I ran a 5K this morning. It was a toughie. The course wasn’t so bad, a little hillier than I expected, but they always are. This one was scheduled to start at 8am, but was postponed half an hour to allow all the late packet-picker-upers to get through the packet line and to the starting line. I was hoping to run the race and then meet up with some friends for a short bike ride afterward, and the delay meant the bike ride might not happen.
Still, the rocket launched (a pop gun just won’t do on Independence Day), and the race was off. It was a crowded course, with well over 1000 runners and walkers. The humidity was high, the sun was shining, the sweat was dripping, and I was reflecting over the many life lessons that I have learned from running:
1) Expect the Unexpected
While I’m no expert, I have run maybe a dozen 5K races in my life. This was the first time I had experienced a race starting late. I’ll admit– I was a bit peeved. Not only was I hoping to meet up with friends after the race, but I also really do not enjoy running in the heat and humidity. But that’s life– unexpected things ALWAYS happen. I didn’t expect to be a single mom living with my parents and raising three kids alone. I didn’t expect to live in South Carolina for more than a few months, let alone a few years. When the unexpected happens, you can either pitch a fit, or hunker down and make the most of it.
2) You get out of it what you put into it.
I haven’t been running as much recently, and that was reflected in my performance. I stopped to walk three times, just for a short distance. The race director hasn’t posted the official results yet, and I wasn’t able to wait around after the race for them to post the times because I wanted to meet up with my friends, but I’m sure there was no PR for this one. I wasn’t expecting one– I haven’t been training! What’s that saying, if you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to keep getting the same results? Until I start pushing myself a bit harder, I am NOT going to earn another PR. (EDIT 7/6/2012: Chip time results are in, and I DID shave about 45 seconds off my PR. The new PR stands at 33:30. But the point remains– I’m happy for the new PR, but disappointed that I didn’t run the whole race, which I should have been able to do. And the REAL runners finished in about 15 minutes or so, so I have LONG way to go.)
3) Whether you think you can or think you can’t– you’re right.
Reflecting back now, I know that I could have kept running rather than stopping to walk those few times, but I’m still working on this mental block that’s telling me I can’t do it. I want to work up toward running a half marathon. I know I can do it, but something stops me from pushing through to go farther than 3 miles on training runs. I wish I could explain why I do this, but I can’t.
4) YOU are your only real competition.
I don’t run races because I think I’m going to win. There are way too many truly fit women my age running competitively in these races for me to have even a slight chance of placing. But I do relish the joy of running across the finish line. Yes, I can run 3.1 miles any day of the week without all the fan fare, tech t-shirt, racing bib number, and entry fee. I love the excitement of a race, the camaraderie, and the opportunity to go to a website and see, officially, how I did for this race compared to my previous races. I’ll admit that I scan the results page for other women my age and compare results, but I’m not competing against these ladies, I just like to admire how much faster most of them are than I am.
5) Connect with people, whether you want to or not
I’m a keep-to-myself kinda girl. Not because I’m a snob. I tend to judge myself very harshly, so the monologue in my head goes something like this: “Oh! She looks nice– but she’s so pretty! She would certainly never want to be friends with me. And look at how fit she is! I’m sure she’s scoffing at my poochy belly– she certainly doesn’t have a poochy belly. She has such nice clothes on– she probably knows I got this shirt at WalMart…” And so on, and so on. So, I rarely will just walk up to someone and start a conversation. But when you’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder with 1000 strangers, you kinda can’t help but exchange a sentence or two. I also like to thank the volunteers along the route as I run, just so they know that someone recognizes their contribution. Today I even stopped to talk to a family with three boys, all around the same ages as my tweedles, who had run the race. Even the 6 year old had run the whole thing in under 30 minutes! The mom and I got to talking and I mentioned my desire to start a running club for boys, and she had several suggestions of who to talk to at different organizations that might be interested in helping to charter a group. Yay me for getting out of my comfort zone!
I really enjoy the running lifestyle, even if I’m hesitant to actually label myself as a runner (out of respect for those who are actually good at it). And I love what running teaches me about myself. I have so much more to learn, so I guess I will have to keep on running. What has running taught you?