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Race Reflections
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Race Reflections

Running a 5K is a lot like life… This thought occurred to me as I ran along the path of my first 5K with tunes in my ears and a sandy ground beneath me. How I decided to run this particular 5K is a story in itself but I can sum it up pretty quickly: I made a list of things I wanted to do this year on January 1, 2011-like most Americans-and a 5K was on that list.

Throughout this year I had thought about running a 5K and apparently it’s not the thought that counts because I hadn’t been able to cross this off my list. On Sunday November 20, 2011 I was tired of letting this 5K intimidate me and I was sick of making excuses as to why I could not do it. Enter big sister, great runner here. I called my sister and asked two questions that will forever change my life: 1. How far is a 5K in miles? Obviously I hadn’t taken this goal all that seriously since I didn’t even know how far I was committing to running. 2. When is the next race? My sister informed me that a 5K was approximately 3.1 miles and she would be running the Reindeer Stampede on November 26, 2011. Sounds great, count me in...

I had never run three miles in my life but I was going to do it in a race on Saturday…six days to train. My older sister ever the optimist and my personal cheerleader assured me that I could do it. This time I chose to believe her and signed up for the race before I changed my mind. Monday evening I mailed my registration and headed to the YMCA to see if I could actually run 3.1 miles. I got on the treadmill with two goals in mind: one, run 3.1 miles and two, do it in less than 40 minutes. I put my headphones in and started counting the number of songs it took to run 3.1 miles. I lost count somewhere in between the fourth song and thinking my heart would explode on that treadmill. Fighting thoughts of “just quit” and “no, don’t”, I finished 3.1 miles in 34 minutes and 51 seconds. So it seems I could run 3.1 miles and the next time I would do that again would be on Saturday because I could barely walk the next three days!

Race day came and I wondered if I was supposed to do anything special to prepare myself. I decided that I would just do my normal morning routine so I had two cups of coffee and watched the news. I did decide that a 20 minute yoga session would probably be helpful and I stretched every muscle. When I dressed for the race, I made sure to not look like a runner AT ALL; I didn’t want any strangers to have preconceived notions that I actually knew what I was doing. My husband thought I should wear shorts because I might get hot while running in my most comfortable jogging pants. I assured him that I would rather be comfortable in the emergency room with my jogging pants than with shorts while running. I was convinced that my day would involve an emergency room and a team of medical professionals at some point.

I had very few details of this day to share with anyone who had questions. All I knew was that I was to show up at my sister’s house at 9 and I would run 3.1 miles at 10:15. I would be able to cross a 5K off my list by noon. We arrived at the Reindeer Stampede and I got my long sleeve t-shirt (huge bonus) and my number. I pinned my number on my shirt using three pins, tip one. My sister offered me some goopy stuff which I respectfully declined with a raised eyebrow. She finished her goopy stuff and I finished my water.

It was time…but not until we went to the bathroom. I thought this would be my last chance to escape because there was a long line and it was 10:05. I explained there was no way I could run if I didn’t get to the bathroom and the race would probably start before I could do that-oh well, maybe next time. My sister assured me there would be plenty of time and I needn’t worry about missing the race. Yeah. She was right…plenty of time. And now it was time.

I had two goals: one, finish the race; two, not come in last. I looked to my left and apparently, had a new goal-don’t let the guy on crutches beat you. Something about take your mark…and we were off. I had to find a pace that would work for me as we started to run. I was surprised that I had people behind me; I was not surprised about those in front of me.

As we traveled along the path I thought I was doing a pretty good job…right up to the point that I saw people running toward me. These were the people that were on their way to finishing the race and I hadn’t even made it to mile one. Seriously?!

I trudged along wondering how far I had gone I thought I was on the third song or so. That was when it occurred to me that running a 5K was a lot like life in many ways. Those people I just saw running toward the finish line were the above average people; the people who work really hard at what they do-one specific thing that they excel at doing. It doesn’t make them any better than the next person in the grand scheme of things but in this thing, this is where they excel. I would never be one of them and that was fine by me. I wasn’t there to prove something to them or anyone else. I was there to prove something to myself. I could run a 5K. Better than that, I was running a 5K. I was actually doing it. It was during this excitement that I saw it…the blue pole telling us how far we had run. Eyes wide, I exclaimed, “what?!” Complete disbelief as I read one mile.

