Saturday, October 1, 2011

My very first race

First of all, thank you all for being so understanding about my pre-race hysteria and for your kind thoughts, it meant a lot to me! :) Some of you might have wondered if I didn't dare write about my race seeing as it took me so long to write a new blog post about it. It wasn't that, instead I've been incredibly stressed out (as I've been most of the month) and haven't had much time or energy for blogging or reading other blogs. :'( Sorry about that! Anyways, on to the tale of my very first race.

The whole experience started out really stressful and chaotic because, as is very typical of me, I got there later than planned. While I went through registration, my boyfriend (who was kind enough to come cheer for me, comfort me and take pictures of me) was parking the car. Luckily there wasn't really a line for the registration - my biggest worry. What I hadn't planned for though, was that it was kind of hard to find the start area. There was little information, and at one point one of the race volunteers (or are they paid? dunno!) actually gave me wrong directions!

While I was able to find the start area fairly quickly (although it seemed like an eternity because I was so incredibly stressed out about being late), my boyfriend had more trouble. On the invite, it specifically said you had to be at the starting line no less than 20 minutes before start so the volunteers/officials would know you were present. As the time went by, and no boyfriend arrived, I was getting more and more anxious. I had a bag of extra clothes and other stuff with me, and if he didn't make it I'd have to run with it on, most likely making my already slow pace even slower. About 22 minutes before the race started, he finally found me, and I practically ran to the starting line.

Once there, I looked frantically around trying to find those officials who needed to know I had arrived, but I found no-one. I started asking around, and eventually learned that no-one checked if you were at the start line. So, basically I had just stressed over nothing! I really wish the official information could have mentioned this, instead of actually giving out wrong information!

Oh well, at least I made it in time for the race! Because I was so late and stressed, and because I'd read somewhere that in some races you're not allowed to drink anything other than what you get at the water stations, I hadn't brought my water bottle. And I was parched before even starting! As I noticed several other participants with water bottles, I seriously considered asking strangers if I could get some water from them. I didn't, though, that just felt too weird.

As I looked around the crowd of runners, I was starting to feel a little bit more relaxed. There were people of all ages, and, seemingly, all conditions. And there were loads of people, so I figured no-one would pay too much attention to me if I made a complete fool of myself. All the adults were starting together in one group, so I maneuvered towards the back, after all I knew I would run slower than most of the others.

(A part of) the crowd of runners at the start

And then we were off! I had promised myself that I'd start slow, almost every advice I've read about racing says to start slower than you want to. And I really did try. However, when there are loads of others running at a faster pace, it takes a stronger person than I am to run slow. I didn't want to be the last one from the very beginning! Then, a man with a BABY STROLLER ran past me, and at that point I nearly panicked! I later found out that he did really good in the race and was one of faster ones, but then and there it felt as though even an old lady with a walking stick would be able to pass me.

The 'evil' baby stroller man who ran past me

However, I was starting to see stars, and when I checked the running watch my gadget loving boyfriend had lent me, I learned that I was running way too fast for me. I took to my senses and slowed down to a more comfortable pace. It felt like everyone else ran past me, and I actually looked back a few times to check that I wasn't the last one. (I never really did get over that fear, though I tried).

Running on asphalt wasn't as hard as I'd imagined. But what I noticed, was that when you're used to run on a treadmill and never actually moving, it is harder to judge your own speed when you're all of a sudden actually moving and going somewhere. It felt like I was running so SLOW, so I checked my running watch, and was astounded to see that I was running at about 8 km/hour. I've been keeping a pace of about 6-6.5 km/h on the treadmill, so I tried to slow down a bit. But it seemed to me that I was moving so slowly that it would be almost impossible to slow down further.

My new best friend, I wouldn't have made it without the running watch I borrowed!

This was the first time I'd tried the running watch (I'm good at not trying things like running outside or using a running watch before the actual race!), so I decided that it was probably malfunctioning. It wasn't until I saw the 1 km mark and checked how long I'd been running that I realized that it was, in fact, showing the right speed. Again, I thought I should slow down, but it felt like I was already running as slow as I could, so I kept it up.

To make a long story short, I kept the pace up at about 8 km/h. I passed a few people who had started out too fast and was now walking. (And, no, I DIDN'T laugh at them or think them stupid for signing up for the race. I was too busy running and minding my own business, but if anything, I admired them! And also I was a little relieved because that meant I wouldn't finish last. I'll have to try to remember this the next time I freak out about others laughing at me for running a race slowly.) I even passed some people who were still running. And I made it to the finish line, running even faster towards the end, giving it my all.

Oh, finish line, I thought I'd never see you!

At times like these, it is no fun being undercover. I'd really love to brag all about my new personal record, but the results are open to the public and I wouldn't be so undercover once I shared that. :( But even though I can't share my exact time, I can say that I finished in less than 22 minutes! :) That is more than 5 minutes less than last time I ran on the treadmill! :)

I don't know why I was able to run so much faster this time. Maybe adrenalin from the nerves? Maybe because I could see clearly how slowly I was actually moving? Maybe running with other people made it easier? Maybe my treadmill speed is way off (even though I thought I checked that)? I really have no idea, but I am very happy with my result!

We got a medal as soon as we crossed the finish line

I succeeded at every one of my goals for this race. My goal speed was an average of at least 6 km/h, and I was above 8 km/h on average. I did run the entire time, no walking. I even met my secret (but not forgotten) goal of not finishing last. My speed would probably be considered slow by most runners, but for me this was a real accomplishment. I'm so excited to have come so far in just three months!

I'm also proud of the fact that I didn't let my nerves stop me. Especially when I was running late on top of being nervous, it was tempting to just go home and not show up at all. But I knew I would let myself down, and I didn't want to do that. As Jillian would say, I deserve better!

My very first medal, of course I had to show off the back side as well!

As for the run itself, it didn't feel that special to be running a race. It was kind of annoying that people would wander into the running tracks and that made me more stressed out. In fact, I remember thinking why do people bother running races?

After the finish line, though, I got it. That feeling of having completed the race, of having done my best, and being rewarded with a good time, it was priceless. I definitely experienced that runner's high! And, that good feeling stayed with me for a long time, much longer than the normal workout euphoria does. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, of having done something to be proud of.

So, while I don't think I'll be travelling the country each weekend looking for a new race, I know this won't be my last race, either. For me, doing this race has been a great goal and a wonderful motivation. I can't wait to see how much faster I'll run next year! I love seeing results!


  1. Kudos! I've never done anything like this so am very impressed.

  2. Congratulations!!! I'm so glad to hear it went well and you're already looking forward to running this race next year!! Good for you!!

  3. BRAVO!!!! I am so proud of you! You didn't let fear stop you! I have so enjoyed following you from your couch to your finish line! Way to go!!!

  4. Congratulations! I don't know how I missed this post! So exciting that you finished your (first!) race!!!!!