I didn’t really mean to sign up for a 5k so soon, it just kind of happened. I didn’t think I was ready. Apparently I was wrong.
I walked out of my office one day last week and saw this sign directly outside the door. Navy Yard 5k… hmm interesting. Of course I had to snap a pic because hello, Instagram, and hello, it was National Running Day, and also I had to send the picture to Ralph with the message, “Am I crazy for wanting to do this?” I didn’t even realize it was a free race until I was back at my desk on the race website trying to sign up. Free race? I could definitely not turn this down. I was not so thrilled it was going to be in the middle of the day, in June, and I was not exactly in stellar shape but what the hell. If this was a shitty race at least I’d have a benchmark for my fitness and I could start working on a plan for improvement.
I refused to check the weather all week. The idea of knowing it could possibly be insanely hot and humid would just make me more nervous than I already was so I was just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best. Not smart I know. I had to re-arrange last week’s schedule to accommodate my usual routine of hard workout, two days complete rest, and then race day but even still I wasn’t thrilled with Sunday’s run. It was hard mentally, I felt like I was putting forth a lot of effort and not netting a huge result (aka my pace felt terribly slow for how hard I felt like I was running) and when I woke up Monday morning my feet and calves were super sore from all the hills I ran Sunday. Maybe this 5k was a stupid idea. Maybe the weather will be terrible and I can just bail. What time should I even expect? Is it realistic to be under 25 minutes? to be under 24 minutes? Sure I’d love to PR but I don’t think that is even remotely possible given how I felt Sunday. I finally settled on 24:30 being a time that would make me happy. Anything better than that would be nothing short of a miracle.
Miracle is the only way I can describe the weather when I woke up Wednesday morning. Overcast. Drizzly. Please oh please oh please oh please stay like this until at least 12:30 in the afternoon please oh please oh please. My silent prayers worked and the day stayed grey and breezy, perfect running weather. The morning was basically a blur as I counted down the minutes until I could go get my number a few blocks away. When should I go over, should I be changed and ready to go, or should I come back and change, should I take my pre-workout energizer, what if my time sucks… I am surprised I even managed to get anything done all morning.
Bib acquired, shoes changed, Garmin on write and phone in hand I headed out for my warm up. At this point I was a nervous wreck, envisioning how miserable that last mile always feels coupled with the lingering soreness in my legs from Sunday’s run and the fact that I REALLY had to pee were just not doing anything to help my confidence. And then as I got closer to the start line I just had this movement where I just said, “Whatever. This race isn’t against anyone else but myself. Just run the best I can and that’s all I can ask for. This race isn’t for anyone it’s for me.” I don’t know if that did the trick, or I was just out of time because before I knew it we were off and I was running.
I started near the front, probably too near the front because the entire first mile was spent being passed by what felt like everyone. I kept looking at my watch and the sub-7 pace it was showing me and figured it was just messed up because that was not only not realistic it was flat out impossible. I watched it climb a bit into the low 7 range and then a group of guys passed me and one of them said something to the effect of, “7:20 pace, nice” and I had a mini panic moment/celebration. Happy that I was running faster than I thought but panicking because how long could I really hold onto this pace for? My mouth was dry, the air was thick with humidity, why do I sign up for these? Why do I even run? Why do I torture myself like this?
Right after we passed the 1 mile mark two women I recognized from my office came up beside me. I thought they were going to fly by me (I’ve seen them running around campus they are SPEEDY ladies) but they stayed close and I pushed myself to stay by them. I swear that was all that kept me pushing through the second mile. I couldn’t even tell you what song I was listening to, or what was going through my head at that point. I just remember thinking I can’t let them get too far ahead of me. We passed the 2 mile mark, where I usually start to question my sanity for doing insane things like this, but I also noticed I was hanging on to a 7:45 pace and realizing I really could pull out an awesome time for this thing.
Mile 3 was as excruciatingly hard as I remembered it to be, everything I was dreading about this race but I was still holding a good pace! I was more than half done I could maybe possibly even freaking PR this thing! Could I do it? My feet moved, I couldn’t stop looking at my watch and seeing the tenths of miles click off. 2.60, 2.65, 2.70 oh my god are we done yet? 2.75, 2.95, is that the finish line? Is it close? Why is it taking so long to get there? Why aren’t my feet moving faster? And then I saw it, the finish line and the finish clock and it was glowing bright red at me, “23:30” and this fire lit inside of me and I ran faster than I ever thought I could at that point. I dug deep into something I didn’t know I had and ran as I watched those seconds go up, and they were the longest seconds in my whole life.
I missed getting a PR by 2 seconds. I have never been so happy to be so close and yet miss a PR in my whole life. This race was not about getting a specific time, it was about proving to myself that I am stronger than I think I am. All I kept saying in that last mile was, “you better not quit girl, you better push harder than you’ve ever pushed I don’t care what it takes you better just do it”. Ralph said to me on Tuesday night at dinner, “You’re going to surprise yourself tomorrow, I know you are.”
I thought “surprising myself” meant I might hit 24:30 even though I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be much better than 25:00.
The race itself was great. The “T” shaped course was perfectly flat (the speed bump was the most include on the whole course) with two 180 turns being the hardest part. Tons of post race snacks and water, I was really impressed with a race that was basically free to run. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, and as much as I hate to use a word like fate, it just felt like this was meant to happen.
It still hasn’t completely sunken in that I just ran as fast as I was over 6 months ago. All the running I’ve been doing lately has been t0 get “back” to a certain point and although I have dreamed about getting faster I haven’t allowed myself to think about it as reality. Post-it notes with scribbles of goal times and training paces decorate my desk but I look at them daily as if they are just dreams. Now I am starting to wonder if they are realities.
And I am both ridiculously excited and completely terrified about that thought.
Chip Time 23:48:25
5th female 20-29 (even though they didn’t do age group awards I am the crazy person that went through the race results and counted…)