I was not ready. I went anyway.
Originally, I enlisted a running buddy and we developed a pretty straightforward plan: do an eight week training program, run the race at the end of it. Unfortunately, due to several different factors including crutches, crises and unexpected out-of-town trips, neither of us was prepared to run. It was important to us to still complete the 5K, since we were participating long-distance in a tribute 5K in memory of our friends’ daughter, so my running buddy became my walking buddy.
Other than the Komen Race for the Cure several years ago, in which I bobbed down city streets in a river of thousands of pink-clad casual walkers, I’ve never participated in a 5K before. There were a few hundred participants in this one, and most of them were runners showing off lots of thigh muscle in die-hard runner clothing, fancy smartphone armbands around their biceps. And then there was me, wearing my race shirt (apparently most people don’t wear their race shirts to the race – who knew?) and baggy shorts. However, I’m pretty sure that once I pinned my race number onto the front, no one could tell the difference.
In addition to the awesomeness of an official bib number, the race started with a pistol shot in the air. (At least it sounded like a pistol. I was pretty far back in the crowd because I didn’t want to get trampled by the real runners, so I didn’t actually see it. But it’s nice to hear a gunshot in an urban area without feeling the need to duck and cover.) And there were real tables of people handing out water along the way, with empty cups scattered across the grass by the runners who were so dedicated that they did not have time to use the trash can. Hard core. And there was a nice person clocking us at the end of the first mile, which was amusing – nothing like official proof that you are not very fast.
We weren’t running, but we clipped along at a pretty good walking speed for most of the race, close to the front of the non-runner crowd. The race was two big loops around an urban park, which meant that halfway through, we got to watch people who were twice as fast as us cross the finish line. A few hundred feet into the second loop, we noticed that one of the police cars on race patrol was coasting at our heels. Apparently, most of the walkers had stopped after the first loop instead of doing the full 5K, and we were the last people in the race. The very…. last…. people.
Well… we may be newbies to this 5K thing, but we were certainly not about to be last-place newbies. So we started running. We ran past several people. We speed-walked past several more. And then we saw the orange cones marking the finish lines, and we ran the rest of the way. I’m sure it was humorous to the people at the line to see us almost-last-place folk carrying on like champions, cheering as we ran across, grasping each others’ hand victoriously in the air.
We felt honored to complete the race in celebration of the life of Samantha, and in support of our friends who will race this coming weekend. Still, I expected the 5K to feel a little disappointing and anti-climactic. After all, we’d failed to reach our goals. Instead, I found it inspiring and fun. I still don’t understand how people can get addicted to running, but I can see myself doing more 5Ks – and running all the way.