I’m not a big fan of the shorter race distances because speed is not my forte. I consider a 5k a bit of torture that I endure periodically for friends or for a greater cause.
A couple of weeks ago, an online running friend encouraged me to try a 5k set in one of my favorite running venues. I agreed to sign up, and I surprised myself with a nice PR and a decent finishing position (4th in my age group). I wheezed my way up the hill in the last ½ mile, and I almost threw up at the finish line. I thought someone was going to stop me and ask if I needed a stretcher. I gave it all.
|D&R Canal Watch 5k 3/30/13|
But I recovered quickly, and my competitive nature came out as my friend and I stood waiting for the awards to be called. Neither of us placed, but we each had a very respectable race.
Then I heard about a local race, right here in my own countryside, on the roads my feet travel regularly. I signed up.
I arrived with a lofty goal of winning my age group – really crazy for me, but an idea mostly likely put in my head by Coach, who continually pushes me beyond my perceived limits. I arrogantly lined up in the front, as this was a gun-time event. A voice kept telling me I didn’t belong there with all of the fast runners, but I figured I could move to the side to let others pass if necessary.
The first part was a slight decent, and I saw crazy times on my Garmin. But my lungs started to ache immediately, and my breathing was labored. I thought maybe today wasn’t my day.
We made our first turn and then my feet found a familiar piece of dirt road. I told myself this was my land – my countryside – my race. And I wanted to win. I really did. I pressed on despite the pain.
I saw a woman just ahead of me with a Philly Marathon t-shirt on, and I thought she might be in my age group. We made another turn and headed uphill, while my head told me to forget it. No way was I going to catch her. But I did. I passed her and didn’t see her again.
I chased a young man as we finished the ascent in the last mile, and my heart felt sorry for him as I heard myself wheezing and gasping for air – not the sort of noises that are inspiring when you’re looking for motivation in the end.
I knew I finished well, and I suspected I may have placed in the top three, but I chose not to look at the posted results and waited for the award announcements. I couldn’t have been more delighted when I heard my name called as the first-place winner in my age division!
I apologized to the man who led me to the finish line for my wheezing. Turns out, the guy is a medical doctor, and he told me he thinks I have exercise-induced asthma. Interesting. I’ve always said I hate 5k’s because I can’t breathe when I try to run fast. I don’t hate them anymore, but hopefully I can find a way to manage my breathing.
I felt like a stranger in my body today. I’m stronger than I ever believed. That Coach of mine – he gets some pretty fucking amazing results that surprise the hell out of me.