Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I'm a Racer, not a Runner

Now please don't be misled by that title.

I've been struggling with how to write what should be a simple "race-recap" for over a month now; just as I've had a struggling relationship with putting sneaker to the pavement for nearly 4 years now. 

I'm not that gal standing up on the podium receiving the special awards post race. (I'm just happy to get a finisher metal.) I'm not that gal picking off my "rabbits." (I'm happy to get passed by 10 year old Girls on the Run, decked out in purple.) I'm not the gal breaking any records, personal or otherwise. (I'm just happy to finish the race.)

But I am a gal that loves to race. (And if that means I have to run in the process, than so be it.)

However, I didn't know all those confident statements (even if written in Italics) applied to me until recently. I knew that I needed goals to stay on top of my physical fitness game and signing up for races seemed like the right thing to do. (Beside, you do totally sound like a badass telling your friends about registering for your next [blank] kilometer race)

Speaking of friends. Here are mine.

Ashley and Jenna are my roommates from college and two of my closest friends in the entire world. They have been there for me during the ups, downs and in-betweens of life. And they also were willing to get up early on a chilly December morning to be my cheering section at the OUC 5k.

As I stood shivering with my two friends, watching the start of the OUC Half Marathon and awaiting the call to the starting line for my own race all I realized two things: One was that I was excited to be out and about on this brisk morning and and the second was that I was seriously under-trained.

When I signed up for this race I had this idea that I wanted to run a sub 45 minute 5k since I had completed the 5k run of my first triathlon in October in exactly 45 minutes, post a 400m swim and 12km bike ride. My "brother" Tim had put together a training plan for me that he predicted could even get me sub 40 minutes.

Turns out both he and I were very optimistic, but again it was 100% my "fault" I didn't achieve either of our goals for me.  I started the training plan only 1 month (aka 4 weeks) out from the race and only completed 1 or two of the scheduled runs each week.  So yeah, really under-trained.

Regardless, when the last 1/2 marathoner had crossed the starting line and the call for us 5k-ers to line up came I hugged my girlies goodbye and jumped in towards the back of the pack.

As usual the start of the race was really exciting. (As evidenced by the little boy in white to my right.)

The pack thinned out pretty quickly and I was able to pick up a slow jog across the starting line and out onto the first leg and turn of the course.

We were running a lovely course through one of the older neighborhoods, chock-full of beautiful craftsman style houses and bungalows.  And also chock-full of cobblestone roads, slippery with morning dew. While I enjoyed the views of homes and lush landscape my legs and hips did not appreciate the cautious stride I was using on the cobblestones. Enter extreme hip cramps and lots of walking/hobbling to relieve the cramping.

I started to get frustrated with myself for not being strong enough physically, or mentally to just "power through." Negative thoughts including "why the hell did you sign up for a 1/2 marathon if you can't even run a 5k streamed through my mind. (And while that is still a valid question, it was not welcome mid race. I'm going to be racing in the Inaugural Rock n Roll St. Pete Half Marathon in February.)

Then suddenly my mood lifted. I honestly can't tell you if it was a shift of sunlight in the trees, a particularly lovely house or an adorable pack of Girls on the Run passing me but I shook off that negative feeling for good.

I realized I was alive.

I realized that the blood pumping hard through my body felt amazing.

I realized that if I didn't sign up for this race I would have been a lump sleeping in on an beautiful Saturday morning, missing out on the sunrise over Lake Eola. 

I realized that I was happy. 

I realized I was having fun.

I realized I was racing. 

I realized I am a racer, not a runner.  

So, for the rest of the race I ran when I could and walked when I couldn't. Pure and simple. And with that I finished my first official* 5k with a respectful time of 48:47. While this time is reflective of my walk breaks, it says nothing about the racing/running balance I earned for my heart and soul by the time I crossed that finish line.

What I earned from this 5k cannot be measured with a new personal record, a trip to the winners podium or the size of my finisher's metal. I learned to find peace with the fact that being an "A Corral" runner isn't going to be a goal of mine. My body, nor lifestyle, could not support such a goal.
I was running this race on the anniversary of my heart surgery. I was never athletic as a child. I would much rather read a book than go for a run. And I'm ok with all those facts.

I'm a racer, not a runner.

I love the camaraderie of a race. I love seeing amazing athletes at races; I am humbled to be in the same "race" as those athletes. I love letting little kids smoke me on the course; I just love being out on the course.

Oh, and I also love the complementary beers after the race. You know me, always keeping it real.

Love to all,
~the "racer, not runner" gal, Jess

*this was my first actual 5k. My first race was a 5 mile leg of a 1/2 marathon relay and the second was the MyFirstTri sprint distance triathlon.

PS. Also, I here by swear off the "thumbs up" while racing. Between my ridiculous turned out ex ballet dancer stride and hickhicker thumbs I don't need any additional photographic evidence looking like a total doof.


Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Good job! Let me know if I can help you prep for February!

Joanne said... Best Blogger Tips

Whatever you're motivation is for getting out there, even if it's just a love of racing and not a love of running, I think think it's awesome!

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