Saturday, October 8, 2011

5K race thoughts

My current half marathon training plan is not just limited to sitting on the couch thinking I can run 13.1 miles or playing tennis (which includes running so it's legitimate, right?!) although both of these are indeed a vital part of my current training. I have also started running a few of the local 5K races, especially when they benefit good causes, to judge just how brutal this half next month is going to be. Last month I ran the Rock and Read 5K to benefit local libraries. It taught me that not running at all to train was about the dumbest idea I've had in a long time, probably since I decided that 3 kids was a good idea. So yeah, it ranks right up there amongst the dumbest ideas ever. It was also the slowest 5K I've ever run in my life. On the plus side, it lit a bit of a fire under my rapidly expanding butt. So this morning I ran another 5K to see how the latest change in exercise habits was treating me. The Big South 5K benefits middle school sports and although neither of the two older kids have played middle school sports (they prefer to do things that involve us having to pay large sums of money rather than the token amount school sports require), it's a good cause and better yet, it was close and I knew much of the route from my marathon training 3 years ago when I wasn't so fat and out of shape.

When I first woke up this morning, I have to admit I was not pleased to think I was going to have to drag myself out of bed and actually run. In fact, I laid in my toasty bed and seriously considered ditching the race. After all, I had paid the money and picked up my packet already. Who on earth would it hurt if I didn't run? Furthermore, this particular race didn't have shoe timing chips that would ultimately need to be returned to the timing folks; it had strips across the back of the race numbers and that strip is mine to keep forever. So I wouldn't even have to have forked over the postage to return the chip if I chose to luxuriate in my cocoon of blankets. It was a tough call, let me tell you! But I did eventually roll out of bed and head out into the chill morning.

The event was well set-up and there were 1000 runners; not bad for a two year old race. A flash mob of cheerleaders from one of the local middle schools busted out in a dance before the start. Runners as a group seem to be singularly unimpressed with such stuff right before the start of a race. I personally don't do perky in the morning. Ok, I don't do perky ever, but definitely not in the morning. But good for those girls getting out and doing that. My children didn't budge from their cozy beds to come out and run, walk, or cheer (they are mine after all). The race itself was through neighborhoods and very pleasant and after the first mile, slow starter that I am, I actually felt good. I managed to feel good through the entire race. So a definite improvement on last month (and my time was over a minute faster this time too).

I enjoy listening/eavesdropping on other people both before and during short races like this one. When parents are running with children and offering them encouragement, it helps me. But there are just some truly entertaining comments that I'd chuckle over if I wasn't breathing too hard to laugh. As we headed down the first slight downhill, a guy with good legs but a beer belly told his young daughter, "Pick up the pace downhill. When you're fat, you have to roll down as fast as you can." They sped off and left me in the dust. I was still plugging along at my usual pace when I came up behind two young boys, maybe 9 or 10 years old, who were walking together. The one turned to the other and said, "OK, let's run to the front now." And they took off and left me in the dust too (probably did make it to the front too, the little buggers). My favorite though (and it's only my favorite because it was said as I was passing them instead of the other way around) was the two teen/pre-teen girls in goofy stripey socks who stopped to walk at about 2.5 miles. The one said to the other as they were being passed by people behind them "Look at all the people we're going to have to catch now." I can't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure those stripey socks never did end up passing me. :-)

Casual races like this can be fun provided you don't get run over by a runner pushing a jogging stroller. I used to be impressed by these people but over time, I've noticed that they are all incredibly fit and thin. So pushing a jogging stroller is really no big deal for them. It's the roly poly runners like me who have to lug the weight around *all the time* who should be more impressive. Fit running mom or dad can ultimately hand that kid off to someone else and revert to their gazelle like nature while we hippos have no choice. I've got it way harder. Of course, they probably don't carb load the night before the race on mint Oreo cookies either, but I'm just trying to honor the spirit of the thing on my own terms. And I never did claim to be a real runner. Jogger, shuffler, dilettante, occasional slug, yes. Real runner, in my dreams.

I did feel good for the majority of the race (minus the amount of time that it takes me to get into my stride) and I managed to average under 10 minute miles so I'm doing better than I was. I still run with the heavy runners at the back of the pack: heavy as in weight, heavy as in heavy on their feet (you should hear some of the pounding footfalls), and heavy as in heavy breathers. The latter is me and apparently I'm a heavy and loud enough breather to scare people who are wearing iPods given the number of over the shoulder startled looks I got as I plugged along today. I will never be one of the front runners, not the 5-6 minute mile runners who finish their entire race before I hit mile 2, but I'd love to get back to my sub-nine minute pace. Not thinking that's likely for this half next month but maybe for the half in January if I do remember to get out and run sometime again before then.

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