Let me tell you guys about the time I signed up for a 10K during my busiest season at work, didn’t train, but ran it anyway. It sucked. Here’s the story.
Some time ago (February. It was February) I got excited about the idea of running more. Something in my brain began craving all things running. I wanted to listen to running podcast and running audio books. I wanted to read about running form. I even picked up a running novel, Once a Runner, that I couldn’t really get into because of some fat shaming language in the first chapter (doodes, I know it was written in, like, the 70s, but come on. Get with it).
I hadn’t been running much. Over the summer, I had been running more, but I’d gotten really into kenpo. That was new and shinny and fun (it still is). But running took a back seat. And then it was winter, and guys, I HATE to be cold. Once the time changed, I couldn’t bring myself to get up before the sun and go for a run. So, I just didn’t run.
But once the weather started getting a little nicer, my body and my brain wanted to get back into it. Part of that was a desire to sign up for a race. With a quick search on the internet, I found the Moreno Valley Mother’s Day 5K/10K race organized by the Moreno Valley Road Runners (which I seriously didn’t even know existed). This was exciting: a race in my neighborhood! In the past, I’ve had to get up super early to drive out to the race location. Or I’ve skipped cool races all together because the spot was just too damn far. But Moreno Valley. I could do that.
After registering for the 10K option, I looked into training plans. I’d only ever “raced” a 5K, and my average mileage for my runs is two or three miles. I don’t run far. I don’t run fast. But I got it in my head that not only could I do a 10K, but I could crush a 10K. I’d train. Then I’d run it hella fast. And it would be easy.
You guys, I was so dumb. I got busy. Work got bananas. I had every intention on running on a regular schedule. I even bought Matt Fitzgerald’s book 80/20 Running, which I’ve mentioned before. I started reading it, but I didn’t even get too far into it before work threw me off track.
I got so off track that at one point I thought I would just skip the race. It would be easy to forget about it. I hadn’t really told many people that I was going to do it, so what would it matter if I didn’t go? Thankfully be awesome sister-in-law, with her enthusiasm and support, unknowingly persuaded me to stay with it. She even signed up to do it with me! After that, I was so pumped.
That enthusiasm did not last long into the actual race. I started off pretty excited. I was excited when I woke up. I was excited getting into the park, getting out of the car, and simply being near other runners. It was a Mother’s Day event, so there were lots of kids and people that I assume where their mothers. There was a LOT of pink. They even had finishers medals laid out on a table that were so pink they practically were glowing.
It was a small group of runners that day (maybe 50 people, but I honestly don’t know. I’m terrible at gauging a crowd). I was pumped and ready to go. When we started racing, I remember thinking how awesome it was to run in a group. I was feeling the energy of the crowd. At mile one I thought, “Only five more to go. I got this!”
Guys, I was not prepared for hills. I was not prepared for wind. And it wasn’t even windy. It was just a slight breeze that made it feel like I was being pushed backward. In a word, it was super hard. I hated running nearly the whole thing. I wanted to give up. I wanted to duck out with the 5K group rather than continuing on to do the full 10K. I wanted to walk those damn hills. I wanted to hitch a ride to the finish line with every car that drove by.
But I didn’t (okay. I walked a part of the race, but only a small part. And it wasn’t really up to me. It was a pretty steep hill, and my body literally just stopping running. It was like something pulled me back. I allowed myself to finish that hill walking, and then I didn’t stop running until I crossed the finish line).
I ran the rest of the race thinking, “Why did I decide to do this. This sucks.” I truly hated every minute of last half of that 10K. I kept thinking about how I should have trained more. I thought that if I could just lose a few pounds it would be easier for me to run. I thought about the few miles that I did put in on my treadmill and how I should have done them outside. I thought about how I should have done hill work because it was pretty clear that the course would have hills. I thought all of these negative things and only occasionally forced myself to look around me at the beautiful landscape that I was getting to run in.
I finished the run in 1 hour and 10 minutes. I was pretty pleased with that. As I was nearing the finish, I wanted to walk so badly. But I forced myself to finish strong, and I finished with a smile. My legs hurt. My feet hurt. I was thirsty, and I wanted to just sit down.
My sister-in-law finished ten minutes after me. I walked out to meet her and run the last stretch with her. My legs were aching badly, but I really wanted to be with her to finish it. I thought that it must have been torture for her to run the 10K too, and I figured I was offering support by being with her for the last steps of the awful experience. It turns out, she enjoyed the flipping thing.
She told me how when she felt like she needed to walk, she walk. She told me how she allowed herself to experience the scenery. It was a lovely morning, not too hot. We had some beautiful clouds. She didn’t stress over running the entire thing or making a certain time. She just did the 10K.
Honestly, that blew me away. It hadn’t occurred to me that by pushing myself so hard I was missing out on the experience of the 10K (and engaging in some pretty negative self talk). I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the feeling of running or connecting with the people around me. I missed out on the scenery and the smells of nature. All I could think about was how I wanted to quit, and how I couldn’t wait for the damn thing to be over.
Here’s the lesson: it’s okay to slow down. It okay to not be perfect or live up to whatever ideal experience you’ve build up in your head. In fact, it’s good to stop sometimes or go slow. By going fast (or kind of fast in my case) you miss out of so much of the experience.
And: BE NICER TO YOURSELF. Damn it, evie. Enough with the negative self talk. You’re pretty awesome. You finished your first 10K, and you did it smiling!! To be fair, I was mostly smiling because Johnny lovely was there supporting me at the finish line. That was awesome. But it also felt good to finish. I was happy.
After I stopped running, it hit me: the 10K was awesome. It hurt. It got lonely when most of the runners veered off to the 5K course while a few runners and I kept going for the longer option. Those hills were tough. My calves were already cramping before I got to the finish line. But damn, I’d do it again. The Road Runners even have a Valentine’s Day run that I’m planning on doing.
So, I messed up my training plan. Oh well. I could have guessed that it wouldn’t have gone perfectly. It’s literally peak season for me at work. I shouldn’t expect to be perfect. It’s awesome that I did a 10K. I’m going to try to keep it up. I’d like to race again and try to get under an hour. I’d like to build up my miles and eventually run a half marathon. I’ll get there, and when I do, I’ll try to slow down and allow myself to enjoy the experience.