Newtown 5K Road Race Recap
I hadn’t planned to run a race today. I am running a 4 mile race in NYC and I didn’t think that it would make sense to run races two weekends in a row. But when I got up this morning at 6:45, I knew I needed to get in a decent run today to prepare for that race. My runs this week were all below the three mile mark, and I needed to get a longer run in. I intended on running four miles.
But I knew this race was going on up in Newtown today. I had seen it online and knew someone running it. And the first thing I thought of this morning when I was putting my running clothes on was the race this morning. If I was running anyway, wouldn’t it make sense for it to mean something?
I went online to check out the particulars, wavered for about ten minutes. I’ve never done a race day registration, I’ve always signed up in advance. I didn’t know where the race was being held, hadn’t eaten properly the night before, wouldn’t know anyone there. But something told me I’d regret not going if I didn’t. I left as soon as I decided, not giving myself time to change my mind. I was sure when I got up to the park where it was being held that it would feel like the right choice.
I was right.
I got to the race site early, and it was already warm and humid. The park was easy to find with my GPS and I got my bib number quickly. It gave me an hour to kind of soak it all in. The race benefits Newtown Youth and Family Services, and surely they need a lot of support after this last year. But the mood pre-race wasn’t morose or sad. It was communal. This race is in its 8th year, so it wasn’t a special event just because of what happened. The people running this race mostly ran it last year, and are locals. It felt like this was the heart of the town. These were people who really cared, not people who just showed up because of the magnitude of the tragedy. It wasn’t a badge of honor for these people to be there; it just was something they felt strongly enough to do.
And I did end up knowing someone at the race, after all. As I was walking around to warm up (already being plenty warm, actually, with the heat) I saw a friend who is working for our local cable company. He was coming to cover the race for the public access channel. I hadn’t expected him there and it was lovely to see him and catch up with him.
The hour passed quickly and I lined up in the back of the pack, nervously chatting with those around me about the hill I could plainly see up ahead. It was warm and humid. All the people who knew the course mentioned several different hills; not a fast, flat course like the last few I’ve run. I resolved to just do what I could do. I wasn’t here to do anything but get in a good run and have it help towards a good cause.
We started out. The first hill was, as expected, unpleasant, but fortunately not very long. I eased into a nice steady pace, not making my usual mistake of starting off too fast. There were no mile markers, but I had my RunKeeper in my ears; the first mile ticked off fairly well. With 600+ runners I had plenty of company in the back of the pack, but no one really keeping pace with me.
Around the second mile we hit another decent hill; I took my first walk break to get to the crest of it. I could really feel the humidity wearing on me, but thankfully, it wasn’t sunny. There was a bit of a breeze too. I kept going until the water station, where I took another quick walk break. I downed half of the water and poured the rest over my head. I never have done that, but today was the right day for it.
Somewhere around mile 2.5 we left the roads and entered a trail for the remainder of the race. It was hard to keep focus because so many people around me were walking. It was a totally mental thing: I saw them walking, and I wanted to walk too. I walked another quick thirty seconds and then kept going. I looked at my RunKeeper and saw we were at 2.6 miles. I felt that same awful tiredness I’d felt at the same point a few weeks ago. I wanted to stop, I wanted to walk, it was so hot. I slowed down and enjoyed the downhill until we got close to the park again. At 35 minutes my RunKeeper told me I was at 2.92 miles, and I knew my time was going to be slower than I’d like. I couldn’t make myself go any faster. I took another quick walk break so I would be able to have the strength to sprint at the end.
We finally made the turn towards the end and I could see the timing device said 38 something. Oh well. I ran as fast as I could towards it and crossed at 38:41. I was so hot and sweaty and out of breath that I went off to the side, not even ready for water, and tried to settle down. After a full minute or so, I finally felt OK and went to get water and an apple.
So obviously an even worse time than my last 5K, by over a minute. But I actually felt better about this time. The course was hilly, and challenging where the other course had been dead flat. It was a good practice for next week. If it’s hot, I’ll be OK. I know there are a few hills on next week’s course, so it was important for me to have hills in my run today. And honestly, I didn’t go out there to run fast. I went out there mostly to just be amongst those who have suffered so much, their friends, their family, and quietly give them my support and sympathy. I wanted today’s run to mean something. Even if it was hot. Even if it was slow. It was meaningful to me. I thought of those kids, those families, this struggling community as I pushed through those hot, sweaty hills. And I hoped that somehow, they are doing a fraction better today knowing that 700 people came out in support of them on a humid morning in August.
It was a good day.