Chooch and I headed out early on Thanksgiving morning for the local Turkey Trot. It was cold, but we’ve run in colder and felt well prepared for it. I had my mittens and my hoodie over yoga pants and long sleeve race t-shirt. I had been tempted to wear shorts, as I’d overheard a hard-core runner tell incredulous friends at a January race in 25 degree weather that he runs faster in shorts because after a while he can’t feel his leg soreness due to numbness. Luckily, I’m not that insane. I haven’t baby stepped my way back to 5k’s by taking risks that could cause a long-term setbacks.
I was super excited because this was my first race since all the silly health drama started. We had to forfeit our registration in 2009 as that was the beginning of my health issues and I was having a ton of tests for scary illnesses being run. I was not running, exercising or psychologically prepared in any way last Thanksgiving.
This year’s race was held at a new location on an unfamiliar route, and I secretly hoped there wouldn’t be many hills since I seem to have knee pain more on the hilly routes. I’ve altered my stride when going down hill using lessons learned while covering hilly lands in the Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG. Laugh if you like, but in game you can run up hills as fast as you like, but running downhill at the same speed you’ll get a “broken bone” injury. I now take what I call “gentler landings” and I’m already seeing improvement. Genius that I am, it took me forever to put the two together, and maybe they are unrelated but I’m certainly having less knee issues since I’ve made the change.
We made our way to the race start to pick up the optional race time chips. These are small, lightweight loaner chips you strap to your ankle to track your start/finish time since it’s impossible for everyone to cross the start line at exactly the same time. It also allows you to track your pace. After the race, the results are provided with your race time and pace. I have no expectation of having a winning race time, rather this is how I track my progress across races, as do many others.
We next headed over to the start line along with the other racers and walkers. We again survived the push and shove of over-adrenalized and aggressive runners wanting to start as close to the front as possible. Having been stuck behind walkers and strollers in the past, I can understand wanting to ensure you don’t have to try and run an obstacle course to keep your running pace. Still, there is no need for such rudeness. Personally, I would prefer if they said, “Excuse me, but you’re clearly not an elite athlete so I’d like to get in front of you now so I won’t have to run around you in a few minutes.” I’d find it far less rude than people averting their eyes as they elbow past. Chooch and I just shook our heads and laughed at their need to be “first” at the start. They should consider arriving earlier next time. Just sayin’.
The race started and off we went at a steady pace. Chooch was having trouble breathing because of his recent illness, and we’d already discussed the possibility of me continuing running if he needed to walk. I’m supremely proud of him pushing past the 1 mile marker before stopping to catch his breath and I continued on alone.
I had no music with me, so I just ran with the street noise and conversations of runners around me. I told myself I could stop when something hurt. I told myself I could stop at the water station at the 1.5 mile mark, but only for 10 seconds. I never had pain, only muscle fatigue. And I was stopped less than 5 seconds at the water station. Adrenaline wouldn’t let me stand still for long while the clock was ticking, but I truly needed water for my throat. The cold air had my throat very sore and very dry, but three sips were all I needed and off I went. Honestly, if I didn’t think it was bad manners to snatch a cup from a volunteer, suck it down and throw it on the ground as so many other runners do, then I wouldn’t have stopped at all. I make sure and say thank you and put the cup in the trash next to the station and continue on my way. Nope, I’ll never win any races that way. And nope, I don’t care.
I’m very happy to report that I ran the entire 5k for the very first time. And the race results showed that I solidly beat my previous best time by more than six minutes. I still have a very slow pace, but I’m thrilled with these improvements. Chooch also had a great improvement on his last race time and I’m proud of him for going when he had an excuse not to go. He’s got a warrior spirit, just as I’ve always known.
I also want to give a Universal thank you to those that cheer for runners along the route. As with all the races I’ve done, there were people that had put up signs or were standing outside on the streets or their porches lending their strength to us as we plodded past. I’ve always appreciated it, as it does indeed add a spring to this gal’s step.
I know hubby took a tally of the oddly costumed folks at the race, and I’m hoping he’ll post those in the comments. There was one very memorable one that had us laughing and wishing we could snag a photo, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The next race is in 2 weeks, and I’m not so cocky as to feel that my successful completion is assured. Even if I’m a bit slower, or can’t run the whole damned thing, I’m just happy to be in motion again.
Baby steps, indeed.