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The Anatomy of a First 5K Run

The predawn glimmer of morning peaks around the shades as the clock silently proclaims it is 5:47; it's race day! The slowly churning thoughts begin their own race in my mind. "Is it raining today?" "Did I remember my favorite headphones?" "Which pair of shoes?" "Am I going to run too fast in the beginning and have to walk in the end?" "Will I look like a dork?"

"Oh God, should I really be doing this?"

A little nervous, I got out of bed, pulled on a t-shirt, headed to the bathroom and eventually made my way to the coffeemaker downstairs. "I am going to finish in 30 minutes or less, and not walk a single step." I told myself as the smell of freshly brewing coffee reminded me to get the milk from the refrigerator.

I took a cup of coffee up to my wife and switched on the local news for a weather report. "A 50% chance of light showers in Metrowest." announced the happier-than-he-should-be weatherman.  I pulled up for Clinton, MA on my Android, hoping to get a better deal for the day...

"What if my feet are soaked?" "I am running this race no matter what!" I reassured myself. Silently, I dreaded the possibility of running in the pouring rain.

I took a shower. While I was there I prayed for no rain, for the ability to finish, and I thanked God for my amazing health.

I switched on the NHL channel as they recapped some of the week's games. I didn't really listen as I laid out my red running outfit: a plain red cotton t-shirt, red basketball shorts, and red pinstriped sweat pants. I clicked off all the other things I would need. Headphones, arm-holder for my Smartphone...

Driving, I kept and eye on the sky and temperature gauge. I don't really know what was on the radio...

12:15 I left my wife and daughter in the school parking lot and went to the sign-in table. They found my name, and handed me a welcome bag with hearts; I didn't check to see what was inside, my name tag, and a Run with Heart t-shirt. Then I headed for the bathroom.

12:30 The parking lot began to fill up with runners and walkers. There were kids, teenagers, young adults and lots of soccer moms. Everywhere you looked there was red. In the crowd I spotted my eldest daughter as she drove in.

12:35 My friends from the Monday-Wednesday cardio class appeared from the sea of red. After introducing them to my wife and kids. We posed for an "orange team" photo and made some small talk.

12:50 Starting my training app and selecting the settings for the race, I checked my play-list, and slipped my Smartphone in to the arm-holder. I attached the headphones and adjusted the volume.

12:55 My friends and I did warm-ups and stretching. I kissed my family, and headed for the starting line.

1:00 The race promoter was on the bull horn, and I pulled one of my headphones out to hear the announcement. It seems like forever as we jogged in place to stay warm.

I could see my family on the sidelines. I wondered what time it was trying to focus on racing! Finally a police cruiser pulled up and blipped the siren signaling the start of the race. The pack began to move, but slowly. I was surrounded by my friends as we worked our way forward.

The Bob Brown Band thumped out the chorus of Tom Petty's Breakdown. Two of my teammates were in front, and two were beside me as we made the first corner. "Four tenths of a mile, speed 6.6 miles per hour," CardioTrainer informed me.

I was on pace.

Down an easy hill and across the railroad tracks. One of our team pulled quickly ahead. Two others were slowly pulling away as well. Lenny Kravitz broke into a guitar solo and I headed up the first hill. "Speed 5.8 miles per hour," crackled a voice in the headphones.

Debating on whether to speed up a little to make up some time. I kept my pace, lengthening my stride a bit as I made my way along the lake and passed mile marker one. I waved to the sign holder. On the other side I could see the leaders of the pack off in the distance.

Steppenwolf served up the 60's hit, Magic Carpet Ride and I sailed into the next mile. It started to drizzle, making it hard to see ahead. "Speed 6.2 miles per hour" I pressed on. I started to think I might need to walk and tried to breath more deeply. I passed a walker and started up another hill.

At the crest, I could see down the road to the 2 mile mark and water station. Tim Hughes' Happy Day come on and I picked up the pace. I thanked God out loud for his presence as the walker in white ran past me.

I shed a few tears, this is why I was here, to celebrate my recovery.

I grabbed a cup off the water table and tried to take sip. I nearly gagged. I coughed a few times and picked up the pace again. "Speed 6.2 miles per hour," squawked my digital trainer.

I cruised along to Gypsy Jam, one of my own instrumental, Hendrix like, originals. I knew I could cover a mile while it blasted some of my best ever guitar work. Around the bend, and in front of me was an 8% grade on the other side of the river. I labored to put one foot in front of the other. "Speed 3.8 miles per hour!" That is almost walking I thought to myself. But I pressed on; I could see the top of the hill...

I turned right heading towards town and saw a couple of runners up ahead. I passed the walker again. Joe Satriani came on: Time for the final push to the finish line. "Speed 7.2 miles per hour." I wasn't sure I could keep it up, but I just kept pace with the music as I had done over 100 times before.

