On Running my 1st 5k: Reflections & Lessons Learned


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Today I finished my first 5k! It’s what I’ve been training for since Christmas, and now that I am home, sitting on my couch getting ready to hang out with some friends, I feel awesome about my accomplishment. But, I must admit, I learned some things along the way that were surprising (and some just re-confirmed some things I already knew about myself but had forgotten).

Run how you train.

I got caught up in the magical excitement of the race that I got a little carried away with myself. Because this was a first annual 5k it wasn’t organized into groups based on how many minutes it takes you to run a mile. Instead it was broken down into two groups: runners & walkers. Because I am seeing myself as a runner, I ran with the runners.

That was a mistake.

The runners started off fast. I “kept up” for the first 1/8-1/4 of a mile (out of the starting gate and down the road) out of pride. It was the beginning, and there were people on the sideline cheering, and I didn’t want to look like Ms. Slow-poke right from the get-go. So I ran fast. And spent the rest of the time trying to recover from my basic sprint at the beginning.

Boof said, later, that I probably would have felt better if I had run faster than the walkers, instead of spending my time trying to ‘catch up’ to the runners. He was right.

Another aspect of running how you train, is remembering pacing. I normally train without listening to music. I’ve been focusing on my breath and my footfall, and the sound of the gravel under my foot. A few days ago  I ran to a local talk-radio podcast, and found that was a good distraction without getting me out of my groove.

Today, though, with all of the hype and music blaring through the loudspeakers I decided to listen to some upbeat music to help keep me motivated. Sadly, as a former band-nerd, I can’t really run/walk to a different beat than music. This made portions of my race faster than I would have liked, and made me more tired than normal. I didn’t get into the zen-like place that I’ve been getting to lately. I was running, but I had lost my connection to myself in the process.

Self-talk
A little less than half-way into my run was when I noticed the self-talk going crazy. It was like during transition in labor, when my mind raced and I couldn’t “get it together.” I just noticed myself spinning out of control, saying things like “I am never doing this again. This is stupid,” and “even that girl in jeans and running with a purse is faster than me, I suck.” When I pushed through the middle third of the race I was fine, but it was that part that made me feel like I was breaking and like I should just quit.

Know the course

I had heard, from family members who ran cross-country in high school, that part of the 5k course was hilly and hard. But I hadn’t really looked at my route before this morning, and so I found myself running blindly, with little ability to pace myself. They had written, in chalk, at the 1 mile and 2 mile mark, but there wasn’t anything in between that. I found myself having a difficult time knowing how much time had passed, especially since the sound of music was drowning my own sense of time, and I think if I had run the route before I would have known to save energy for certain parts and where I could expend a little more energy.

Have an incentive

Boof was at the finish line, camera in-hand. When I saw the ticker-time board running, and realized that I was 45 seconds from completing the race in my goal-time (45 minutes, because the next 5k I run it’s MANDATORY…dum dum dum), I gained this new found speed and stamina that pushed me through to the end. And this afternoon I am taking a sweet trip on the light-rail downtown with some friends and their 2 boys, and we’re going to drink beer and eat burgers and have a fun time. A hard workout rewarded with some playful fun.

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I’m really glad I did it. I’m really glad that I chose THIS run as my first one. It was low-key, all about community support, and was inexpensive and super-local. I may do more races, but it’s nice to have this one close to home be where I started out. Even if I don’t keep running extensively, I can see myself running this race annually to support my neighboring city!

I finished 97 of 103 women, with a time of 44:47. I ran for more than 2 of the 3 miles, and my goal had originally been to run 1.5 miles. And, the sun came out. What more can we Seattlelites ask for?

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