Last weekend two of our children ran in a 5K to raise money for the athletic programs at our school. Even though several of our kids have run track and cross-country, this is the first 5K race I've ever attended. I've always hated running. I spent years teaching aerobics classes and yoga classes, but I rarely ran to keep fit. Hiking is much more my thing. But as each birthday passes, and I get closer and closer to 50, there's been this nagging persistent thought in the back of my head that I should really give running a try. I don't know if it's the possibility of tackling a new challenge or proving that's it's never too late to start something new or if it's because no other form of exercise is getting rid of these pesky extra inches around my middle, but I've been pondering training for a race. Maybe it's crazy, but watching the race participants of all ages run these 3.1 miles last Saturday really inspired me to give this a try.
I watched, and I learned from this race. Our daughter who has run track for the past two years does not train for distance. Yet she and her friend crossed the finish line without having to stop and walk the most of it, and they both finished with smiles on their faces. Her time wasn't great, but she definitely wasn't the last one to cross the finish line. She persevered and had a great attitude, and she just looked like she was having fun. She didn't even realize her time or how well she had done until they announced her name as third place winner in her age group. Her friend came in second. Neither one expected that to happen.
She wasn't even too tired and sweaty to fix her ponytail for a picture of them sporting their medals. They wore them out to lunch as we tried a new Mexican restaurant that just opened. Lesson learned: go into the race to have fun.
I also learned from our son who actually has been training as he runs the trails of our woods almost daily. This, however, was his first race ever, and he totally overestimated his abilities. When he started sprinting the first mile, my husband (a veteran runner himself) knew he was going to be in trouble. I expected to see him long before we saw our daughter, and when he still didn't show up minutes later, I started worrying that something happened to him or he got lost. After that first mile or two of going as fast as he could go, his body called it quits. He finished, but it took a toll on his ego, and he was not a happy camper for a good part of the afternoon. His mood lifted when he got to see the new Captain America movie with some friends later that night. Note to self: do not give it your all at the beginning of a 5K.
When I watched children in 2nd, 4th, and 5th grades that I sometimes teach in the classroom cross that finish line in the first 30 minutes, I was duly impressed. I was more impressed by their positive attitudes, perseverance, and smiling faces at the end of the race than the winners who finished in 18-24 minutes. I was in awe as I watched men in their sixties and seventies run past me. I almost cried when our first-grade daughter's friend brought up the rear, but finished and ran the whole way. The entire event inspired me in a way I never would have anticipated. When I left the house that morning, grumpy and cold and just really wanting to stay home and drink another cup of coffee, I would have never guessed that later that same afternoon, I would put on my sneakers and yoga pants and go running through the woods. My first run in over 20 years!
And it didn't hurt like I thought it would. I had to intersperse running (jogging) and brisk walking for the 1.6 miles of my jaunt, but I didn't have to stop altogether. I pushed myself to run a little further than I thought I could. I thought of the possibility of running that same 5K next year with several of our children instead of just being the mom on the sidelines photographing it. I realized I wasn't in as bad of shape as I had thought, but I also realized that jogging was going to bring my heart rate up higher than it ever goes when I'm just walking. I was also humbled to learn that my running isn't much faster than my walking even though it feels much harder. And I also came to the conclusion that I definitely cannot get away with running at my age without a sports bra and a better pair of running shoes. So I am now venturing into uncharted territory for me and am doing something I never thought I would do: training for a race.
Final lesson learned: Never tell people that you are NEVER going to do something---like running. Just last week, I mistakenly told someone that to me, running is like being in purgatory. Now I'm eating my words.
I'll be keeping you all posted.