This past Sunday I hopped into a local 5K race, just to gauge my fitness level and to basically give myself a swift kick in the rear. I haven’t done any speedwork since a few weeks prior to the Boston Marathon…um…weeeeeeks ago, so I thought what better motivation than to run a 5K, to get myself back into a weekly speed workout regime.
The race start and finish line were in the parking lot of Magnificat High School, a beautiful Catholic school nestled in one of my favorite CLE ‘burbs, Rocky River. We had access to actual restrooms – oh the joys of being able to use toilet seat covers and wash your hands with soap and water! But that’s about as fancy as the race got. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The race ‘packet’ was a cotton t-shirt, a race bib and 4 safety pins. No timing chip, no coupons, no bag full of crap, in fact there was no bag a all. It was bare-bones and old-school. And I absolutely loved it.
After utilizing the facilities, and doing a little dance because I didn’t have to contribute to taking up land-fill space with another bag of race day crap, I did a 20 minute warm-up, stretched, foam rolled, and stretched some more, and before I knew it, it was time to toe the starting line.
The race crowd wasn’t very deep, so I was able to be on the front line shoulder-to-shoulder with the race winners. Over the years, I have come quite adept at being able to pin-point who the top 3 contenders are for the women, before the race even begins. I knew, just by her build, that the eventual winner of today’s race was going to hand my behind to me. And I was excited about it, I wanted to get in a good workout and have someone out there to push me.
After collecting my thoughts, it was time to get on our marks. There were no timing chips, no start gun, just a sweet little Nun who gave all the participants a pre-race blessing, followed by a countdown, and the ring of a bell to start the race. Once the bell rang, we were off, and the first mile was smokin’, I glanced at my watch and it red 6:15! I couldn’t help but go out so quickly, but I knew I would crash and burn miserably in the second mile. Yep, 6:50ish was my second mile. Blech. The second mile is always the toughest for me, and today it was especially hard, as the front pack, though still in sight, was too far gone for me to catch up, and then there was a pack behind me. I was stuck in the middle, basically being the rabbit for the group behind me. Which in retrospect, I was happy to act as someone else’s rabbit for a change, it the world of running, it’s a nice way to ‘give back’ to fellow runners, and there comes a time when we all have to pay our dues, and just be happy with a chance to race, even though it wasn’t our best performance.
After the rough second mile, I tried to hold onto my pace, and just grunt through the final mile. Eventually I picked off a couple stragglers that separated from the first group, and managed to finish 9th place overall, 2nd place female, in a solid 20:58. Not a PR but I wouldn’t kick this time out of bed for eating crackers.
After walking through the finishing shoot and congratulating those around me, I was offered bottled water, plain mini-bagels and freeze pops in all their sugary glory. Be still my beating heart, popsicles are my favorite warm-weather post-race snack!
I chugged some water, grabbed a freeze pop, said my thank you’s to all the volunteers and then jogged back out onto the course to cheer for the rest of the race participants. I love sticking around and cheering, no matter how little or how much pain I am in after a race day effort, I find it incredibly important to scream my head off for those still pushing themselves in their race. I guarantee nothing works more quickly or effectively at taking away a side-stitch, a bout of nausea, or whatever ailment you are suffering from, than cheering for those still out there chasing their own finishing time dreams.
Oh, and about that woman I predicted to be the winner at the start? She definitely handed my behind to me on a silver platter, finishing in a cool 18:35. In my dreams.
All and all, it was a great day at the races, a perfect start to the summer racing season. It made me really excited to get back into racing 5 K’s this summer, and I hope that more races stick to the minimalist style of Sunday’s race. Sometimes I feel like races take it too far, from the technical race shirt, to the bazillion awards that are handed out, not to mention all the race packet crap, and the smorgasbord of food offered at the finish line, and the various speaker systems blaring the latest club hits along the course.
It was so nice just to go out and run hard with some kindred spirits, and the race to be just about running, in the simplest form.