The morning was overcast and cool when I rolled out of bed at 5:30 am to prepare for the Woodbury Country Mile 5k, which would start at 7:10 am.
I followed my usual pre-race routine, with the exception of my morning bagel, simply because I ran out of time. I arrived at the race location with enough time to exchange my race shirt, chug some water, and strap on my iPod armband.
The 5k participants waited at the top of the hill to clap as the half marathon participants were released. Looking down the hill, I realized the first leg should be easy but the home stretch wouldn’t be, since we’d have to come back up this hill, plus another into the parking lot of the shopping center where the race was starting and ending. But, I told myself it was too soon to think about that.
Once all of those running the half marathon rounded the first corner, the 5k runners started lining up. The usual bouncing around and stretching was going around on me. The town’s mayor and the high school student who designed the shirt logo were introduced and an overview of the race’s history and the day’s course were given while the timing mat was set up. Once it was in place, the start of the race was announced.
I started myself about half way in the pack, which is where I typically like to start. It keeps the walkers behind me and the fast runners ahead of me, so there are fewer people to dodge and fewer who have to dodge me.
The first half of the race went very quickly. I couldn’t believe how quickly I got to the half-way water stop. Unfortunately, I was handed Gatorade instead of water, so I took once sip and tossed it aside. I guess that would be the downside of sharing a course with a half marathon!
The course wound through wooded suburban terrain, with rolling hills throughout. It was a pretty run and I could almost forget where I was…upper class suburbia…until we ran past a few monstrous houses with matching in-ground swimming pools.
At one point, about 2 miles into the course, I thought I was going to tackle a few girls. For some reason, when we got to the top of a downhill portion, most of those within my sight in front of me put on the brakes. Two teenage girls practically stopped in front of me, then zig-zagged from one side of the trail to the other in front of me. I enjoy letting the momentum take me when running down hills, so I finally zipped between them saying, “Excuse me, girls!” then running down the hill.
The last mile or so of the race was difficult because my mind just wasn’t in it. Going into the day, I really wanted to set a new PR of sub 33 minutes, but I told myself there are more races. I even took two walking breaks of less than 30 seconds each. This race was a bit of a struggle. Reasons for the struggle may have been the early race time, the fact that it was a Sunday morning, that I didn’t drink enough water the previous day or that I didn’t have time for my pre-race bagel, but it was just tough.
When we rounded the corner to run back of the leg where we started, I was shocked at how easy the hill was! It didn’t even look as steep or as long as it had when we started. It was a piece of cake. Around the next corner was the hill to our last turn. This hill was fairly short, but steeper. I just dug in and told myself I wasn’t backing down. I was going to finish this one strong. When I spotted the event photographer, I smiled and gave the thumbs up.
At the last corner, I turned left and headed toward the finish line. When I could finally see the time clock, it said 32:12. If I ran fast enough, I would be able to make my goal for this race! I kicked it into high gear and gave it everything I had. My official time was 32:46…I had made my goal!
I’m sure the spectators thought I was crazy. I was grinning from ear to ear and just about in tears from being so proud of myself. I wanted to shout, “I hit a new PR!” I’m sure some of the other runners would have understood, but instead I silently drank a bottle of water, ate half a cinnamon sugar bagel and downed some chocolate milk.
Once I’d re-energized through food and drink, I stuck around to watch the first finishers from the half marathon cross the line. I was amazed at the first runner who came in just under 1:30:00…I still believe these people are super-human. I’m in awe of them; especially when the first runner casually grabbed a bottle of water and sauntered around chatting with people immediately following the race. Why didn’t he look tired?
Anyway, my pace for the 5k was 10:33, which is my fastest by 23 seconds per mile! I now know that a sub 30 minute 5k could actually happen in my future and much sooner than I ever dreamed. I’m amazed at myself and how far I’ve come in less than a year with my running.
That half marathon pact I made with a few friends for 2012 is looking less and less intimidating and that’s something I never thought I’d say!
Pictures from the 5k can be seen here: