(I’m a member of the Running Fools board over on The Motley Fool, and when I started running again they were the ones I went to to talk about it. I’ve made it a point to do race reports after my events … and I’m going to be posting those throwback reports here to get us up-to-date. This was my first ever 5K, in Scotch Plains, NJ. I was nervous as hell going into it … this report was written in March, 2013.)
Summary: First 5K = automatic PR!
So – I left my tu-tu, rainbow wig, & fuel belt at home. I did not wear the shirt after I picked it up. I was pointing in the right direction when they said go. And if I did any farting I wasn’t paying enough attention to really notice.
This morning was upper 30s and sunshine, and a beautiful day for a run. We got there early, picked up my packet, and got my bib and chip in their appropriate places. The pre-race ceremony was all you would expect from a small-ish town race run out of a religious academy – city mayor, city police chief, long prayer, etc. Then they sang the national anthem and we lined up (me at the back) and took off.
The course was basically flat with only one decent sized hill right at the 2-mile marker, and things felt decently good throughout. Because I was ahead of the pace I expected to be at I did a bit of walking around that hill, but otherwise maintained what seemed to be a pretty consistent pace. As we neared the end, it turns out my wife and son were able to get set up about 200 – 300 yards from the finish line to cheer, which was awesome. Even the guy running next to me said “wow – that’s a real shot in the arm, isn’t it?” So I began my kick, and was shocked when I saw the clock at the finish line – I finished a solid 4 minutes faster than I expected to, and nearly 2 minutes faster than what I felt was my “hope to get” goal. It was great.
Apparently I got over-zealous at the finish line and extended my stride on the last step over the chip mat. When that foot landed it immediately buckled and rolled, and I wound up hobbling out of the chute. My ankle is currently fairly swollen, but no discoloration – and ibuprofen, ice, and elevation have helped quite a lot. I was frustrated with my lack of gracefulness at first, but that has worn off – I don’t think I hurt myself too bad.
Observations from someone who hadn’t done this before:
1. People of all stripes all over the place. Though I felt like I had a neon sign over my head that said “newbie!”, in actuality I stood out not at all. So that’s good.
2. Clocks at mile markers are cool. I currently don’t run with a specific running GPS – I use an app on my phone to track my runs. One thing that doesn’t do is give real-time feedback. So when I saw the clock at the first mile marker I was able to gauge how I felt versus how I was doing (much better pace than anticipated) and adjust accordingly. Which means, as I told my wife on the way home, that I’ll shortly be buying a Garmin.
3. I had underestimated how much difference having people around you affects your pace. There was one guy that I marked early on in the race (the one that remarked about the “shot in the arm”) and then one lady that I was around most of the race that I just mentally marked as people I wanted to finish in front of. Because of that I couldn’t let them get away, so I wasn’t able to let up like I might have on a training run. I really think that contributed to my faster-than-expected time.
4. Even cheap swag is cool to get. My race t-shirt was one size too small, but they were giving out a different round of donated shirts when you turned your chip in – so I got two shirts for the price of one. And the cheap little bag with the cheap little cup and cheap little coupons – those are cool.
5. Burger and beer for lunch on race day tastes AWESOME.
They haven’t posted official times yet, but I’ve already started plotting my goal for the next race. In the meantime, I’m going to ice my ankle and drink beer tonight.
Next race, the JFK Runway Run 5K, April 14th.