Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Robin Henry
For some reason, I decided to start running – and then run my first 5K. Along the way I was surprised to learn…
1. Running sucks. Before you start running, you should actually like running. I HATE it. Runners make running look easy. I’d see people with beer bellies – BIG beer bellies – easily running around my block, all smiles. So I thought, “If they can do it, I can too.”
Wrong. Those easy-going smiles are just a ruse to get you into the cult. My first time out for a run at the park I only made it a quarter of a mile before my legs felt like jelly and I collapsed to the ground gasping for air. A quarter of a mile! I could still see my car. I was close enough to pop the trunk with the key fob!
Even more humiliating? My running app asked, “Do you want to post this to Facebook?” Hell no! “Do you need CPR?” would have been a better question.
2. You don’t go from running 0K to 5K in one week. I know this seems obvious. But, hey, I was hopeful. Two weeks, tops.
Two months later when I was still not at my goal, I realized, This is serious! I was going to have to run – often. And dare I say it? Actually train if I was ever going to run a 5K. I needed to make a plan, stick to it and chart my progress.
It was like being a kid again and having homework after dinner. Every night I’d wail, “Do I have to!?” as I cried and stomped my feet. And because I live alone, I probably looked pretty stupid.
I wish I could say it was gumption that would finally get me into my running shoes and out the door. But instead it was just a desire to hurry up and scratch “running a 5K” off my bucket list so I could go back to binge-watching Mad Men. Thank you, Donald Draper.
3. All the races start in the morning!? No wonder runners are grinning like that. They’re delirious from lack of sleep.
I’m a night person. My day only has one 5 o’clock in it: p.m. But I had to sign up. I needed a concrete deadline to train for. I’m not gonna lie, I did scour the web for “night races” within a 25 mile radius. I scoured for days, as if someone was going to magically start one just for me.
I casually asked other runners if they knew of any night races, maybe with a Happy Hour after. Nothing. “But don’t worry. They’ll have water and bananas at the finish line,” they said. Water and bananas. That’s your idea of a good time? Note to self: Don’t party with runners.
4. A “5K” means different things to different people. By race day, I was ready. I carb-loaded. (Even though I still don’t really know what that means). And I had run more than three miles in training. And I was somewhat confident that even on an unfamiliar – and maybe hilly – course I could probably get back to the finish line without an ambulance.
I carefully pinned on my very first bib. I took selfies. I wanted to shout from the mountain tops: “I’m running a 5K!” I felt like Rocky. Until another runner asked: “You doing the marathon?” “No, the 5K!” I said proudly. “Oh, just taking it easy today, huh? Cool. I do that sometimes, too,” the real runner said. “Uh … yeah… that’s it,” I replied, trying to sound cool, too.
Didn’t these people realize I had to TRAIN for MONTHS to get to 3 miles!? But, hell, I wasn’t going to tell them. Plus I had purposely chosen a race that included a marathon, half-marathon, 15K, 10K, 5K – all on the same course. My logic was that even if I’m still running four hours later, no one will notice.
5. Crossing the finish line was a bigger deal than I thought. I kept my goals simple. Just run the entire way. I had read that the adrenaline rush of race day and the other runners pushing me would improve my time. I would easily be able to stay with the pack and run like a gazelle.
Nope. The pack sped away. I was left alone with my thoughts and what I think was a stitch in my side. Doubt started to creep in, especially when a runner pushing a stroller passed me. Why am I putting myself through this? I could just walk the rest of the way, get in my car and go home. There are plenty of other bucket list items I could do.
Luckily, all that thinking distracted me, and before I knew it, I was close enough to see the finish line. People were cheering me. Other runners. Strangers. The song Shining Star was blasting in my earbuds and my running app blurted out “3 miles” … in my best time ever!
I wasn’t last in the race! I wasn’t even close to last. I was in the middle. And I got a medal! (Actually, everyone got a medal.) But I still put it around my neck and took pictures with it. I imagined I was Flo-Jo on the Olympic podium. I had run a 5K! Bucket list item complete! Good-bye running! Hello, Mad Men! Or so I thought…
The biggest surprise? I didn’t quit running. In fact, I immediately signed up for another 5K. That’s me out there most nights chugging around my block with that silly runners’ smile on my face.
But not because I love running. I still HATE it. Maybe I just want to draw others into the cult. Or, maybe, I just like medals.
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Robin Henry is a TV writer and stand-up comic who used to think the only reason to run was if someone was chasing you. Now a novice runner, she still isn’t sure she was wrong. Find her at jestfunny.com and on Twitter at@jestfunny.