A couple months ago, my friend Jessica mentioned on facebook that she’d like to do a 5k. I’d secretly been looking at local races and contemplating giving one a shot, so when I saw her post, I told her I’d do it with her. We were able to find a race and get signed up. The Colors of Courage 5k was sponsored by a local hospital, with proceeds going to benefit uninsured cancer patients. This was definitely a worthy cause, so I was happy to pay the entry fee.
The morning of the race, I was excited. At a little over 3 miles, I wasn’t really concerned about the distance, but I hadn’t prepared for the race like I should have. Early in the summer, I had been walking several miles each day, working on my endurance and time. As the heat and humidity of summer increased, however, I got extremely lax about exercising. I was concerned about the time it would take me to walk to course; I just hoped I wouldn’t finish last!
When we arrived at the event, my anxiety started to increase. Looking around, there were lots of extremely fit people gearing up for the start of the race. Many of them were running sprints and doing stretches. I started to get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, wondering if I’d made a huge mistake. It was obvious that many of the participants were serious about the race.
It’s not that I wasn’t serious, but I’m not an athlete. I’m not a runner. It’s a good day if I don’t trip over my own feet! I also know that I’m incredibly slow. I always have been, even when I weighed less. As a chubby person, there’s nothing more intimidating to me than being surrounded by a bunch of thin, in-shape people. It’s probably why I still haven’t gotten the courage to join a gym.
As I looked closer, however, I realized that the race participants included people that were more like me. No one was unkind. There wasn’t anyone looking at me as if I didn’t belong. I started to relax a little, especially after the gun sounded and the runners took off.
Before the race with Jessica | The long line of race participants
The group of walkers I ended up near were as nice as can be. Strangers were happy to start conversations as we walked along. That made me feel a lot more comfortable, especially as the course dragged on and the morning sun appeared overhead.
The first mile of the race didn’t seem so bad. There was a large group of people in front of me, but also people behind me. I felt like I was keeping up with the pack of walkers, setting a pretty good pace for myself. There was a line at the first water station, but with the sun making its presence known, I knew I needed to stay hydrated, so I waited.
Around mile two, I started praying for the half mile markers that were placed on the course. I was definitely feeling the effects of inadequate preparation. The sun was hot and the temperature was rising. The second water station was out of water; all they could offer was a cup of ice. (Next race, I’ll be sure to bring my own.)
At the three mile mark, as the race turned to cross a small bridge, I was feeling incredibly run down. I knew I needed to pick up the pace, but my tank was running on empty.
I was so incredibly happy to see the finish line! I could spot Jessica just beyond it, as she completed the race several minutes before me. Final time for my first 5k was just over an hour and I’m completely okay with that.
For me, this event was a huge step in my journey. It was proving to myself that I can do things that seem out of my reach. I’m never going to be the fastest. I might even finish last. But I finished and didn’t give up. That’s what matters to me.
If you’re a local and interested in walking with me, my next 5k is coming up on Saturday, September 24th. Proceeds from the Totally Awesome Race for Recovery will help support addiction recovery efforts in Eastern Kentucky. Online registration is available.