That little voice that told me to quit at the Y on Monday threatened to enter my head but I just laughed. Typical. That was life. Life is not easy, sometimes you feel like quitting but you can’t just quit life so you can’t just quit a 5K. You just don’t do that so I had no choice but to forge ahead. I continued thinking about this more inspirational thought that a 5K was like life and I began to draw a few parallels.

This particular race that I chose was a trail in the woods that had roots spray painted white over sandy ground and small hills (it is Delaware, after all). I thought about how nice this would be to walk but that wasn’t what I was doing. I was running after all with a goal of finishing this race. I took a moment to look around and it was beautiful, I only wished I had time to enjoy the view and the beauty that surrounded me. Much like life, I could not slow down to have an in depth look but merely a glimpse of what was around me. I took a moment to be thankful.

I thought about that next blue pole and what it might say. I really was so focused on the ground beneath me and not falling down that I had not recalled seeing one which meant that I had not gone another half mile. I kept pushing forward. I never looked behind me. I wondered what was behind me but I only went forward, no time to look back. Much like life. I knew my sister was ahead of me forging the path for me. I shook my head at the thought of my older sister making sure everything was in order in front of me; making sure the path was safe; doing everything before me and waiting for me in the end. Much like life. My sister has always done everything first, she is eight years older. I don’t always take her advice but I always ask for it because she has been where I am.

Ah, the blue pole-speak to me! Two miles! I was almost 2/3 of the way there. I could totally do this now. And this is why you cannot quit life. Much like those hills that are up and down and the ground beneath you is not always secure; you continue on and work through it. I thought about that for a moment. About how easily we give up in life when things get too hard; how quickly we throw in the towel when times are tough. Then I thought about people who cannot quit life. People who are doing much more important things in the world and just cannot quit because other people are depending on them to get the job done. I thought about our military and how they can’t just quit even though sometimes they might want to give up. I ran a little faster at the thought that somewhere someone probably wanted to quit life. Don’t quit.

I focused on the people in front of me. One person was a girl I knew that had run a 5K and as long as she was in my sight I knew I would finish. Directly in front of me was someone I called Ponytail. I hoped she wouldn’t quit or stop running. I wanted to walk so badly at this point but I stayed focused. Ponytail grabbed her side, I thought she would walk and I would be relieved because that would give me permission to stop. Then I thought about those behind me. While she was my inspiration, I could be someone else’s inspiration and I could not let them down. I kept running thinking about how in life there are leaders all around us and sometimes we are the leader.

At some point I did walk for about ten seconds but quickly picked back up. It was at this point my eyes widened and I recognized where we were without a blue pole! I had been here! This is where the other runners that were finishing the race had passed us. The end was in sight. The blue pole said 2.5 miles. Only six-tenths of a mile left. I was going to finish my first 5K. I picked up the pace. Just like in life, something inspires you to push through the tough times knowing in the end the satisfaction will be tasty!

The last half mile took forever. I wondered where my sister was; I wondered if she would come back for me. I knew she was finished by now. I saw a runner on the trail that had finished the race, with pleading eyes I asked, “Am I almost finished?” He answered encouragingly, “Just over the slope and you’re finished. You can do it!” I could. I would do it.

That was when I saw her come over the trail and I was so happy to see her! Much like life. “You can do it. You’re almost there.” I didn’t need the music anymore. I took out my headphones so I could hear her voice. It was the same voice I heard in my head all along that trail. Much like life. “You’re almost there.” The end was almost in sight I could feel it. I forged ahead. And there it was the finish line. “Run.” “Go, Lisa.” I finished the race in 34 minutes and 16 seconds. I was so happy to have accomplished this goal in front of her and my children. Much like life.

I placed in that race. That’s right, I placed. Number 180. But more important than that, I finished the 5K and accomplished a goal. I may have developed a new hobby in the process. What started out as something to cross off my list taught me more in 34 minutes than I had learned that whole year. I took a moment to slow down, look around and be thankful for everything that I had in my life. Thankful I didn’t quit. Thankful I just went for it. Thankful.


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