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10K, or dabbling in running

February 9, 2011

On January 30, I ran my first 10K.  The run was underground–in a series of caves in Kansas City that are used for offices and storage.  (I’ve heard rumors that the caves used to house nuclear weapons during the Cold War; I saw no evidence of such, but then again, I don’t think anyone would leave a nuclear weapon just lying out along a race course.)  The run was appropriately titled the Groundhog Run.

I had trained for almost eleven weeks to prepare for the race.  I used to run quite a bit in college, but that was (yikes!) ten years ago, so I had a little conditioning to do.  Because of the cold weather, I did almost all of my running in the gym on a treadmill.   I find running on a treadmill challenging, not only because all I had to look at were ESPN and HGTV, but because it saps me of most of my motivation.  Sure, an upbeat song on my MP3 player might get me going a bit faster, but I am very aware that I am running in place next to a bunch of other people who are also running in place, and we are all watching ESPN, but not really watching.  We’re all really watching the timer on the treadmill that tells me only five minutes have passed, when it feels like fifteen.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at the race.  I didn’t know if I would be able to run faster than I had in the gym, which was about a 10-minute mile pace at best.  I was nervous I might get a cramp that would slow me down.  I wanted to be able to run the entire race, and I feared I would need to walk sooner than I wanted to.  Thankfully, I had a couple of friends who came to the race to cheer me on; they assured me that I would do well, that no cramps would occur.  I tried to believe them.

In addition to running the whole race, my other goal was to finish in 70 minutes or less.

After waiting in a very long line for the port-o-potty (who wants to run on a full bladder?), I found my way into the crowd, between the sign for 9-minute milers and 12-minutes.  I stretched.  I sang the National Anthem.  I told myself not to be nervous, but just to enjoy the race.  The announcer counted down.  The front of the crowd started to run.  About 30 seconds later, the 10-minute milers and I made our slow start.

It took almost the first full mile to find my place–to navigate around the slower runners and let the faster ones pass me by.  I passed the clock at one mile right as it read 10:00.  So far, so good.

Miles two and three were pretty easy; I hit my stride.  I passed mile four right as the clock turned to 40:00.  Right on track.  I was excited and wanted the runners around me to be excited, too, so I shouted out, “four miles!”  Apparently I was the only one enthused by this milestone.

Mile four: I got bored.  I had some conversations with God in my head.  I sang a couple of songs to myself.  Not out loud, though; my “four miles” celebration proved no one else was in the mood to hear from me.

Mile five:  My legs started to tell me how much they wanted to stop.  I told them to be quiet.

I could hear the crowd as I neared the finish line.  When I rounded the corner and actually saw the finish line, something unexpected rose up in me.  I wanted to be done.  I wanted to be on the other side of that line.  I started to sprint.  I ran as fast as my legs would let me for about 50 yards.

The announcer must have seen me taking off and so announced my name.  I’m sure he said something else, too, but everything was a bit fuzzy at that point.  I wanted to be over that line.

62 minutes, 4 seconds.  Almost a perfect 10-minute mile pace.

And I realized, with pleasant surprise, that I had enjoyed myself.  6.2 miles had been fun!

Also to my surprise, I found myself thinking, “I would like to do this again.”

When I was telling some friends about the race later that day, I said, “I guess I’ll become a runner.”  They laughed and pointed out that I already was.  “Nah, I’m just dabbling,” I protested.

Yup, well…I’ve already scheduled my next race.  You should do it, too!  It’s a 5K, and you can run it (or walk it, or stroll it) wherever you are.

Go here. Now.  You’ll be supporting an outstanding cause, and you’ll even get a t-shirt.  You can thank me later.

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