After months of grueling preparation, I finally achieved one of my major de-fat goals: I ran in a 5K race.
How did I get myself into this mess?
For the past year, I’ve been forcing myself to try new things with a friend, Danielle. Neither of us were particularly fit a year ago, and we decided that training for a 5 K race would be a good goal to keep us motivated and improve our running. In May, we signed up for the Ottawa 5K Army Run and made a pact to finish in under 35 minutes. Then we went to the gym and tried to run.
The first day we ran together, we could barely jog for 30 seconds and after 30 minutes of mostly walking, we both needed to sit down and pray for death. At this point I felt kind of hopeless. Fat people are not built to run ergonomically. Sitting on the couch and stuffing my face with junk had not built up the right kind of endurance. Running evokes terrible memories of high school phys ed: grungy uniforms and a 12 minute cooper run that I mostly spent trying to avoid by hiding in the bathroom. Nobody likes running on the treadmill. I can’t even say I enjoy running outside because it’s literally the most boring activity known to mankind – and I’m part of a generation of smartphone users that never have to feel bored. Oh, and after 5 minutes of running, I am easily mistaken for the world’s sweatiest tomato and it is just so unattractive.
I’ve spent the past 4 months regretting signing up for this race and slacking off on training. I would aim to run 3 times a week and then finish the week with only a single run completed. But I still feel that 5K is a baseline of fitness that most adults should be able to wake-up and bang out, and sometimes adults need to suck it up and do what’s good for them, even if it’s kind of boring. In a lot of ways running is a lot like eating your vegetables.
For some strange reason, I failed to realize that the start time of this race was at 8:00 am. On Sunday mornings I like to sleep in. I do not like waking up early to run 5K. I had picked up my bib and race kit on Friday, so at 6:30 this morning, I stumbled out of bed and got ready to race. I decided against breakfast, but downed a couple mouthfuls of coffee and a glass of water while standing over the kitchen sink, and then I met Danielle at the start line at 7:30.
I think part of the reason people hate running is because they force themselves to get out of bed at an ungodly hour and run when they could be back in bed, where it is warm. I wore pants because it was chilly today, but standing out in a t-shirt before the race started, I was freezing and I just wanted the race to start so that we could get it over with.
Finally, at 8:00 the cannon fired and we were off. I turned on my iPod and my Runkeeper app before stepping through the gate so that I would have a good idea of my pace, even when the pace bunny got lost in the crowd. I was surprised when the race started: I knew I was running too fast, because I was nice and sweaty despite the cold, but I also had the Runkeeper lady telling me that our pace was 10:02 after 2 miles. The thing is, I felt great. The dynamic of running with 14 000 people is certainly different from jogging alone. I was worried I would get trapped in the crowd and be forced to run at a pace set by someone else. Instead, chasing long-legged dudes, passing a group of women, and constantly trying to weave through the crowd made the whole experience a lot more interesting – and when I felt like I was sucking for air, I reminded myself that I didn’t want anyone to see me walking, so I kept on trucking along.
The hardest part of the race was the 4 – 5 km stretch. I kept expecting to see the finish line, but it felt like a long time coming. In the end, I set a personal best of 31:46, although my running partner did finish about 30 seconds ahead of me. We both finished in the top 50% of our category. “Not bad for a couple of couch potatoes,” to quote Danielle. I’m pretty happy now tat it’s over. And it was maybe just a little bit fun to run with a crowd. Am I experiencing a runner’s high or am I just delusional from waking up so early?
I told myself that after this race, I’m going to give myself permission to stop running. I do a lot of active things in my life and it seems pointless to force myself to run when I can’t stand it. But this race was kind of fun. I need to decide if all those boring hours of training alone make the race worth it. I’m going to take some “time off from running”, which really does not mean much in terms of altering my schedule. I think that next year we might attempt some fun runs that don’t really count as races, starting with The Spartan Race next spring. The funny thing is, I’m debating doing a 10K as part of the Ottawa Marathon and this morning’s race strengthened my desire to do so, which I did not expect. Maybe I won’t ditch the treadmill just yet.