On Saturday morning, I woke up early so that I could head down to Washington, DC and take part in the Race for Every Child.
Is it strange that I still take advice from Lisa Simpson on what to eat before sporting events? As she told Bart in the classic episode “Dead Putters Society” a champion thoroughbred eats oats before winning the Kentucky Derby. Therefore, my pre-race meal was a hearty bowl of Cheerios.
Thankfully, traffic was light, and despite the warnings of race organizers, street parking near the event was abundant. I arrived in plenty of time to meet up with my teammates and begin my rigorous warmup and stretching regimen. Or at least I did enough to ensure that my back and hamstrings wouldn’t give out in mile one.
I was garbed in my commemorative T-shirt, my iPhone armband, my newly purchased shoe wallet, and my personalized cape. I certainly looked like a runner, but would my body be up to the task?
In my final practice run, I was able to meet my goal of running the 5K in less than half an hour. But I had failed to anticipate a few key differences between practice and the actual race.
It was a mistake not to wear sunglasses, as the sun was shining directly in my eyes for the first part of the race. I also realized that I should have practiced while wearing my cape since the constant tug on my neck was a bit of a distraction.
But the biggest difference was the sheer number of people running with me. I tend to record better times if I go fast at the outset rather than trying to pace myself. So my plan was to use the initial burst of energy and adrenaline and start off as fast as I could. Unfortunately, with so many people in the race, I couldn’t take off from the starting line like I had hoped.
Once things opened up a bit, I discovered one advantage to having so many people around: I got to feel fast and agile as I maneuvered around them. “Look at me! I’m weaving between people! I am the greatest runner who ever lived!” That enthusiasm was tempered when even faster runners did the same to me later on.
After that initial burst, I got into a nice rhythm. I was chugging along at a nice pace and after the final turn, I thought that it was going to be easier than I had expected. My spirits sagged a bit when I realized that the final stretch was considerably longer than I had remembered. “This street didn’t seem so long when we were running on the other side!”
At that point, my right knee felt sore, and I considered slowing down and walking for a stretch. Then I remembered that people had actually donated money because I said I was going to try my best. And trying my best meant not slowing down. I just told myself to make sure that my legs kept moving.
Finally, the finish line was in sight, so I willed myself through with a final of speed. I had finished in 26:12, and while that time isn’t exactly going to qualify me for the Olympics, I thought it was a pretty solid outing for a first time runner.
I was feeling a bit sore and very sweaty, and while I rewarded myself with post-race granola bars, I wondered exactly how people run marathons. It felt like a lot of work to just run over three miles. You’re telling me that people run almost seven times that distance in one try? I guess that’s why they train.
If I ever become serious about running, I know I’ll have to make some improvements to my running form. I don’t have an optimal stride, especially with my right leg, and I think that’s one of the reasons why my knee was hurting.
Now that this race is complete, I won’t be resting on my laurels. In just a few weeks, I’ll be taking part in the Blood and Guts Run. In that race, I won’t just be racing against the clock, I’ll be racing against bloodthirsty zombies. Hopefully I can survive!
If my tale of triumph inspired you, don’t forget that even though the race is over, you can still donate money to Children’s National Medical Center. They’re trying to raise $850,000 by the end of the year, so please consider helping out a good cause.
(By the way, meeting my goal in the 5K wasn’t my only triumph on the day. Later in the afternoon, I headed to Safeway, and was once again able to break the 50% savings threshold! In other words, Saturday was a good day.)