My expectations were pretty low in terms of personal performance for this race for a few reasons. One, I had heard that the size of the crowd made it difficult to run. Two, I hadn't been training specifically for a 5k - I've been focusing on a 1/2 marathon coming up in December, which means I haven't been doing alot of speed work the past few weeks. Three, the day before I started getting that sinking feeling that usually signals the onset of some kind or cold or flu. So I was going into this race with an open mind, resigned to being satisfied just to be a part of such a great fund raising effort for such an important cause.
Saturday morning I arrived at the race site about 6:30, which was an hour and a half before race time of 8am. There was already a sizable crowd in the vendors area, but noone near the starting line. I headed over to the starting corral and did some stretching and light running to get warmed up. Soon a few other runners started appearing, and by 7am a good number of runners were gathering near the starting line. So I spent the next hour chatting with other runners about the typical runners topics - races, training, etc. The time flew by, and soon it was time for the National Athem (this was the first time I'd seen this done at a race), followed by a count down and then we were off!
Since I was so close to the starting line, I had no problem taking off at a good pace, and I found that the crowd thinned out pretty quickly. I was feeling good, so I decided to go ahead and try to break 25 minutes for the first time - which meant keeping about an 8min/mile pace. By 1/4 mile in, it could have been any race in terms of the size of the crowd around me. At about 1/2 mile in I checked my pace - 7:15 - which was way too fast, so I thought I'd better back off a bit. So I eased back to about 7:50. At the 1 mile mark, they had a clock (cool!) that said I think about 7:47 (also cool - I was ahead of my goal of 8min/mile). Mile 2 was fairly eventful - alot of spectators (we ran through a residential area), a few turns, few groups of cheerleaders, a water station where I accidentally spilled water on someone (I didn't get a good grip on the cup they were handing me - sorry!), so there were enough distractions to make the second mile go by pretty fast. The clock at mile 2 said 15:something - cool, still maintaining a sub-8min pace.
Then came the pain - mile 3!
As good as I felt during miles 1 and 2, mile 3 was a grind! I'll start by mentioning that I was wearing my heart rate monitor - great move! Seriously - if I hadn't had the confidence my heart rate info provided, I never would have been able to grind through the pain of mile 3 without slowing my pace. Everything hurt - my legs, my arms, I was t-i-r-e-d! My hr was hovering around 93-95%. I knew this was actually a good range for a 5k, so I just took it a step at a time, just kept going. Half way through the third mile (around mile 2.6) I was greeted by a hill - great, just what I needed - an extra challenge! I increased my arm swing and pushed on. Then came the stench - some horrible smell - imagine running by a sewage plant or landfill - I suddenly thought this might be the first time I throw up during a race. I checked my pace - still around 7:50. I was now at about mile mark 2.75. I thought to myself -
Finally I could see the starting line, which meant that the finish line was about .1 mile away. I don't remember seeing a clock at the 3 mile mark, but I may have missed it because by that point I was back near the start and the crowd was huge! I was surprised to see that there were still people just starting the race. I took a right, then a quick left and the finish line was in sight. At this point, I could see the time was close 24 minutes, and I decided that no amount of pain was going to keep me from missing this chance to finally break 25.
That last .1 was a blur, but before I knew it I was crossing the finish line and the clock said 24:24. I couldn't believe it. I felt close to tears thinking about all the training I've gone through over the past 10 months, starting from barely being able to run for 5 minutes, and here I was finishing a 5k in just over 24 minutes. It felt great to know that all of my hard work was paying off and that I was actually making progress.
Here's a snapshot of my official results:
So, overall it was a great experience. It's fun to set a new record, and especially sweet when it's part of something that is raising money and awareness for such an important cause.