I ran my first race last night, a 10k night run in the docklands of Dublin. The day before the nerves set in, though I’ve run 6.2 miles a multitude of times, in fact, it’s the most common distance I run these days, I felt all of a sudden completely unsure of my abilities. Not that I could finish it, but that I could finish near my goal time and feel good about it. I’d never run a race in my 29 years, and that inexperience made me extraordinarily nervous. I thought, I probably should have run a 5k at some point, why did I start at 10k? But, of course, I knew I’d run it. Based on my training times I set up three goals, 55 min, 56 min, sub-1 hour (aka, all else fails).
After bag drop and quick last portaloo stop Alex and I said goodbye and he headed to the front of the pack with the other super-fast 5k runners and I headed mid-pack (trying to remind myself it’s OK to be mid-pack, especially as a beginner). It was super packed, and most runners didn’t seem to be abiding by the estimated finish time corrals. The women directly in front of me (mid wave-2) were walkers, and even Alex at the front of the pack had to weave around several rule-benders in the wrong area. It also started late, waiting for traffic. Though in general, the organization seemed good enough, and the volunteers were awesome.
I didn’t get to warm up as much as I wanted, so I mostly just shifted around anxiously for 20 minutes waiting to start, going over my race strategy and trying to keep calm, and warm. Eventually, finally, we started. It was a bit frustrating for the first half mile, having to dodge around runners and walkers who didn’t start where they were supposed to. Several times I had to jump on the curb to get around a large group going just slightly too slow. Others did the same, and I saw several people trip (a few needing medical attention), it was unnerving throughout the race seeing people with medics, bent over, or lying down off course (or wandering a few feet off course to vomit). I realize that it’s a mixture of accident and being unprepared, but I still vigilantly watched my footing from then on (and hoped my stomach wouldn’t revolt). I was practicing fueling for my half at the end of November, and it seemed to work with no stomach upset, so I’m happy with that! As I ran I felt great the first three miles, it started getting a bit harder after that, but not terribly and I was able to pick up my pace, running pretty solid negative splits (9:09, 9:11, 8:58, 8:51). I knew the fourth mile was when the 10k gets hard, but I tried to mentally keep focused on the mile I was running, and not think about the next mile. I used the small changes in elevation to cruise down and pick up my pace. Around mile 5 I realized I might be able to hit my A goal. I was told, prior to this race to pick three goals, so no matter what, I’d be happy. An A goal, which is ideal and everything lines up, a B goal that I’d still be thrilled with, but allows room for the unexpected, and a C goal fail-safe. The next mile was hard, but I managed a 8:53 and felt pretty good. The last mile I could feel the fatigue setting in, I kept trying to pick up my pace but my body would not have it. Which is to say, my brain wouldn’t until I knew I was going to make it and I sprinted as fast as I could to finish with my last 1.2 miles averaging 8:39 and my final time of 55:09! I was THRILLED. I could hardly believe I actually ran my goal, that my body still felt good (though very tired). Of course my second thought was, I could have gone sub-55! I know I ran conservatively, and probably could have taken 40 seconds off this time. BUT, I finished strong and negative split, and didn’t kill myself before my half marathon where I have to run double that distance!
So my first race was a success! My favorite part was actually the end. I was exhausted, but I got to see Alex in the last 500 meters (he’d finished his 5k 40 minutes prior and hung around to wait for me), which gave me a boost for my final sprint where I passed a bunch of runners and got a shout out from the MC who yelled “that’s how you finish, girl the white, you’re earning your dinner!” Which is a slightly odd thing to yell at a person, but it felt awesome to have run well enough that I wasn’t destroyed at the end and could sprint the finish, it was exhilarating! I was so proud too. The simple act of setting a goal, working diligently towards it, and then reaching it is euphoric (plus that runners high!). I’m still super nervous for the half in Berkeley, 13.1 miles is a long way to run, and I’ve never run that far (12 milers were my longest). And Berkeley has HILLS, but I’m also excited to see what I can do!