I’ve recently started running (two weeks ago to be exact.) I hate running. I procrastinate getting started. I don’t really like it when I’m doing it. I can’t run very fast. But, I’ve decided to try it out in an effort to find balance, be more active, and lead a healthier lifestyle.
Last Saturday I ran my first 5K race in Hangzhou, China. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to sign up, but I’m pretty sure it was just because my friends were doing it. Even though it was rainy, race day was more exciting than my normal running days. There was a buzz in the air as the runners gathered at the starting line, eager to get going. I started in the back of the pack, near the “Over 30 minutes” sign. Prior to the race, my average 5K running time (taken from the 3 times I’d ran that far) was about 45 minutes. So, yeah, I’d most definitely take longer than 30 minutes to finish.
And we’re off! At the announcer’s whistle, we all started running. At first, I was a little slow as I trailed behind about a hundred people, but shortly into the race, it began to thin out and I took off. The excitement and competitiveness of running kicked in and I was running faster and farther (without stopping) than I ever had before! Before I knew it, I had run to the 1K marker. I had never ran that far without stopping to walk, so I was pretty surprised with myself. Unfortunately, I soon got winded and slowed down, walking a minute or so, before willing myself to run again. Thus began my run/walk throughout the race. I wanted to keep running, but I couldn’t. I hear running is all mental. I’m still working on willing myself to keep going, even when my body tells me to stop. It’s a work in progress.
Around the halfway mark, it began raining pretty heavily. My glasses were wet and fogging up with the humidity. Taking them off, I ran the rest of the way semi-blind. During this stretch of the race, I really hated running. I wanted to give up. There weren’t any runners near me. I could see a few ahead, and there were some behind, but the competitiveness that came with being in the pack of runners at the start was fading, and so was my stamina and energy. But, I kept going.
I came to a part of the route that doubled-back on itself, meaning that we were to run across a bridge, turn around , and come back the way we came. Running across the bridge, I was back in the pack. Runners were coming toward me on the opposite side, offering smiles, waves, high-fives, and encouragement. There I was, this slow runner who was trailing behind, and I was getting cheered on by these complete strangers (and 2 of my friends I passed along the way 🙂 ). How did they know I needed that to keep going? Could they tell I was ready to throw in the towel? However they knew, it worked. Those smiles, thumbs-up, and words of encouragement pushed me to run even more. I still ran/walked, but I did it with more determination and grit.
Running the final kilometer was difficult, but stationed along the way were volunteers, pointing the way, saying “You’re almost there!” and “You can do it!” Again, just what I needed. As I came to the last curve in the route, I could see the finish line in sight. Droves of people who’d finished the race already were standing there, cheering, clapping, and smiling at ME as I ran to the finish line! Seriously! I was the only runner at that time crossing the finish line, and here they were cheering me on, encouraging me to finish what I started. I was overwhelmed with compassion and love. This was what they called a runner’s high. At that moment, I didn’t hate running.
I wasn’t the fastest runner that day. A lot of people older than me beat me to the finish line. I didn’t get a medal or a trophy. But, I did finish. I set out to do something difficult for me, and I didn’t give up. And you know what? That’s pretty darn special to me. Oh, and my official time was 42:08, so I beat my own record. 🙂
Running sucks, but I’m going to keep at it. I just signed up for another race next month.
Join the Slice of Life writing community at Two Writing Teachers. You’ll be glad you did!