Ran my first bonafide 5K today. I ran twice before, but more as moral support for my daughter. This time around, I was wracked with self-doubt and nerves. I had a finish time in my head, which was based on my average pace and last finish time from two years ago when I wasn’t a runner and only wanted to finish. Ignorance is bliss.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been working up to a 3.1 mile run, which is how long a 5K is. I practiced around my neighborhood, which is full of hills, and once I even made it in 34 minutes and thought “I can do this“. This morning I woke up from a restful-ish night’s sleep and had peanut butter and sliced banana on whole wheat toast exactly 2 hours before the race. I left the house in plenty of time and couldn’t have felt any more prepared. I just hadn’t counted on the heat.
When I did all my practice runs, I ran before 7am or stuck to the gym treadmill because it’s hard enough to run in normal temperatures. This morning it was hot and humid just like it’s been for the better part of summer so far. And I kind of fell apart out there, if I’m being honest. I was painfully aware of feeling out of breath and rubbery in the legs within the first mile. I thought my nervous energy would convert to determination, but instead I started to feel panicky in the heat. People were set up every half mile or so handing out cups of water, and at first I took advantage of each one. After about the third cup, the sloshing in my stomach told me I was probably doing more harm than good. At about mile two, I realized my body was overheating and there was very little I could do about it besides slow down and walk.
I walked more than I’d ever planned. The funny thing is I still made my goal time of 36 minutes (okay 36:07). This tells me I was probably running too fast in the beginning – total amateur mistake – and also that I can walk pretty fast.
Once, when I was ten years old, I went horseback riding with my girl scout troop at a place that closed down within the year because the horses kept dying. Maybe it’s safer to say the mules kept dying, because the only time my stubborn horse hustled was at the very end when he saw the water trough ahead. This morning, the race banner floating overhead like a cool cloud from heaven was what finally got me into a fast trot. The end! Yay!
I wish I could say it felt good to finish, and it did eventually. But it never feels good when you’re pretty sure you’re going to drop dead. I headed straight for the water tent, mp3 player be damned. It was either douse myself or collapse and suffer pavement burns. Yeah, I exaggerate, but mostly I’m just a wimp.
I learned a couple of things today, the most important of which is hydrate before you run 3 miles on a hot day, you big dummy! Better yet, run in May! The other thing I learned that I will hopefully mull over for awhile is no matter how much I plan, it’s never going to be like I expected, and that makes it even better. Surprises can be good and life is full of surprises. Life is good.