There was never a less epic race, but in my head it was a huge deal.
I’m still not sure a 5K is called a race, but friends have called it a marathon to which I would always say “It’s not a marathon!”
“So what do you call it?” they’d ask.
“I dunno. A race?”
The night before I watched Inception, and then tried to go to bed early. I couldn’t sleep—first because I was thinking and rethinking through the complicated storyline of Inception, and then because I was so dang amped up about the ‘race’ the next day. I got up before my six o’clock alarm and put on my gear. In 45 minutes, I was driving Strawberry down the deserted road to the rural village where the 5K would take place. My coffee churned in my stomach.
I got there far too early, but Grandpa was already there. If you’ve read my other posts about running, you might remember that Grandpa was the original runner in the family. He ran several full marathons, even in his sixties, and ran competitively into his seventies. He is highly active in the Manitoba Runners’ Association. So he’s pretty pleased that I’ve taken up the sport, to say the least.
He started advising me almost as soon as I stepped out of the car. “People are going to take off like a shot,” he said, “You just start out at a reasonable pace. You can pick them off later when they’re tired.”
I’d be lucky to, I thought.
Verna, who’d been my training partner by correspondence, showed up and we expressed our collective nervousness. I went through my usual stretching routine. There was still twenty minutes until the race began. I shivered from the cool morning breeze, and buckets of nervous energy.
Then, they called for us to come to the start. I shoved my headphone in my ear and began my tailored ‘Race Day’ playlist. They shouted out instructions for the course, but I couldn’t hear them. Then an air horn went off.
Oh! They’re starting? Okay. Off I go!
I set off at a lope, my heart pounding. People were passing me. I was panting in a hundred yards, bursting with adrenaline. Oh no, Oh no! went off in my head.
Easy. Settle down. Settle down. It’s okay. It’s just another run. Just another run. I settled into ‘cruising speed’ and found a rhythm.
One kilometre in, I could hear someone gasping for air behind me. I felt good—no fatigue, no burning in the lungs. Two kilometres, I passed someone who was walking. Just like Grandpa said, I picked off a couple of runners—and got picked off by a couple of runners. I was feeling really good.
Am I running too fast? Should I slow down? No, I can slow down later!
Around 3K, I passed a chick who was walking. As soon as I passed, she started running and passed me. A minute later, she was walking again. I passed her and never saw her again.
I turned the corner at the 4K sign and decided to pick up the pace just a little. Then, suddenly, I felt tired. Was there nothing left in the tank? Darn it!
But then I saw the corner before the finish, a turn into the school yard. Beyond it was the parking lot, and there was my family’s SUV. They were there to see me finish! I made the corner and sped up. There was the finish. I saw my family. I saw the clock. It was under my goal time. I broke into a dead run, ran past my family, and pumped my fist as I crossed the line.
And now it’s over.
I realize that ‘real’ runners can do so much more. There are people out there who can run 5K in half the time I did. When I realized this, I felt a bit depressed. I remind myself I’m a writer, ultimately, not a runner. That’s my call, as best I know it. But if I think that at the beginning of the summer I would have laughed at the thought of running 5K, or that six weeks ago I thought ten minutes was a long stretch to run, well… I’m floored. Honestly, I still feel like a poser.
I started a new running program today, and I have another 5K in three weeks. I’m not sure where this is taking me, but I’m excited to find out!