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Birthday 5K

So that last post was kind of a downer, eh?  I’m sure no one has read it in the hour it’s been on the site.  I could delete and let you kids think I have it all together and am not at all a little off, but I’m all about authenticity and honesty.  So there you go.  You’re welcome.

In other news, I’m thirty one years old now.  Thirty one.  Hey Cindy, remember Mean Old Missus Krieger in the third grade?  She was THIRTY!  🙂

I decided to celebrate this year by running a 5K.  And by running, I mean mostly walking.  After the horrible week of Back Pain and eating everything bad in massive quantities, I was six pounds heavier, dehydrated, and slow.  I felt grossly unprepared yet oddly determined to finish the thing.  If I died, well, I’d feel better.  So to the starting line I went.

I was planning on doing this 5K in secret.  I remember finding the entry form posted on the bulletin board at the gym, noticing that the date was the morning of my birthday, and solemnly (quietly) deciding that I would enter and finish as a present to myself.  A great way to start the year.  Maybe I’ll make it a tradition.  Then, in a moment of masochistic insanity, I asked my coworker to join me.  She weighs roughly ninety pounds and runs at least five miles a day.  Oh yeah, that was a smart move.  She’s a lovely lady and politely scoffed even after I repeatedly reminded her that I was a fat girl and I didn’t expect her to stay with me during the run.  You’ll be miles ahead of me!  Just make sure I cross the finish line!  If you don’t see me again after the start, tell my mother I love her!

Then she asked someone else to come along.  And they asked someone else.  Until there were five of us. 

So much for keeping this a private promise of good health in the years to come.  Oh well, I thought.  My body isn’t a secret to anyone.  It’s pretty much hard to miss and at least I’m out here doing something good for it.  Although, in hindsight, I have to wonder how good it was to pound down the trail unprepared in every conceivable way.

The race was part of a local charity event and was not timed.  I could have used that to my advantage and set out on a “fun run”, but really…I’m just not built like that.  My world is made up of constant competitions against myself.  Always wanting to be better, faster, stronger, smarter than before.  It’s exhausting, really.

Anyway, I had my Garmin on my wrist and flicked the Start button as my left foot crossed the line.  I was running with these two women who were older and in much better shape than myself.  I kept their pace for the first half mile and then started to walk.  Don’t be too impressed.  The first half mile was downhill.  It didn’t occur to me then that this meant the LAST half mile would be UPhill since it was an out and back course. 

I felt defeated for only a few seconds after I started walking and watched my friends trot off down the trail.  Wait a minute, I thought.  Don’t get too beat up on yourself.  You’ve abused the hell out of your body the last two weeks and shoved all sorts of crap down your gullet.  It’s amazing you even showed up.  This side of three months ago would have found you bowing out and making up excuses.  But you’re here and you’re taking responsibility for days’ worth of poor choices.  This is the day you’re turning it around.  Be proud that you’re out here and you’re DOING IT.

I got my wind back and started trotting at a more reasonable pace.  I glanced down at my Garmin and realized I was still going faster than I can go on a treadmill.  I didn’t think too much about it because I didn’t want to get caught in my head and over-analyze.  That’s another post.  Treadmill running versus outdoors.  I just took the compliment from my wrist watch and kept going.

I’m really not sure what the times were, but I kept alternating walking and running.  Running until I couldn’t anymore, walking until I could run again.  Repeat. 

At the halfway mark I felt as if I’d already run three miles.  I was pretty tired and was really starting to wonder if I’d beat the time I put up in July.  The time back then was officially 39:55 and I walked the entire thing with my mom.  The walking wasn’t strenuous in the least and I was out there for the experience and for my mom.  It was our first 5K and it was pretty great.  I thought for sure that I’d kill that time when I was unleashed on a 5K course by myself.

Ha.  Ha ha ha ha.

At the turn around my watch chirped happily that I’d been running for twenty minutes.  I was working HARDER and I was going SLOWER than the first time.  Again, I let myself have about ten seconds of deprecating talk before my more forgiving side stepped in.  This course has more hills and you worked twelve hours before you reached the starting line this morning.  You’re RUNNING!  You couldn’t have done that before.  And, again, the important thing is that you’re doing it.  You chose to show up.  You’ve already done more than you could have done last year at this time.  No matter what, this morning, this 5K, will go down as a victory.  Also?  The t-shirts are cool and you have to cross the finish line to earn it.  (My own rule.)

I kept running and walking with no rhyme or reason.  I would persevere. 

A lot of the walkers making their way to the halfway point were cheering me on as I ran past them on my way to the finish line.  An out and back course mixed with runners and walkers meant you were never alone on the trail.  That was nice.  I saw a woman I used to work with walking quickly and we waved as we passed.  I couldn’t help noticing that she had gained weight.  She was one of the most body conscious women I’ve ever met.  Always on a diet or asking about the calorie content of brownies brought in by someone else, I imagined that the extra weight on her frame was a source of shame for her.  I was immediately so proud of her for showing up on the trail.  It’s easy to hide when you are ashamed of yourself.  I used to.  But not anymore.  Not today.

There were no mile markers and no water stations.  Ouch.  I had my Garmin for the mileage but I was really wishing I would have brought a water bottle.  I hadn’t had water in so many days, choosing instead to drink gallons of soda, and my body was REALLY showing me the error of my ways.  My mouth gets dry now just thinking about it.

I glanced up and saw my two friends ahead of me.  They were far enough away that I could barely make them out, but there they were!  They weren’t done yet!  I had had thoughts of them milling around the finish line, waiting for me and wondering if I was okay. 

A mother and daughter were just ahead of me.  The mom was obviously a seasoned runner and the little girl must have been about ten years old and a bit on the chubby side.  I wonder if my life would have been different if I’d been exposed to this level of physical fitness as a child.  I ran in gym class and only when forced.  It was sweet to see them out there.  The mother was cheering on her little girl and gently urging her to keep going, keep going, you’re almost there, you can do this!  I took some of her encouragement and let it push me to keep up with them.

The last half mile.  A hill, remember?  That’s just mean, don’t you think?  I channeled Rocky (I’m telling you, The Rocky Method has helped me push through many workouts.) and imagined myself in some sort of Biggest Loser last chance workout video montage.  No way was I quitting.

38:51.  The last runner to cross the finish line.  I was last.  But I was pretty proud of myself for showing up.

I have another 5K this Saturday.  With another very little lady from work.  I won’t be 100%, but I will most certainly be more prepared than last week.  This run will feel better than my last.  And I know that, ultimately, I only have to cross the finish line to be a winner.


4 Responses

  1. Quite simply, you rock.

    Congrats on the birthday, congrats on sticking to your goal and showing up at the 5k, congrats on making it through the 5k, and congrats on beating your time.

    We’ll have to have a chat about the whole treadmill vs. outside running. It’s completely different!

    At any rate, congrats. 31 is going to be your best year yet – you’re going to make sure of it.

    I’m proud!

  2. Really, that is so inspiring. Congratulations on finishing that race!

  3. Holy Crap! I missed your Birthday! If we were friends on Facebook, that never would have happened.

    I hope you had a fantastic time celebrating your life. you certainly did act alive with the 5k! Isn’t life grand? I’m not kidding either.

    Happy Birthday, Awesome!


  4. P.S.

    I’m glad we got 2 posts in one day! What a treat!

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