Saturday, February 13, 2010

My first official run

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina! 5K! My first race!
After four weeks of practicing running, what would it be like? What would happen?

Yesterday, the news castes made it clear: the snow covering the rest of the US would not bypass South Carolina and it was not clear that the 5K would be run that evening. Luckily the snow stayed away most of the day and the organization decided to let the run go on. Yeah! (note: this morning the half-marathon and marathon were canceled because of the weather.)

Half an hour before the race, I arrived at the starting line. People were jumping around to keep themselves warm. No shorts where worn, everyone was dressed in long sweatpants and layers of shirts. NorthFace clearly has a huge customer base among runners.

Everyone was excited and ready. As we were counting down, the first snow flakes started to fall. What a surreal experience. I had to laugh because I thought it funny that the snow was joining me in my first experience so far from home. Who could have imagined this happening on the beach in South Carolina where normally it is around 50 - 60 degrees Fahrenheit at this time of the year.

People were asked to line up by their relative speed and so I diligently had put myself towards the back of the group. I knew I would not be one of the fastest and wanted to make sure others who were faster than me wouldn't get stuck behind me.

Mile One

Over the first mile, I spent a lot of time passing others, people running next to each other at speeds that felt too slow for me. It reminded me of times I walk with Mark through busy shopping areas and we pass people by walking faster, finding little holes between baby strollers, kids, and parents so we can be on our way.

As I moved through the crowd, I experienced different attitudes and emotions. Towards the back, people seemed to use suffering as a way to motivate themselves to keep going. You could hear sighing, whining and complaining pretty much everywhere. I guess that these were probably first timers like me, but ones who were not confident that they could run the complete distance, or who somehow believed that suffering and complaining would get them to the finish!

After passing this group, I got to a new area where children were running with their parents and where other groups ran together who had cheerleaders running with them. People called out, "Come on you can do it!" or "You have been running 5 minutes!" or "Wow, look at that snow, amazing!"

What a different attitude! What fun!

Finding My Groove
As I found a comfortable pace, I got into a quiet group, the group of people who knew they could run the complete distance, but for whom it was also still a challenge. Not the fast ones, not the complaining ones, but the between ones focused on breathing, pacing and muscles.

Here, I passed some amazing fast walkers. I have never seen anyone walk that fast before. I was in awe.

I also was in awe at all the children running. And I was especially in awe and grateful for the spectators who were standing along the sideline, cheering us on while it was snowing. They didn’t care I wasn’t their daughter running by, they didn’t care that I was not their friend, they just cheered and wanted to create an atmosphere of support for everyone running.

The Third Mile
After two miles I got tired, but by then I also knew I would make it. I knew that I could make the finish without having to walk one step. I could do my first run, running all the way. However, This last part of the race seemed to me to be quite long. I heard people celebrating at the finish line, but it sounded sooooo far away, and after every corner where I expected to see finish line, there was another corner in the distance…

By the time I got to the finish, I did not speed up, but I also did not slow down. I ran, and ran, and ran until everyone started applauding and I knew I was there. My first thought when I arrived: I wanted to drink, I wanted to eat, and I wanted to find a bathroom…. Forget celebration. Forget being proud. I just wanted to pee!

However, my celebratory part showed once my senses were satisfied. Wow I did it! I did it! I did it! I am a runner. I am a runner.

Hieper de pieper de piep, Hoera (a Dutch expression in celebrations).

The Results

Here some quick stats: there were 673 runners; I finished as number 361, at 33 minutes 17 seconds. The fastest female ran 21 minutes 49 seconds and the slowest 57 minute 38 seconds.

What an amazing experience! Now I know I can do it and I believe you can do it too. Just like the other 672 children, adults, parents and grand parents. So, I invite you to join me in this process. My next target is running a 10K on April 11, 2010.

What, when and where are you going to run? If not running, what would you like to do that you've never done or never thought you could do?

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