned a lot in this race.
It was on a cool and cloudy Saturday morning, really a great day for a race. It was in the mid-40s (~8 C) so some complained of it being a little chilly, but once I get going I prefer it to be cold over hot. It was a small event held at a local shopping center; the race is a nice tour of all their shops. I actually used to work in this shopping center so it was fun to come back and visit it. The course itself is mostly flat though there is a gradual quarter mile incline in the first mile.
Some years ago, when I was still working in this shopping center I, on a random whim, decided to run this race. Since I hadn’t pre-registered I woke up a little early and drove over to do the day-of registration. Once I got there I started feeling really anxious. I hadn’t been working out and I hadn’t run in ages. I was pretty fat and didn’t feel at all comfortable being there. There was that runner inside of me somewhere telling me to do it, but my conscious mind was freaking out. To do day-of registration you needed cash, which I didn’t have, though there was a bank with an ATM in the shopping center. I was seriously looking for any excuse to not run this race. After hanging out for around 15 minutes I shamefully trudged back to my car, got in, and drove off.
Being able to run this race had a certain amount of significance; proof to myself that I not only could do it, but that I did belong there. I was, however, a little nervous about the race still. I’ve been battling some potential injuries lately and I wasn’t sure how I was going to hold up. I’ve had a little pain in both of my Achilles tendons and both of my knees have been acting a little funny. These problems are both more pronounced on my left side. I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from running and really doing any leg exercises. I’ve been doing a lot of stretching and foam rolling to attempt to resolve these issues and I’ve actually been seeing a lot of good success. Nothing was hurting while I was at the starting line, so that was a relief, but I was worried somewhere on the course something was going to flare up.
The race itself was pretty easy, as far as the course was concerned. I was hoping that since it wasn’t a challenging course that I’d have a pretty easy time of beating my goal time of 27 minutes. Most of my training runs have had me at or better than that pace without even really trying. I was also hoping that the time off would have given my muscles enough time to heal that I could maybe even surprise myself with an even better time. Sadly, I think it had the opposite effect. Once the race started I realized right away that I was not performing very well. Despite all the stretching I felt pretty tight and clumsy. Even though it has only been a couple of weeks I could definitely tell I hadn’t been running; this didn’t feel at all like my training runs. Even so, I wanted to do my best so I tried to not let it get to me too much. At this point my real goal was finishing the race without getting hurt.
The first mile, while not fast, didn’t feel too bad. About halfway through the second mile I was really feeling it though. It took a good amount of mental strength to keep myself moving during that second mile. I hate to admit it, but the thought to stop and walk did pop into my mind once. I quickly dismissed it, kept running, and didn’t look back. Mile 3 wasn’t as bad as mile 2 even though I was definitely getting fatigued. I know that I can usually finish a race pretty strong and I should have studied the end of the race a little better. I spent the mile desperately trying to figure out when I should pick up my pace. Well, I think that lack of focus on my running ended up doing more harm than good. And even with all that extra work I still misjudged the distance and started picking it up too early and got tired and had to slow back down. Once I made the last turn and started on the straight shot to the finish line I did pick it up though and sprinted what was probably the last .1 of the 3.1 mile race.
I finished the race in 27:37.13. This result is 37.14 seconds slower than I wanted to finish. I was really bummed out with that time. So close to my goal, but still missing it. I had all sorts of negative emotions when I first crossed the finish. You know the ones: the thoughts that you could have trained better/more, that you could have run faster at the end of the race, but you played it safe, etc. I was blaming my injuries and the time off from running for my poor results. I think that’s natural; it’s always difficult to fall short of a goal. As time passed and I had more time to think about it I became a lot more comfortable with it. I’m still mad I couldn’t beat my goal, but I should be proud of myself for doing as well I did. When I first started this I could event run more than one mile straight without stopping: this weekend I ran 3.1 (and could have run more). When I first started, the fastest mile I could run was a 9:45: I just ran three consecutive miles, all under 9:10. There is no denying I’m making progress and that should be celebrated.
Overall, I would say the race was a success. I might not have met my goal, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything out of it. I think I did learn some things about myself not only as a person, but a runner. It also injected a nice dose of humility. Some of my more successful training runs had inflated my ego a bit, and it’s good to be reminded that you’re still human and you’ll have better and worse days. It’s important to not get bogged down by the details. I not only finished it, but I finished it injury free. I am pleased with my progress on resolving my injuries and I am encouraged to get back out and to start running again this week. My races really start to pick up next weekend. After this race, I’m not expecting to pull off anything impressive, but if I can continue to show improvements and I can perform better than I have in the past I will consider myself successful.