What began as a mass of family members (and by “mass” I mean five persons: my cousin, my husband, my sister, a half-hearted commitment from my mother, and myself) excited by the prospect of running and/or walking a 5k on Thanksgiving Day, gradually morphed into a cornucopia of excuses and flat-out refusals by the time race day came. My cousin was the first to commit but also the first to bail. Wednesday afternoon, she realized her evening plans to enjoy few cocktails with her friends would interfere with her ability to rise before 10am, so she changed her RSVP to “no” before we even had dinner. My mom maintained she had never committed in the first place and she had no interest in walking 3 miles, no not even with the dog. Brushing our teeth together before bedtime, my sister gave a litany of reasons why it would not work, including but not limited to: her IT band was hurting, she had not trained to run in cold weather and her toes were sure to become unacceptably numb/cold, actually she had not trained at all, and mainly she just didn’t want to do it. Dan was still willing when we went to bed, but when morning brought huge drops of rain, he changed his mind. His stated reason was something about having only a cotton top to wear. When I saw my uncle putting out sliced grapefruit, bagels, cream cheese, lox, and coffee, I changed my mind too. Why would I run a 5k in the rain when I could be relaxing with my family? At the last minute, I realized I would regret it if I bailed on the race I had been looking forward to, and so I got changed, ate my instant oatmeal and headed out for the 7th annual Greencastle, Pennsylvania 5k Turkey Trot.
I hadn’t been training much at all, as far as running, but I had been at the gym lately, doing the elliptical, some strength training, or whatever random class I felt like going to, so while I was not totally out of shape, I didn’t think I was in particularly good running shape, either. I did a quick 15 minute warm-up and my legs felt good, and I was encouraged by this. I lined up toward the front. Despite the dreary weather, the race had a good turn-out of about 300 people of all ages. They seemed to all know each other, as the race was held in a rural town with a population of less than 5000. When the gun went off, I spotted a couple of ladies in front of me. They were about 10 meters ahead of me and for some reason I just didn’t think they should be running faster than me. One was wearing a pink sweatsuit and seemed to be about 35-40 and the other seemed to be 20 or 40, I really couldn’t tell from the back. I thought if I paced it right, I could pass them later. I hit the first mile mark in 10:15, supposedly. I didn’t set my watch, but I knew this was totally inaccurate as the volunteer called it out. I spent the first part of the second mile running with two boys. One was about 12 or 13 and he was obviously breathing much harder than I was, but I hoped he could hold the pace we had set because he was helping me stay motivated. After a half mile or so he faded. I encouraged him to stay with me, to no avail. I approached a little kid who was probably no older than eight. I had noticed he shot off the front early in the race. When I caught up to him, he bolted ahead, but I caught him shortly. He dropped back, and then sprinted up to me, and stayed with me for a minute or so, then dropped back again. He repeated this pattern about 5 times, then I never saw him again. I missed him a little because he was motivating and entertaining, but I refocused my energy on a pack of people ahead of me. There were about 15 meters between me and them. I focused on closing the gap between us, little by little. In that group lay my nemesis, the lady of unknown age. Just ahead ran the lady in the pink outfit. When we hit the second mile mark, the volunteer called out 14:40. This seemed accurate. I had a little over a mile to make my pass. I maintained my pace and waited for them to get tired, knowing it was not yet time to run as hard as possible. Toward the last little bit there was a hill, and I passed both ladies just after the crest. We turned for the final stretch and unknown age lady caught tried to catch back up to me. I could hear her breathing right behind me and I gave it all I had not to let her pass me back. I felt like throwing up. This felt like the longest 5k of my life. I crossed the finish line and felt relieved that I could stop now. There was no time clock. I didn’t know what I had done, but I felt that I had given it my full effort. I did a cool down and waited for them to post the results. I was having major FOMO (fear of missing out), knowing my family was eating bagels, drinking coffee, and having fun without me, but I was also desperate to know if I had won anything and to find out what my time was. I killed time for about 20 minutes at then gave up on waiting for the results and went back to my aunt and uncles.’ I checked the results later and found out I had run exactly 23:00 (7:25/mile pace) which was good for 3rd in the 30-39 age group. Yeah!