Veteran’s Day 5K Race Recap
That’s what my RunKeeper app says about my race today. In reality, it’s a few seconds shy of that, probably something like 39:15 or so.
My first impulse? To beat myself up, of course.
A whole year of running (well….) and all I did was shave off four stinking minutes from my time?
The race today was not easy. I had hoped that it would just be an easy run, feel great, because I’m deep in my 10K training right now. I’ve been running 4 and 5 miles consistently for over a month now. Two, three days a week. I wanted today to just be a total breeze, so I could really feel that I have worked hard and it’s paid off. It shows. It should be palpable. Obvious.
Except it wasn’t.
The Veteran’s Day Race is a beautiful thing. There are soliders who do the honor guard. There’s a ceremony where flowers are laid at a memorial. There are lots of vets who are there and sharing the moment. There’s the most beautiful, stirring rendition of “God Bless America” you’ve heard in a long time. It makes you proud to be doing this race. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.
Which is a good thing, because the course kind of sucks.
The course at today’s race was essentially three loops around the campus of our local VA Hospital. The hospital is on a hill. Therefore, you have to run up a sizable hill three times in the course of this 5K. In retrospect, it is a lousy first choice of a 5K. It’s a wonder that I ever bothered to do another one. I remember those hills feeling so hard last year. I walked up the hill two out of the three times last year. The hills made the flat part of the course very, very unenjoyable.
Today wasn’t as hard as last year. I started out strong, feeling good about the pacing and breathing. The first time up the hill felt hard, but I was careful to watch my pace on the flat part of the course (aka the parking lot) and got my wind back. I felt better for the second loop, even though it is hard to know that the fast people passing you while you’re in the second loop are actually on their THIRD loop. I felt a little discouraged at that point.
Still, it wasn’t as hard as I remembered. Hard, yes. The second time up the hill I thought, this really should be easier, but it isn’t. I kept moving just the same, getting pretty discouraged around the half way point. This wasn’t the breeze I’d hoped for. I had no idea how fast I was going, despite RunKeeper in my ear. I just was thinking about the loops.
Somewhere in the middle of the third loop I let myself do about thirty seconds of walking. I knew the hill was coming and I had to catch my breath. I looked behind me and again had that feeling that I was the last of the people who were attempting to run this thing. I passed more people who had started out running but who were now walking.
And then, the hill. I plodded up slowly trying to stay moving without walking. My running at this point was probably other people’s walk pace. But I willed myself to not walk the hill, and I didn’t. Once that was over, I knew I was in the homestretch. Not feeling great, mind you. There wasn’t enough time after the hill to get that burst of energy I often feel after I catch my breath past a hill. There was just enough, though, for me to pull a final sprint towards the finish line. I could see 38:57 on the timer as I approached, and my heart sank. I had hoped to get in under 39:00.
But then I saw them. My husband and all three of my kids, my son’s fiancee, and my dog.
They weren’t there last year when I ran this. The two younger kids were in school, the older one was working in DC, and my husband was at work. But this year, they were there, cheering me on. Encouraging me all the way. I had seen them just before the start of the race, and they were there at the corner of each loop, pushing me forward.
So instead of feeling my disappointment in my slower than wanted time, I swallowed it and let my family enthuse about how I’d run the race four minutes faster than last year. I let them hug my sweaty self and posed for pictures with them. I thought about how wonderful it was that they had come to surprise and support me. And I told myself to stop listening to the negative voice in my head that was using the word “only” and “not” so much.
It might not have been perfect, but it was still a good race. I was faster than last year. I was stronger, more capable. And next year, I’ll be even more so. Because I will be there again next year, with all of those amazing vets, and the other runners. And my family.
And that will be amazing.