It's been over 36 hours, and I still have not come down from the high of successfully completing my first race!
As a first-time runner, I was skeptical of registering for the St. Patrick's Day 5K in the first place, especially since I've only been training for about 5 weeks. But after I ran 4 miles at Monument Valley Park two days prior, I knew that this run would be achievable.
After running a one-mile warm-up with my training team at our designated trail at 7:30 a.m. on race day morning, I arrived at Acacia Park early to pick up my race packet. I was overcome with emotions as I opened up the manila envelope and pulled out my race number: 151. My hands shook as I pinned it to my t-shirt, but when I retrieved my kelly green official race tee, I knew I had to take the number off, put my new shirt on, and re-pin the number below the lucky leprechaun.
As the starting time approached, more and more runners flooded the Uncle Wilbur Fountain area in a sea of green: striped stockings, tutus, mohawks, curly and braided wigs, bustiers, shoes, hats ... you name it. The spirit of St. Patrick was contagious, and I enjoyed the costumes. However, it was nothing compared to the energy I felt as we all crammed in behind the starting line.
I had reluctantly participated in a few fun runs over 25 years ago as a teen to support my avid-runner mom (who actually won an award for her age group once), but this was different. I had taken the initiative to train, was doing my running "homework," I registered myself, paid my own money, and had earned the number on my tummy as well as the microchip on my shoe!
Excitement surged within my chest as the countdown reached 3, 2, 1, GO! and the runners took off: serious competitors in the front, casual joggers and walkers to the back, same as when I ran with my mom. I waited several minutes (and snapped lots of pictures) before joining the crowd, being sure to walk between the cones so that my microchip would register my start time. I carefully gauged my pace, unlike many of the other runners, as we headed south on Tejon Street. As the race continued, many pooped out and resorted to walking while I slowly chugged along. "Slow and steady, slow and steady," I repeated my Tortoise Mantra. As we looped around and headed north on Cascade, then crossed over on Bijou, I spotted my coach, who happily snapped my picture. One mile down, 2.1 more to go.
I was in runner's mode as I took in the sights and sounds, wishing my runner friend Lisa Darden, who was recovering from shin splints, was with me. Young children lined up along the streets to give us high fives. Adults cheered us on from the sidelines, bagpipers entertained us as we made our way through the course. Volunteers along the entire route cheered us on to the end. Though strangers, I appreciated everyone's encouragement and thanked them. As I made my way south on Tejon and passed more runners (I'm not gonna' lie, it felt good!), I was overcome with a sense of pride reserved for rare occasions: my kids' graduations, my wedding day, my first art show. Yeah, it really was that big for me.
As the finish line came into view, I sprinted to the end, careful not to reenact my Rocky Balboa impersonation from my Thursday 4-mile run. My coach was there, but didn't hear me calling her name so she could take my picture. I really wanted finish line documentation, so I circled around and "posed" the second time! I was far from first place, or even 500th place for that matter, but in my book, it was a first place finish! It was hard to fight back the tears--I was so proud, but I didn't want people to think I was crazy so I quickly wiped them away. If I was this overcome for a 5K, what kind of blubbering will I do after I finish the Garden 10-Mile? I can't wait to find out!
Running into Tim Bergsten, he congratulated me on my successful finish. "How do you feel?" "Terrific!" I replied. And I really did. I wasn't in any pain, I wasn't gasping for breath, and overall, I felt really good. I also met Brian McCarrie and shared, "I'm beginning to see more and more where your comment on my Pros and Cons blog came from--running outside really IS an outdoor experience! It's like sightseeing for me."
My husband Greg joined us. He's my personal cheerleader and I'm so thankful to have his encouragement and support. As we were leaving the race, we came across a hat vendor, and I picked one out as my "trophy" for a job well done. I giggled all the way to the car as the tubes bobbed in the breeze. At work, I asked my boss if I could wear my hat, and he agreed. Every time a customer asked about it, I was able to "brag" that I ran my first race that morning, and relive the excitement all over again.
All I could think about today was getting back on the trail. Sundays are my recovery day, so I forced myself to stick to my schedule and rest so as not to incur injury, but I can't wait to get out there tomorrow.
Wait a minute, did I really say that out loud? Hard to believe this reluctant runner is chomping at the bit to get her running shoes back on!
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