… so begins the book of Genesis. “Genesis” is defined as the origin or formation of something. Just as that awe-inspiring creation account didn’t happen overnight, the creation of a runner can be a long process. For this particular runner, it was a REALLY long, slow, and sometimes very frustrating process.
From my last entry, you know I was a slow, lumpy, not-quite-thirty year old determined to make a change. It was also the time of year that those of us in northeast Ohio are feeling extra lethargic after spending an entire fall and winter cooped up inside, eating comfort foods, and watching our favorite sports team(s) break our hearts. Usually it is May or even June before the thaw wears off and I shake myself out of a coma, only to realize I’m sadly out of shape for participating in the (extremely short) season for outdoor activities.
So last year I was determined it would be different. I would start getting in shape before summer rolled around. And what does a slow, lumpy, not-quite-thirty year old who hates running do? She signs up for a 5K, logically.
A 5K, for those of you that can’t do random metric conversions in your head, is 3.1 miles. Not exactly an epic distance, but for someone who couldn’t even jog a half mile, quite a daunting task. I had no delusions of grandeur, there was no chance of finishing with any kind of impressive time. I just wanted to be able to run the entire distance without walking. Oh, and not die.
I knew the only way to complete such a crazy stunt was to pre-register for race, forcing myself in to a deadline. For those of you that don’t know me, follow-through is not always one of my best qualities. (Just ask my husband about our half-painted bedroom … and the scrapbooking supplies strewn all over the basement … you get the picture.) But once I clicked the send button on that online application, the fee was non-refundable. If there’s anything I hate more than being out of shape, it’s wasting money!
So I started by alternating short running spurts with longer walking segments. Actually, I use the term “running” quite liberally. It was more like a slightly faster than snail’s pace, lead-footed jog. But the first time I plodded through one continuous mile, I was elated. In retrospect, I think the fact that I was so bad at it was actually part of the appeal. I enjoyed the challenge, and it made me work that much harder to improve.
As the weeks passed, the running segments got longer and the walking got shorter. I usually made it about two miles, although one particularly good day, I pushed it over three.
And so as May 22 approached, I felt mildly prepared. And a little bit scared. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, and I didn’t want to stand out as newbie. (I even read articles online about how NOT to look like a rookie, which pretty much sounds exactly like something a rookie would do!)
Standing at the starting line and looking around at my fellow racers, I realized I had worried for nothing. Although there were a few uber-toned road warriors, plenty were average joes, with a generous sprinkling of senior citizens, moms pushing strollers, and overweight middle-aged men squeezing in to twenty year old running shorts. I felt much better. (Little did I know those senior citizens would blow past me and never look back!)
I managed to settle in to a steady pace and held it for the first two miles before I was really feeling it. I was very tempted to walk, but I knew if I did I’d never be able to start running again. So I just kept churning along. Hot, sweaty, but determined not to quit, that last mile took every last bit of effort I could muster up. Crossing the finish line was an amazing feeling, even if the picture my husband took makes it look like I’m about to collapse.
And so, I finished my first 5K, with a time of 36:20, or about an average of a 12 minute mile. I wasn’t in last place, in fact, I was right about in the middle of my age group. And I didn’t die. But I did take a three hour nap that afternoon, and I was sore for a few days.
Later that week something crazy happened … I started looking for another race to sign up for.