May 20, 2007
So this morning I did that 5K I’ve been mentioning in almost every entry this month. For this race, I had a different plan than any other I’ve done. Instead of running for a long as I could from the start before taking my first walk break, I was going to do more regular intervals–5 minutes running, then 1 minute walking to 4 minutes running for the rest of the time–so as not to aggravate my right leg too much. I was going to approach the race like just another workout. No setting my nano to track kilometers; no getting caught up in the excitement of running in a big group and starting out too fast; no expecting a personal best. With four other races behind me and a clear plan for how I was going to do this one, I felt ready.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself fighting back tears for the first few minutes of the race. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Physically, I felt fine, but emotionally I was verging on overwhelmed. This was a women-only 5K, which I thought would just mean even longer lines for the bathrooms. It turned out to be the most supportive and moving atmosphere I’ve ever run in. There were teams of girls from a learn to run program there with their coaches, their enthusiasm so great it was almost a visible thing in the air around them. I talked to a woman (in line for the bathroom, so I had that part right) who was there running with her 9-year-old daughter, a first race for both of them–the pride that came through in her voice was just amazing. There seemed to be a lot of first timers there (one woman was walking it in jeans and tennis shoes); I explained what the timing chip was to one of them when she asked, and as we talked I got to see myself through her eyes–to her, I was a runner, an athlete, and that felt really cool. The first two or three hundred yards of the course were lined with people holding up signs of support, either for their family members or just of the “you go, girls” variety. It sounds hokey, I know, but I was just so touched by all these women and girls and moms and sisters coming together and cheering each other on and doing this thing together. Combine all that with some soaring inspirational music on my iPod and I was hard put not to weep my way through my first running interval.
It was difficult to make myself stop and walk at the five-minute mark. I was feeling good, soaking up the positive energy all around me, but stop and walk I did. I stuck to my planned intervals for the first half of the race but then gave in to the ache in my leg and started walking more and running less and ended up finishing with a personal worst time. I thought I was prepared for that–I’m sort of rehabbing, after all–but I felt disappointed. I could have pushed harder. Yes, I was hot, and yes, my leg hurt, but I could have run more than I did and gone at least a little bit faster. It helps not one bit that I missed the timing mat at the start (there were a lot of people crowding through the chute, so I went off to the side a bit and only thought about the mat after I’d passed it) so my official time is a gun time rather than a pure chip time, so there’s an extra thirty seconds. (My Nike+ time was 38:24, which is probably fairly close to true since I managed to click to start and end the workout pretty close to the lines at both ends of the race.)
I’m not sure where I go from here. I’ll keep running, I know that. But do I sign up for the race I was planning to in June? I might find myself disappointed again, but maybe I need to risk it. Do I go see that physical therapist I’ve been thinking about? What if she tells me I shouldn’t be running at all? I’m not sure. I don’t have to figure it out today, so I’m going to think about other stuff for a while.