I’ve been anti-bucket list for some time. I believe more in living in the moment and seizing opportunities as they arise. I still do but I also realize it’s good to have goals, even if they’re pie in the sky goals.
So I created a list of 50 things that I might like to someday do and recently we created a similar list for the family. On both of those lists was one simple task: running a 5K.
I’ve never had aspirations of running a marathon or even a half-marathon. But a 5K always sounded like something I could handle, you know, with proper training and all. So when my next door neighbor mentioned several months ago that she was signing up for the Shamrock 5K in downtown Baltimore, I thought it sounded like something I might actually be able to achieve. And when I found out there was free beer at the finish line, I was definitely in, as was her husband, my half-Irish husband, and another couple down the street.
Sometime before I moved to Maryland, I had started the Couch to 5K program (a great little app for your phone) that promises to get you ready to run a 5K in just 9 weeks. Then I got sick and we moved and life got in the way. But this time, I was really going to do it.
Until my treadmill broke.
Sure, you can train outside, which is actually ideal, but the cold and snow and ice has been a big de-motivator. Sure, I could go to the gym only a mile away but again, the weather made me simply not want to go out of the house. And yes, I see the irony in not wanting to drive a mile to practice running three miles.
Bottom line: I did not train for this 5K race and I ran it anyway.
Honestly, I see so many friends on Facebook and Instagram running their hearts out that it made me think that it can’t be that hard. It’s just got to be a matter of willpower.
So I queued up near the very end of almost 5000 runners with my neighborhood group intact. We all had decided to run/walk at our own pace and have a toast together at the finish line.
I crossed over the official starting point and began my jog. Slow and steady wins the race, I kept telling myself. Then I changed it to Slow and steady finishes the race. That was all I really cared about. I wanted to finish it and I wanted to be running. I wanted to run a 5K.
The first mile or so was downhill and I was feeling good. This is easy, I thought. And then I reached the bottom of the hill and veered off to the right towards Federal Hill. As I turned right, I could see runners already coming back in the opposite direction. I mean, I knew they were much faster than me but I figured it must not be that long until the turnaround.
It was. It was a long long time until I reached the turnaround and had a small cup of water on my way. I did slow to a walk while I was drinking my water and then neatly placed it in the trash can before resuming my jogging pace. I had to fight every urge in my body not to grab that cup, throw it in my face, and ditch the cup in dramatic fashion but that seemed more appropriate for something like a marathon on a really hot day.
Finally, I reached the 2 mile mark and turned to the closest runners asking, Exactly how long is a 5K anyway? They told me 3.1 miles and I could have kissed them. I could handle that. Only another mile.
Another mile? I can’t even handle a mile on the treadmill and here I was feeling happy that there was only a mile.
But I did it. I focused on the people watching. I focused on the free beer waiting at the finish line. I focused on just moving forward.
I’m not gonna lie. I felt heavy and clumsy and so freaking slow. My feet and legs were hurting and my lungs were begging me to stop but I wasn’t in any physical pain so I could think of a good reason to stop. So I just kept going.
Here’s comes my Chariots of Fire moment. As I was running that last mile, crowds were lining the streets in preparation for the St. Patrick’s Day parade to follow. They were yelling and cheering for everyone, even us slow pokes, saying You can do it! You’re almost there! And I got tears in my eyes. Crossing the finish line gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment and standing there in the sea of green shirts made me feel like I was part of something and had actually done something good for my body.
Today, I’m doubting if I did anything good for my body since I can barely walk or climb stairs. My leg muscles are sore and my knees are experiencing a pain unlike no other. I’m thinking a little bit more training might have actually done me some good. I’m also thinking that I got a little too excited about the free beer as I’m not feeling top of my game today.
But I did it. And I ran it in 41 minutes and 26 seconds (a 13.22 minute mile). My next goal is to do it again and hopefully feel better doing it.
If you were ever like me, I’d love to hear your tips for running and what keeps you motivated. Because I’m assuming not all races have free beer at the end.