Let me get the rant out of the way first. I want to finish this post on as long a string of positive notes as possible.
Today's race was a "prediction run". You predict you expected finishing time and try to finish as close to that time as possible. Overall winners and age group awards are based on the variance from the prediction to the actual finish. Example - if you predicted a 40 minute total time for the 5k and finished one second off you will probably be the winner. This type of race rewards the runner most able to maintain a pace, not necessarily the fastest. And the rule is that participants are prohibited from using any electronic timing devices - stopwatches, gps, mp3, cell phones, etc. You "gotta feel it".
I was not a winner today. My prediction was 44 seconds off of my actual time. No overall or age group award for me.
You say "but Una, not everyone can be a winner. Its a little arrogant to expect to winner or place in every race."
Sure. I concede that point. But, and its a big Sir Mix-a-Lot "baby got back" kind of but, I was the first finisher. First. Finisher. Overall.
Let that one sink in.
The formerly pudgy turtle was the first finisher in a 5k race and collected no medal or official recognition.
But don't worry about it. Cos now I'm gonna tell you why the past 48 hours have been the best of my running life and why this was my most enjoyable race every. I don't need a medal to remember this day.
The runners assembled at the starting line. Another fellow asked about my Five Fingers. You can see me discussing the finer points of Five Fingers and Chi Running. Like I have anything else to talk about. lol I heard the starter dishing out the pre-race instructions, excused myself to the front of the pack and set myself to get to work.
My prediction time was not really important to me. My 5k PR is 18.31, set in October. I ran a total of 30 miles yesterday and honestly knew that setting a new PR would be a tall order. But I hoped. I set my prediction at 18.31.
The starter's pistol fired and we were off. I took the lead from the start and felt comfortable immediately. Till the first turn. The course was a triple loop around a lake at a local shopping center. Restaurants and shops on one side. Ballfields on the other.
The were no course markings and most of the course was easy to follow, but the first turn left the sidewalk and went across a footbridge. I turned to the pack behind me and asked if this is where we turned. Somebody said "don't know". I took the turn anyway and led the way.
Immediately I was passed by a man and then a woman. No worries though. Still early. The far side of the loop was hot and calm. No wind to deal with. But after the turn and return to the start/finish area there was a strong, cool headwind. Not great but ok.
The woman fell away before the end of the first lap and I began to close ground on the lead male. At this point I heard heavy footsteps behind me. The pack was closing on me.
As we swept through the start/finish area I ditched my hat and shades. Time to get aerodynamic.
I could see across the lake and realized the field was really spread out. Didn't know if people were running hard or trying to run easy based upon predictions. During the second lap I moved into the lead. "The stomper" was still on my heels.
My effort felt really solid throughout, in spite of the "excessive" mileage yesterday. And my spirits were high. "Heart of a Lion" by Kid Cudi was playing in my head. That song is also the inspiration for my current profile pic. While in Disney's Animal Kingdom I learned that the male lion hangs at the house all day protecting the pride, while the females hunt. Guess I was prowling my territory watching for danger. Ready to strike.
As I approached the "bell lap" I dropped my shirt with my hat and shades. Was getting really hot (warm. mind out of the gutter people!) and needed to keep the focus sharp. I noticed "the stomper" was no longer behind me. Wasn't sure where he was but I kept my eyes forward.
Now this is where my personality and reason for being on daily mile came out. As I passed the slower runners I called out "good job", "looking great", "keep going". A few folks jumped off the sidewalk to clear the way. Some called back with "way to go" or "man he's fast". I gave a thumbs up whenever possible. I want to push others to excel even in my own race. I want you to have as much fun as I am. Cos this is fun dammit!
At the final turn I could almost see the finish area. I peeked back and saw "the stomper" 30 yards behind me. "Keep the focus and keep the faith". "This is your race to take." "Don't slow down." "Do. Not. Puke!"
The second runner was about 25 seconds behind. I never felt so elated. The nausea of the final stretch was immediately gone.
I then ran a cool down lap. Runners still on the course recognized me and understood I was easing back and offered congratulations on a strong run. After this loop I grabbed a bagel and stopped by the car for my phone. When I got back to the loop I saw a 9 year old boy struggling along. He was an overweight little boy and I saw much of myself in this kid.
I headed his way and asked if I could tag along. He didn't talk much but did not tell this stranger to get lost. I decided this would be a great opportunity to coach up the little guy. It was his second race. He alternated running and walking. No pushing from me. Just encouragement when he picked up the pace. I talked about the importance of breathing. How he could slow down the mental part of a race like an NFL quarterback just by controlling his breathing. Slower breath rate means less anxiety and less wasted energy, thus a stronger finish and more enjoyable race.
I left the kid half way around and scooted over a second foot bridge to the assembly area to await the awards. "The stomper" (I wish I could remember names) and an older fellow from from Rodchester Hills, MI both asked about my race and my Five Fingers. When I told them I've only run a few years, this was my first top finish, and I still see "the turtle" they each gave me a look of disbelief. But the older fella gave great advice, some much appreciated praise and small talk about the Boston, NYC and San Diego marathons.
I had a long talk with my wife this evening about my running and home life. This race and the miles of the past few days is really big (duh!) for me in many ways. Balance is elusive. For as frustrating as business is (real estate), every time I get an email or comment about advice or questions or positive feedback I am on cloud nine. I never imagined the success and connections possible when I took up running as a way to lose weight. Every time one of you says "way to go" or "you are an inspiration" I carry a little bit my motivation and courage with me. And I also carry a bit of those who can't run. Caylee was with me today. See Sara M.'s profile to learn about this beautiful child. Today wasn't my fastest. It was just my best.
Thank you all. I hope to stay as humble and grounded as possible. And thanks for accepting me as I am. You are the true gift.