Monday, October 4, 2010

My First Race... Ever!

I scheduled the 10k as training for my half marathon. I just found a local race that fit into my schedule and signed up. I wanted to go through a dry run. It may sound silly but I wasn't really sure how to put on the race number bib properly. Would I have jitters. Those kinds of little things.

Saturday I ran the YMCA Home Front Run 10k. The 6.2 mile course went along the Richmond Bay Trail shoreline, a lovely meandering path with views of the bay and San Francisco. As I waited in the crowd pre-race I realized that we were right next to Miller Knox Park in Pt. Richmond. It seems fitting that my first race would be adjacent to the park that got me inspired to get back into shape!

So how was it? That's what everyone wants to know. Well, it was hard. And it was great. And as I look back it seems like there were two separate experiences. As a race rookie I got there nice and early (even after getting a little lost on the way). I got my race bib and attached it with the safety pins. Seems simple enough. As I waited for 9am I scanned the crowd taking it all in. Sizing everyone up. The crowd of 250 runners consisted of all sorts of people, not just the obvious runners. Families, kids, couples. I realized that I was one of the few people there alone and I felt like the first day in a new school (having attended four high schools I'm familiar with being the new kid).

When they called for everyone to gather to start the adrenaline kicked in. Yup. Little nervous, gonna admit it. When the horn blew it was like a wave, everyone sped past me. The coach voice reminded me of the oft repeated advice I have come across; "run your own race, keep your own pace" and "don't start too fast" (a super common rookie mistake). It was a little embarrassing at first but I held to my own slow pace. Approximately a half mile out I started passing many of those same people as they walked. I felt a little better. But now I was in pace with some annoying people. A young boy running with his parents that kept flying past me in his noisy sweats and grabbing his mom and telling her to 'calm down' (this never made any sense to me but luckily we soon drifted apart. Then came the girl with the headphones super loud. You know the sound, annoying. Again, we drifted apart.

The first mile or two it seemed that everyone filtered to find their own pace. I passed walkers. I got passed by runners. Somewhere between miles two and four it really thinned out and as I approached those returning from the turnaround point I thought I might actually be the last person! But when I reached the turnaround point I got to see that there were actually plenty of people behind me. Then from miles four through six I thought I was running the race solo or perhaps had run off course. No one around. Very strange. But there they were, the volunteers "good job 230!"... should I admit that when the first person yelled that out I spent the next minute or so trying to figure out what it meant? Probably not. Once the second volunteer called out a similar support cheer I looked down and realized it was my race bib number! Ahh, to be a race rookie. My pace felt good. My splits were negative. My plan, as is in training runs, was to amp up the pace during the last mile. As I entered the last mile I could see the runners ahead of me, including the woman that I had told myself to keep up with, but she was just too far out of reach. "Just run your own race". So back to concentrating on my pace, amp it up but make sure to keep enough in the tank to make it across the finish line. As I rounded the corner of the Ford Building in the last quarter mile I saw my opportunity to overtake two runners. I had enough in the tank to push past them! That felt really good (we will not go into the details that one was a very large man and the other was a woman pushing a stroller. Nope. Let's just stay with the fact that I passed two people. The only two other runners I came across in the second half of the race). Okay, here it is; the home stretch! But just like in a dream it seemed so far! Way farther than I remembered! "Run Strong". Then I noticed my boyfriend right near the finish line! Yeay!... I could barely breath but I pushed to the finish line in 1:09.

That's the first experience. I am proud of that. I finished faster that I had anticipated. I ran an average of 11:11 minute miles. Way faster that I'd planned (I thought I would be around 12:30). I didn't walk and I didn't stop.

Then the second experience. We stuck around for the raffle and awards ceremony. The first three finishers from each age group (men and women) get a medal. Now I was very curious to see how I did in comparison to others. The guy who won the 'masters' medal doesn't count, I mean who can run 6.2 miles in 34 minutes besides him?! Okay, let's focus on the women 40-49. I don't know how many of my age group were in the race so I don't know where I place. But I can tell you that the medal winners in my age group were all a good 20 minutes faster than me! And, yes, even the winners of the 70+ age group were 10 minutes faster then me!...

This second experience was a little hard to swallow. At first. I thought about it and realized that the medal winners of all age groups are most likely serious, lifelong runners (their bodies reflect this!). In all reality I've only been in training for six weeks! And two months ago I didn't think I could run further than 3.5 miles! So I decide to take away motivation and inspiration from the awards ceremony! I ran my race. I exceeded my personal expectations. My boyfriend is proud of me and so am I. I done good!

Now, I want to do this race again next year and see how I improve! I'm inspired.

Here I come down the home stretch! (notice the crooked bib!)

I was happy to see the "high five" lady

Right after, still haven't caught my breath

Trying to blend in with all the other runners with my bag-o-schwag

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