November 4th, 2010 was Run #1 in my Yoga Mat to 5K Challenge. Four months and nine days later I ran my first official 5K. With a posted time of 33:10 and a 10:41 pace, I feel elated, tired and strangely humbled by the whole experience.
Running in an actual race is everything you hear: the people cheering, clanging cowbells, the incredible energy of the crowd and the cute kids hanging out for “high fives” along the race route, it all contributes to an experience that literally races by. 3.1 miles have never gone so quickly.
While the experience itself, which I’ll get to more of in a moment, was amazing, the days leading up to the race were awful. My last pre-race run was truncated by both calves seizing up to the point where I couldn’t flex or point my feet without significant pain. Even the day before the race, they were still really tight and I was worried I’d start running only to have them freeze again and I’d be done.
The issues with my physical body created a vicious negative feedback loop in my brain. I’ve talked about self-talk here before, and that for 30 years I have believed, with out a doubt in my mind, that I am not fit, not athletic, can’t run and am hopeless at sports. In the past year, I have started dismantle these beliefs. It is a slow, gut-wrenching process with some mild successes and some failures.
When the issue with my calves came up and I thought that maybe I won’t be able to run on Sunday, it fed right into three decades of negative self-talk. All the “of course you can’t. You’ve never been able to do this. Why think you can do it now? You’re hopeless/worthless/not good at things like this” was right there at the surface. I was a mess and it just got worse as race day approached.
The night before I got about an hour or two of sleep. Most of the night was spent tossing and turning and trying to shut off the mental noise. I couldn’t get the voice to zip it. No matter what, though, I had committed to running this race and I was going to give it a try.
In the months to prior, I told people that all I wanted was to cross the finish line with a smile. Total horseshit. I wanted to do WELL. I wanted to run a respectable time (anything less than an 11 minute mile would be disgraceful) and I wanted to finish strong. Talk about putting pressure on myself!
Race day came, whether my mind or my calves were ready or not, so I got all dolled up in my little “costume” (hey, it’s a St Patrick’s race!), had a bite to eat (sprouted whole grain raisin toast with raw almond butter, sliced bananas and cinnamon), slugged down as much water as I could handle without having to pee mid-race, and off we went.
Luck was with us for weather: it was cool (COLD if you weren’t running) and it sprinkled just a little, but as I was told, the cool, humid air is perfect for running. I can see why. We warmed up quickly, thanks to a hill right off the bat, but my run buddy and I set an even pace and just kept hoofing it.
I was amazed at how quickly the first mile passed. Mile #2 was less thrilling as my calves started to tighten. I told them NO WAY IN HELL! I am not stopping. So I ran through it and while the tightness remained, the pain stayed away.
The rest was a blur, especially once we came around the final corner and saw the finish line. I really wish I had a camera but I was way to focused on running to take pictures. We were somewhat thwarted in our final sprint at the end. About 50′ to the finish line was a traffic jam of people, forcing everyone to stop and slowly walk over the finish line. Oh well. No photo finish but I finished. And with a HUGE smile. :)
Thirty years of negative self-talk dismantled in 33:10. Out of the 5112 registered runners, I don’t think anyone could have been happier. There was a LOT to celebrate. I am so grateful to all the wonderful women I ran with, those who supported and cheered from the sidelines and those we raised glasses with after.
So what does all this mean? Well, it means I know I’m not useless when it comes to running and that’s a big step in eliminating negative self-talk. I’ve been told that the “running bug” will bite and next thing I know I’ll be training for a marathon. Never say never, but right now I’m thrilled with completing 3.1 in a reasonable time.
(But I did register for the 18th Annual Corrib Classic 5K on June 5th. ::wink::)