I ran my first non-zombie 5K on Saturday, as promised. It was the first time in my life I’d ever trained for an athletic event and not crapped out or slacked off. It was also the first time I’d enjoyed it. Athletics. Working out. Doing physical activity. It felt good. It feels good. It feels empowering to be able to do something like this. Even if “this” is a modest, average 5K race time. I never for a second thought I was capable of running continuously for 3 whole miles.
The Genesis Riverside Run followed a gentle trail along the river, past both Heinz Field and PNC Park and back again. The morning was cool and sunny, which was a blessing considering I haven’t learned to run in real heat yet. The only time during the run when I knew my pace was at the first mile marker. 9:14. Slower than the pace I’d been hitting in the two weeks leading up to the race, probably because I’d hung back in the thick starting line crowd for the early part of the run. Passing people on a narrow path with a drop into the river on one side isn’t the easiest thing to do. From there I ran blind, figuring I was going to at least finish in less than 30 minutes. As I approached the finish line, I heard a father calling out to his son.
“Sprint! You can make 26!”
26 minutes? What? I looked up and saw the finish line clock. 25:58. I sprinted. Of course I sprinted.
I refused to believe that time until they posted my official chip time Sunday morning. There was no way I’d taken 30 seconds a mile off of my fastest time, was there? Not when that first mile hadn’t gone that well. Except that’s exactly what I did. 25 minutes and 46 seconds. That’s 8:18 a mile. 30 seconds faster than I’d ever run.
It’s the first time in a while – in years, probably – that I realized I hadn’t already reached my limits and that there was possibility within me I hadn’t begun to explore. There was an average runner in me, down there somewhere, just waiting for me to work my ass off to find it. If I can do this, if I can run a race when I literally never had before August, maybe it’s time to stop fearing I’ve hit my limit in the parts of my life that really matter. After a difficult two years, through which I’ve allowed the creeping tendrils of despair and powerlessness to wind around every part of my life, this is a lesson I desperately needed. I never expected an athletic event to be such an important step in finding a way to believe in myself again. Yet here we are.
I’d like to draw your attention to my awesome looking custom shirt in the pictures below. When I said I’d be doing this 5k back in January, someone went out of their way to ensure I wouldn’t back out. She made a joke that, in return, I should fly the colors of her empire. Did I say empire? I meant Asylum. Like a good lackey, I take the jokes of the Overlord very seriously and enlisted the wonderful, kind and brilliantly talented QuoterGal to make this a possibility. The result was the logo on the shirt you see in the pictures below.
Thank you, QuoterGal, for designing such an awesome shirt. To the Overlord: I’m proud to have run for the asylum team, and pleased as hell to have been able to express my gratitude publicly through my 3.1 miles of riverside racing. Thank you for making it more likely that I’ll die by your hands instead of heart disease.
Next: the grueling march toward my and Erin’s Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Wish me luck.