Today I ran my very first 5K of the year 2015. Overall, I think it went extremely well!
This was sort of a last-minute race decision. It’s been a somewhat freezing cold winter and I wasn’t sure how well I’d race in 20 degree temperatures + wind chill, but I had a pretty encouraging mid-week tempo run, so I decided, “Why not?” The Road to the Super Bowl 5K course runs through a beautiful, scenic, hilly route in Wilmington, DE, with proceeds benefiting Girls on the Run, an excellent organization that fosters a love of running in elementary school age girls, boosting work ethic and self esteem. I believe running is so, incredibly beneficial for young girls. When I was nine, I set my elementary school’s “Girls’ Mile” record with a time of 6:45. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. I remember exclaiming, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” at the finish line. My gym teacher laughed and said, “Oh, it does.” He was right.
Here is the thing about 5K racing: there’s a lot of emphasis placed on marathons and half-marathons as the pinnacle(s) of running achievements, but, let me tell you: racing a 5K is hard. The distance is short and sweet, but its brevity means you literally do not have time to catch your breath if you’re racing to your full capacity. I’m always reluctant at the start of a 5K.
I’ve raced hundreds in just the last few years, but I never get less nervous. Since it was so cold this time around, I didn’t even do a warm up. I felt like a snowman, shivering outside for 20 minutes before the start. When the crowd finally approached the starting line and I got to assess the competition, I figured I had a decent shot at being one of the top three women overall, though I was pretty sure I wouldn’t win. That was totally okay with me. I’m basically really competitive until I take my first few steps. Then I surrender and think, “Whatever. I’m just going to finish.” Two women and ten men shot out ahead ahead of me at the start, so I assigned myself the task of simply holding on to my spot as third woman.
My first mile was really fast (6:30 split), since the first part of the course was almost completely downhill. It was really nice that there was a 1 mile clock on the road so I didn’t have to check my GPS. I felt really confident and I even got to enjoy some of the scenery in my peripheral view. I felt someone elbow me at this point. Of course, it was my best friend and premier running buddy, Chris, who (God love him) has absolutely zero ability to budget personal space/elbow room. I tend to be a slightly high-strung runner, so usually getting bumped like this would disrupt my rhythm/breathing; however, I remained totally calm. (Good going, Liz.)
There was a turn-around at exactly the half-way point. I love turn-arounds, because I find them really encouraging. Most of the time, when you’re running a race, you only see the people in front of you, and that can be a little disheartening. However, running back through a course with a head-on view of 100-some runners behind you lends a really nice perspective. I started to slow down a bit as the course wound back uphill. I broke away from Chris, who had been keeping me company since mile 1, at about the 2.5 mile mark. I probably could have pushed it harder, however finishing with a time of 22:32 on a slightly long course (3.18 miles) was a really decent effort for not having raced in just over two months. I finished 3rd woman overall and second in the 19-29 age category, which was pretty sweet considering I’m pushing 30. (I’m not a fan of competing against college kids and teenagers.) My overall place was 14th out of 139 runners.
This was a spectacular race. Very well organized with really friendly participants and a great community vibe. There was pizza and beer at the finish. I was awarded a pretty dense silver medal and crowned with a glittering Girls on the Run tiara. Runners of every age participated, from boys under ten to men in their 80s. It was truly a privilege to race with such a great group!
As evidenced above, the woman who finished first overall was also named Elizabeth, so upon first glancing the results sheet I could momentarily pretend I finished much faster than I did. The very sweet, older gentleman who placed the medal around my neck said to me, “My late wife Elizabeth would have loved to see so many Elizabeths winning,” which made me sort of sad in the moment, not in a bad way, but in a rather meaningful sense that punctuated the day’s festivities with an appropriate dose of transience I can’t take for granted. I’m ultimately very grateful this man shared his wife’s memory with me. I could tell he really loved her.
Afterwards, Chris and I made the requisite post-race visit to Starbucks, where I finally got to sample the new Flat White. It did not disappoint!