So, this week I have been trying to prep for the 5k I’m running this weekend. It’s called the Zoo Run Run, and it’s to raise money for the Columbian Park Zoo here in Lafayette. This race is awesome mainly because the free T-shirt I will be receiving has an OTTER on it, but also because it raises funds for the FREE zoo in Lafayette, which is a great place for kids to go learn about animals regardless of their income. And, I just love zoos. Although this is a small zoo, it has a fabulous otter exhibit where you can crawl into a clear plastic tunnel and watch the otters swimming under water. It’s almost as “otterly awesome” as the shirt seen below.
To get me psyched to run my 2nd 5k EVER this weekend, I thought I would look back at my first 5k.
I started off last summer barely being able to run a quarter mile without giving up and walking, but this past year, I slowly worked up to my first 5k in April, The Challenge 5k. This race is a hilly route that takes runner through part of Purdue’s campus and raises money each year for the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. I was very proud to have this be my first official race 😀
I woke up early, showered, and put on some capri-length sweats and a long-sleeved t-shirt. I layered another t-shirt on top as it was spring and still a bit chilly. I drove from Lafayette, across the Wabash and over toward Purdue in West Lafayette. I parked my car about a half mile from the start of the race, and my boyfriend and I walked over to the race area, soaking in the unfamiliar scene: Mothers and their spindly kids, elderly couples who looked like they’d been running since birth, sorority girls in PINK sweatpants, and Purdue athletes, decked out in black and gold, and every one of them in a pair of sneakers. It was inspiring seeing so many different people united for a worthy cause. And, they had even gotten out of bed early on a Saturday!
As the start of the race drew near and every one gathered near the starting line in groups based on their average mile time, my heart headed up to my throat and I started to feel all the emotions pushing up through my body and into my eyeballs. I was trying to act normal, but by the time the race began I was shaking. When the race finally began and I jogged over the starting line tears welled up in my eyes, great big, happy, proud tears. I was so proud of myself for even running the race. This was something that I never would have even imagined for myself a few years ago, and here I was keeping up with all the other ladies and gents in running shoes aside me. I even found myself passing a few people. I just kept running. I didn’t know exactly how far I had gone, but I wanted to get a good start in before I stopped for any breaks. I passed the marked for mile one with a big goofy grin on my face, noting that I was already a third of the way there, and I hadn’t slowed down.
I kept going strong for the next quarter mile or so, and then the route turned and the course was uphill for about the next mile. I caved and walked for 30 seconds or so, trying to catch my breath, but when I saw people passing by me, I started up again. I think I stopped and walked for a few more spurts; the course was hillier than expected and most of my training had been done on a treadmill with no incline setting. But for the most part, I ran. I kept going. When I reached that last quarter mile and could see the finish line, I could barely breathe, but I charged on. I wanted the crowd that had gathered at the end to see how strong I was. I was invincible. I did it.
When I finally crossed the finish line, I felt a familiar salty sting on my face. I convinced myself to stop sobbing and waited at the end for my boyfriend (who I beat… by a good 2 or 3 minutes). When the times were posted I almost peed myself. I had ran my first 5k in 31:29. My goal that morning had been to finish under 36 minutes, and I had blown that goal out of the water. Even in my best days running at the gym I had never gotten under 32 minutes. I was frazzled and excited and ecstatic that my mix of crazy emotions and adrenaline had led me to that finish line.
So now, I’m back for more. On to race number 2! I’m ready to get back on the horse and let the adrenaline flow. I would love to finish this 5k under 30 minutes, but I’m being realistic. It’s likely to be waaaaay hotter than my last race, and my training the last few weeks hasn’t been the best since I’ve been trying to get used to my new job and the new schedule that comes with it. I’m going to go out there and do my best, and just hope for a better time than in April. But even if I don’t improve my score, I still win. I’m still amazed at how far I’ve come, and that is worth so much more.