I rounded the curve and there in the foggy distance the neon orange cones stood sentry to the finish line. The red numerals of the time clock showed 30:31. I cranked up the pace ignoring the music. "Speed 9.7 miles per hour." I saw my 8-year-old on the sidewalk, and behind her, my wife and older daughter. I slapped Charlotte a high-5 as my wife ran the video and Zöe clapped. 31:22! I got my placement tag and walked back to greet them.

I did it. I didn't walk.


85 votes + -


wisebadger53 wrote 111 months ago:
You must be so proud of yourself! That must be an awesome feeling when you hit the finish line...I can't wait to do it for the first time myself!

You freaking ROCK! :)
sakamanojr wrote 111 months ago:
Great post. Congratulations on a great race and sharing all of the crazy emotions us RUNNERS go through leading up to and during a race.
Keep up the awesome work !!!
anzabeth wrote 111 months ago:
You are one of my major MFP heroes! Literally, brought tears to my eyes!
Snowridesbikes wrote 111 months ago:
What a fantastic story. Thank you. I've loved watching your journey since I started here in October. You are an amazing inspiration
odditblue wrote 111 months ago:
THAT is how you do it.
landay wrote 111 months ago:
LOVE IT!!!! Prayer gets me through races, and workouts as well. (I end up praying before I run, every single time.) What a memorable thing to do to celebrate your health - it had to be a healing moment for you and your family.
staroftheeast wrote 111 months ago:
What a wonderful race you ran. I am so thrilled you were here to be able to run ingood health. god is good. You are an inspiration to so many, myself included.
Sox90716 wrote 111 months ago:
Outstanding! Great read!
Shash27 wrote 111 months ago:
What a great story! Be so proud...we are!!!
Tropicalgirl3 wrote 111 months ago:
Congratulations on a great race and an inspirational journey! I really appreciate you sharing your trek!!
janeosu wrote 111 months ago:
Awesome recap, congrats on your first 5K! Huge accomplishment!
llaurenmarie wrote 111 months ago:
I almost cried reading this. I've only just started running but my goal is a 5k. I have hope.
moejo3 wrote 111 months ago:
Great Blog! Brought tears to my eyes. I have run a couple of 5K's to support local cancer research. You have inspired me to go find one to do as soon as possible. Thank you!
alaska11 wrote 111 months ago:
Awesome blog and great job!
cfreema wrote 111 months ago:
Thank you for sharing this with us! I am so proud of you for how far you have come.
Sassi50 wrote 111 months ago:
Great Blog! Great Job!! You make me realize that if you don't start you can never finish!!!! Be proud!!!!!
Enonoid wrote 111 months ago:
That's fantastic! I am running in my first 5K on Palm Sunday and I'm having some of these same doubts and thoughts creeping into my head. Thanks for the extra motivation!
ProudMomoftwo wrote 111 months ago:
Great post.
My 14yo daughter & I walked our first 5K in September a week after my Dad passed away.
We both got 3rd in our respective age categories - SUCCESS!
This coming September we plan to run it.
We graduated the C25K program in November so I know we can do it.

Huge congrats to your recovery and taking your life back.

Keep pushing forward.
skinnyack wrote 111 months ago:
Fantastic! Something about those damn first 5K triumphs make me tear up every time. I will think of you this weekend at my 5K as I go for my nemesis- breaking 30 minutes! Congratulations and thank you for the inspiration!
SouthernNHgirl wrote 111 months ago:
Amazing way to celebrate your recovery!
dustygn wrote 111 months ago:
Congrats on not walking! thats my goal for my 7km run in about 4 weeks. The last 5km run i did i couldn't manage it.
KJLIII wrote 111 months ago:
Excellent ! ! And you didn't walk ! ! You are amazing - and inspiring... Hope I can do a 5K without walking...One day, one day. = )
bruinstar wrote 111 months ago:
Absolutely inspiring! Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope to one day do a 5k run too and this has really inspired me to start preparing.
elks94 wrote 111 months ago:
Sweet Victory!!!! Thanks for the inspiration and sharing your 5K day success. Here's a BIG high five! My next 5K is two weeks away April 14th. We can do ALL things through Christ who strengths us :-)
kmcgaw wrote 111 months ago:
Congratulations and thank you for sharing your experience. You have made me want to sign up for races again after a two year break. That sense of accomplishment and having your kids high five you at the finish line make the blood, sweat and tears worth it.
gooseafur wrote 110 months ago:
Wow another blog that brought tears to my eyes!! Amazing... truly amazing! So glad I found you on MFP, YOU are such a great inspiration!
Anonymous wrote 2 months ago:
You’ll get back to running again someday soon, God willing!

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