Sunday, May 9, 2010


If every blog entry represents a story, or part of one, this one starts in the middle. Yesterday was the 2010 Sole Burner 5K. I ran in it. It was my first 5K, and I finished it--all of it running, even the Hill of Hope (or as i have been calling it in dread for the past few months, That Damn Hill), in a respectable (for me) time.

That's the middle of the story. The beginning? Well, it depends on how far back you want to go. I could go back as far as grade school, or high school, but that makes the story longer.

So the background information you need is this: all my life, I was not a runner. No matter how in shape I was, or how athletic, I never ran. I Was Not A Runner.

The real story begins in...oh, October of 2008. The cast of characters includes a group of very dear friends, and the setting a lovely apartment with a lake view. There was a gathering--the very first wine club. Four of the wine club members had recently (that day? I think) run a local 5K as a team, and took first place. As we all talked about it and celebrated with them, one of them (maybe all of them) turned to me and said "You should run it with us next time!"

I was flabbergasted. Me? Run a 5K? Were they kidding? Have they looked at me lately? I would just embarrass myself even trying to run with these people.....but that comment stuck with me. I mean, they must have thought I could do it, to say that, right? And I remembered that a year ago, the day before I found out I was pregnant with Benjamin, I had found this training program called Couch to 5K. That sounded about right...maybe I could try it.

There were a lot of fits and starts, but I really started in earnest in Spring 2009. I was part of an online community of friends, and many of the community members were also doing C25K. So I started, on the treadmill. I did some crosstraining in the pool. Later that summer, I ventured outside, and made it up to 2.5 miles by September. Then, the semester came, and I fell off the wagon, hard. By Christmas, though, I was ready to recommit. I had asked for a Garmin Forerunner 305 for Christmas, and got it. And, I was sick of feeling gross, fat, and out of shape. So back to the gym I went. Had some setbacks along the way (shin splints, ew), but made it through the C25K program.

And this brings me to yesterday, standing in City Park in Appleton with about 6000+ other people in the 39 degree weather, with a slight rain and wind, waiting for the start of the Sole Burner. I had been nervous all week, because my training runs leading up to the race were not going well. I just felt kind of burned out on training. So I stopped--Monday before the race was my last "long" (for me) run. I spent the week resting and reminding myself of the one thing that had kept me going...a good run was really quite fun. It felt good. And that's what I signed up to do...have fun, and just finish. That's all I needed to do. The week before the race, the weather forecast got progressively worse. Finally, the night before my race, my parents and I (I was staying at their place in Neenah the night before) sat on their couch and chastised George Graphos for having the nerve to SMILE when he talked about the prediction of snow and rain on the morning of May 8.

As I drifted off to sleep in the little bedroom at my parents' house, in the bed my son sleeps in when he stays over, I told myself that no matter what, I could say my first race was an adventure. The next morning, I woke up to sprinkles and chilly temperatures....but no snow. The rain continued as I drove to Appleton, but it eventually slowed to a slight mist. I stood in the park and watched the kids run around the block in two separate fun runs, and took in the scene. Thousands of people, all with their own stories, united in a common goal of challenging themselves (whether it be in a walk or a run) and in raising money for the American Cancer Society. I saw many t-shirts with dedications to cancer patients on them. I heard one mom say to her daughters, "remember, this is for Grandma!" I saw a man with a shirt saying "I survived cancer and 53's my birthday!" It was a poignant scene, at once sad and celebratory.

This is a big race, and everyone starts at once. Since I knew I was not an elite racer, I lined up towards the back, so there was quite the bottleneck at the beginning. It took over a minute to get through the start, but eventually we were off. We headed toward College Avenue, and then over the new College Avenue bridge. I wish I could give more details about the race itself, but it seemed to go so fast! Here are the things I remember, in chronological order.

**The walkers off to the side who were singing songs as they went
**The beautiful old homes on Franklin and on College Avenue, and people coming out of the houses to watch.
**Someone shouting out "One Mile!" as we came off the bridge, and me thinking "already?"
**The first hill on South River, which many people around me stopped and walked up, even though it was pretty minor to me. That was my first clue that maybe my training had really done something for me after all.
**The water station. I didn't need it, but there were volunteers there cheering us on.
**"TWO MILES!" A volunteer calling out our times, which were about 1:20 off from what my Garmin said
**Wondering when I'd see my parents...I wasn't sure where they'd be.
**Coming around Olde Oneida, where one woman cheered every runner on, shouting "Just one curve and a tiny little hill to go, and you're done!" and "Smile! I want to see smiles! You don't have to breathe, just smile!" It made me laugh
**Seeing my parents' van parked in a lot, and knowing I'd see them soon.
**Glancing across the way at the upcoming Hill of Hope, grimacing, and hearing the person next to me laugh knowingly at my expression
**Hearing a man say to his partner, "just one more hill honey, then we're done"
**Seeing my mom and dad clapping for me, hearing my mom saying "You're almost home!"
**Approaching the Hill of Hope--this is where I finally turned on my iPod, and listening to "Sabotage"--perfect.
**Getting on the hill and thinking "this actually isn't so big..."
**Getting to the top, scanning for my husband and sons, knowing they were at the top somewhere. Running through two walkers accidentally--sorry about that, ladies.
**Seeing Steve, Matthew, and Benjamin, giving Steve a high five and telling him "I made it up the hill!"
**Seeing the finish line, and deciding to sprint toward it
**Getting a little exasperated that people were stopping BEFORE the finish arch we had to run through
**Being done. 33:50, according to my Garmin. Official time, 35:05

I immediately started walking back to where I saw Steve and the boys, thinking they'd make their way toward the park to find me. When I caught up with them, they presented me with a "medal" they had made--it said #1-Good Job, Mom! I couldn't ask for a better prize.

So, that's the middle of the story. It's the middle, because I loved everything about that race. I'll do it again, and I'm going to try to keep going with this. I owe a lot of people thanks--my husband, for never complaining about watching the kids when I would go to the gym or out for a run. And for telling me I WAS going to go out even when I really didn't want to. And for believing in me. J, B, K, and J for being the first to inspire me. MATH for keeping me going. A for inspiring me with her own determination and success in becoming a healthier person through WW. So many more for cheering me on. And that's the story. I'll never be an elite, and that's just fine with me. But I think I can actually say this now, something I never dreamed I would say...I am a runner.


dharmagirl said...

yay, yay, hooray! your story made me smile and laugh and shed a tear. i'm so glad your first race was such an amazing experience. i can't wait for some summer runs together, once i get back into running shape:)

SmileyWeasley said...

Congrats! What a great accomplishment! That takes a lot of work, and I'm really excited for you that you did it with a great time and you feel good too!
Thanks for the shout out about WW! That was really nice!
~A :)

Libby said...

So, as I was commenting on Badgergirl's post about the Sole Burner 5K I happen to see your comment. I was there with my family and totally wanted to run, but I ended up just walking with them due to an injury :( Congrats on getting through your first 5K! I hope you have more planned in the future and I loved reading your comments about the actual race, most of which I encountered too. Congrats again and with a great time!