Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The (first) 5K

Source: Sign website

So this past weekend (June 19th), my sister and I ran my first 5K together.  For those of us NOT in the metric system (tiny minority of the world, but probably the majority of my readers), that's the equivalent of about 3 miles.  Now this wasn't the first time I'd run 3 miles, nor was it the first 5K that I had wanted to run.  It's just the first official 5K I've ever completed.

You see, I was never much of a runner (or an athlete for that matter).  I was always the brainy (read: nerdy and uncoordinated) type as a child.  More than running or playing outside I preferred reading or crafting.  Quiet, indoor, and preferably sedentary activities.  My sister and friends would be running and playing tag or hide-and-seek, but I really preferred watching from afar: putting together my new K'Nex set or reading from my ChildCraft Children's Encyclopedias (I kid you not-those books were AMAZING).  Anyway, more to the point, I was just very inactive.

We lived on a hill, and my driveway was a hill; I never learned to ride a bike.  Still don't know how to ride a bike.  I walked a block to my elementary school and then was always driven to my middle school.  Not being from a traditional "American" family, my parents never thought to sign me up for Little League or Junior Cheerleading or anything like that.  I'm sure if I had professed an interest in soccer or softball they would've supported me, but I just never did.  I was not much of a fan for sweating or getting dirty.

My middle school gym teacher told me I was "as sharp as a marble" when it came to picking up sports and games.  My high school gym teacher told me to move once in a while so as not to "kill the grass."  I even had a gym teacher who BRIBED me to run the mile.  If I didn't walk at least ONE lap and came in under 13 minutes he would wear his earring to our class one day (this was after a friend and I realized the small dimple in his ear was not a mole but an empty piercing).

Anyway, I guess the first time I really got into running was my junior year in college.  One of my closest friends was on the track team at school and I decided this would be a good way for me to get in shape and start enjoying everything Duke had to offer.  My roommate that year was a runner (she ran to stay in shape) and so I got started.  To be honest my first run was to blow off steam and stop myself from puking all over the place.  I had just learned that my college ex had hooked up with someone new and was feeling the waves of nausea that I now understood lay under his rage and hurt when I had moved on several months earlier.

I put my sneakers on, my roommate actually asked where I was going, it was around 7pm at night.  I told her I was running to East Campus and back (about 4 miles roundtrip).  As soon as I stepped foot outside my dorm, it started to drizzle.  Somehow it seemed poignant and "right."  I started to run.  It rained harder.  I only got to the Freeman Center on Campus Drive before turning around but still ran a good 2.5 miles that night.  And that was the beginning.

I loved the feeling of running.  It was so primal.  So physical.  I felt the road beneath my feet.  I felt the pebbles beneath the feet.  And Duke was so perfect for running.  Not only were there so many quads and the three campuses, East Campus had a gravel running loop, the golf course had a trail around it in the Duke Forest, the gym was beautiful and well-equipped.  Running was convenient at Duke.  It was at Duke that I first decided to run a 5K.  I was regularly running the Duke golf course trail (about a 2.9 mile loop).  Although if you count the distance from my dorm to the trail and back it was easily over 3 miles.  In the Durham heat.  So I figured a 5K was no biggie.

I talked my new roommate (a former swimmer and lifeguard) to run it with me.  I had been convincing her to join me on my indoor runs on the track suspended above the basketball courts in the gym.  She agreed.  I was really excited.  This was a 5K for a children's charity and it was going to be around Duke's campus.  I woke up the week before the 5K and headed out for brunch with a few friends... I noticed there were water tables on campus and arrows and signs for the 5K I had wanted to run... I had misremembered the date of the 5K.  It was already over that day and I had been too hungover and sleepy to even notice the runners on campus.  GIANT. FAIL.

After that, I don't think I ever really wanted to do a 5K again.  If I brought up the subject, I was promptly reminded of that time I was too collegey (re: drunk) to run a 5K and then laughed at.  However, this year shortly after my birthday, I decided to run a marathon.  I figured a) I always said I wanted to but why not actually do it this year, and b) it's about time I commit to something tough and actually follow through.  Completely fortuitously, this little fact came out during a study session with a classmate.  He had run 3 marathons previously and was training for one this coming fall (when I had planned to run).  He shared helpful tips and wonderful advice.

A few weeks later he forwarded me an email (running newsletter) that somehow got me to a website for the RunaMuck 5K.  It sounded like SO much fun that I forwarded the event to my sister and asked if she was interested (sister was a 3 season varsity runner for all 4 years of high school and ran the Boston Marathon in 2008).  We signed up and waited ... I got cold feet and wanted to back out ... she wouldn't let me... And that's how I found myself at the Registration table in Harriman State Park on a beautiful June morning.

To cut myself off - that race has been one of the MOST fun events in my life.  It was tough, I'm not going to lie.  Even though I started regularly running about 6 weeks ago, I had never really run on terrain (up and downhill, on a random trail, over rocks and dry leaves) not to mention the random obstacles that the 5K is known for (including 3 separate mud pits, a bungee maze, 2 balance beam walks over rocks, mini-climbing wall, hurdles, and a walk through the lake).  It was tough, but in the end I felt great - accomplished for actually showing up and for finishing.

Need to edit and there's so much more to say but I have to wake up at 6:30 to babysit two raucous 10 year old boys for over 12 hours, so this'll have to do for now...

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