Malden Rotary Club 10K… and a few thoughts

I did it.  I ran my first 10K yesterday.  And I ran the ENTIRE THING.

I didn’t necessary stick to my original training plan and even though I did get my butt out to run a few days a week, I wasn’t feeling super prepared.  Plus, my head hasn’t been 100% in the game (any game) over the past few weeks and I considered not running it at all. But then I figured if anything, this was something I had to do for me.. and only me.

So let’s go back to the day before my biggest running accomplishment to date.

Friday was rough for the good portion of the daylight hours.  After seeing the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games with my friend Greg, I had a completely unrelated breakdown, cried until I got sick, cried myself to sleep and then all morning.  I didn’t even go to class.  Eventually I dragged my sorry excuse of a human being out of bed, picked up my camera gear from school and spent the afternoon with my friend Sara.  And by spend the afternoon with, I mean that I fell asleep at the end of her bed for three hours, probably because I haven’t had a sound night’s sleep in weeks.

A few hours later, Sara worked her magic, made me look gorgeous (not to toot my own horn, but even I was like holy crap,) and we went out for our other friend Steph’s birthday.  We went to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory where I fueled with their Skinnylicious Pasta with chicken, basil and marinara.  I only got about halfway through the bowl before my tummy told me to stop.  Apparently 2 weeks of hardly eating will shrink your stomach.  Either way, it was delicious and I spent the next few hours having fun with my friends without thinking about any other worries in the rest of my life.

Sara does good work... I even felt pretty.

I went home to Lynn to get a full, yet restless and nightmare-filled, eight hours of sleep.  In the morning, I had my usual pre-race breakfast of 3 pieces of wheat toast with peanut butter and a bottle of water before my mom and I headed to Malden for the 11:30am start.

Toast and water.. I am boring.

When we got there, I headed right to registration, picked up my swag bag and tried my best to push all sad thoughts from my head.  I visualized crossing the finish line.  Before I knew it, I was hugging my mom and heading to the start.

So much swag!

And this is the face of a very nervous runner…

2 words: fake smile.

The race itself was pretty small.  There was a 5K course and 10K course but only about 350 runners total.  The 10K headed out first.  As I started running, I felt good.  Just 1 mile in, I knew I’d be able to run farther than I had in any other race without a walking break.  Usually, I have to stop a few times to walk but as I hit the mile 2 mark, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t need to stop at all and that’s where I started to think “Oh my God, I can do this without stopping.”  And once I get a goal in my head, it’s pretty tough to get it out.

I had my Garmin on and it kept my pace beautifully.  Sadly, every time I looked at it (which was pretty often), I felt a small searing pain hit my heart.  It was a gift from someone very important to me, but we’ll just leave it at that.

I also kept my eyes on a girl in a bright pink tank top who was running ahead of me for the entire race.  I could’ve passed her multiple times, but I let her pace me and I think it was the better decision.  At times, I’m sure I felt like a shadow to her because I was so close but if I hadn’t used to her to speed up and slow down, I don’t think running the whole race would’ve been possible.

At 4.75 miles in, I called my mom to tell her I was close to finishing.  She was reading in her warm car but I didn’t want her to miss my finish.  After that, my groove seemed out of step, my stomach was a little less uneasy and I wanted to be done.  I kept telling myself “keep going; I want to tell people I ran without stopping; prove to yourself that you can really do it.”  Eventually, we rounded the corner to the finish line, I could hear my labored breathing over my music but I didn’t care – I dug deep and pushed, crossed the finish line and grabbed a much-needed bottle of water.

I threw myself into my mom’s arms and started crying.  I cried because I finished, I cried because I ran the entire thing without stopping once.  I cried tears of joy, sadness, anger, resentment, disappointment.  I cried because the one person I wanted to collapse into, to hug me, to be proud of me at the finish line, wasn’t there.  I was angry, overjoyed and devastated all at the same time.

And then I stopped crying.  Because this day was about nothing other than the fact that I set my heart on something and got it.  And it felt amazing.  I knew then that if I didn’t give up on running, no matter how hard and painful it was at times, I wouldn’t give up on other things I loved either.  And for that moment, I felt calmer than I have in weeks.

The farthest I've ever run..

On that note, here are some happy/crappy details of the race:

The Happy:

– The weather.  I could not have asked for a better day.  It was incredibly chilly out, a complete difference than the past few days in the Boston area.  I was thankful for the crisp breeze the second I started running because I knew it would keep me from getting too overheated throughout the run.  And the overcast kept the sun from beating down onto my already reddened face, so that was nice too.

– My new shirt.  A gift from my friend Kim for my birthday, it’s sweat-wicking and didn’t get heavy or overheat me in anyway.  I even wore my long-sleeved NDA zip-up for the whole race and only felt super hot towards the very end.

– The swag.  I got a long-sleeved T, running gloves, a baseball cap, bread from a local company, a water bottle and other goodies from sponsors like VitaWater.

– The price.  The student rate was $10 which is the least expensive race I’ve ever run.  I think I got more value in just my swag bag than I paid for the actual race.

– Shot Blocks.  Ya know how good runners say to never try something new on race day?  Well, I did.. oops.  I bought a pack of Tropical Fruit flavored Shot Blocks at New England Running Company and was excited to try them.  The only thing I was worried about was any stomach issues that might occur but I took one just pass the mile 2 marker and then another a little ways into mile 4 and chased both with some water from water stops and felt a sudden surge of energy after each.  They tasted great, had a consistency that didn’t hurt my stomach and gave me a boost that I needed.

The Crappy:

– My running capris.  Apparently they are too big, which shouldn’t be a surprise since I’ve lost about 15 pounds since I bought them.  I had to keep pulling them up, which got a little annoying.  I’ll buy new ones for my next race.

– The finish line.  Not the actual finish line itself, I could see the clock, the girl took my number, normal end of the race.  It was who wasn’t at the finish line that hurt the most.

On another happy note, I mentioned on Facebook that if I finished my race, I would reward myself.  So this little guy is all mine.  My new motto: “Slow and steady wins finishes.. the race.”

My nickname in elementary school was "Tortoise" so I suppose this is pretty fitting!

And as the title promised, a few thoughts…

I think running is a lot like being in love.  It’s an incredible feeling, good for your body, your mind and your soul.  Sometimes it hurts like hell, sometimes you want to quit and give up or stop because it’s just too hard.  But when you push yourself through that pain, find your stride and look deep in your heart, when you can breathe again and take look around, it is the most rewarding and breath-taking experience in life.

And if, at the end of the race, you have the person you love’s arms to collapse into, well.. I’d say you’re the luckiest person in the world.