Last Sunday I participated in my first race. This served to burst my bubble into the racing community, and alleviate some of that anxiety and excitement about trying something new for the very first time.
This past Sunday I participated in my second race, which was an 8 kilometer (5 mile) race in Central Park, NY. This event was hosted by New York Road Runners and Poland Spring (my favorite water company). There were a total of 6472 participants running, so this created a lot of energy and buzz before, during, and after the race.
I woke up at 4:15 AM, showered, ate some oatmeal, hung out with Marina for a few minutes and headed over to meet the group. Our meeting spot was the LA Fitness parking lot in North Brunswick, NJ, where we got together at 5:30 AM to drive into the city.
It’s always more fun when you go in a group, especially when everyone with me was a much more experienced runner. I got to ask my running questions, get direct answers, and it happened to be that everyone in the group is awesome and has a huge personality.
When we got there the sun was barely peaking over the horizon (as if we could see a Horizon in the middle of NYC). Not many people were there yet, and we could see the staff setting up the stage for the performers and announcers, as well as the line of people signing up to be volunteers. I immediately signed up for the race, handed over my thirty-five bucks, and scrambled to get my free Poland Spring T-shirt and shoelaces, which I will cherish as a memory of this milestone.
After about an hour of hanging out with Nora, Marge, Binti, Nicholas, and Michael it was time to line up at our respective spots at the starting line. With over 6,000 people, the participants were divided according to their estimated pace. Since this was going to be the first time I raced an 8K (actually the first time that I would ever attempt to run that far in my entire life) I put a modest 10 minutes per mile.
Little did I know that putting that number down as my pace would put me pretty much at the end of the line of runners. Luckily we all had a timing chip attached to our sneakers, so the countdown started once we personally passed the starting line, and ended at the finish. It actually took me a good 5-7 minutes to reach the starting line after the race had begun.
There were many people cheering at the starting line, which gave me extra energy and motivation. The only problem was I couldn’t run full speed, because there were way too many people in my way. It felt like bumper to bumper traffic, and I was weaving in and out of lanes.
Every few hundred yards there was a pair of volunteers whose sole purpose it seems was to cheer on the runners. At this point, all I thought was that it was nice of the volunteers to come out and cheer, but didn’t realize just how instrumental they would soon be.
Coming up to the second mile my legs felt very fatiqued. I actually thought about slowing down, or walking, and saw a lot of people that had already pulled over to the side to walk it out.
I remembered that just last week I ran a race that was 3.11 miles. I knew I could do at least that much, so I was determined to reach that point no matter what. This is where I began to realize just how valuable those volunteers on the side really are. “Good job runners! Looking strong!” were the words of inspiration around every corner. Hey, if they think I’m looking strong, I can’t disappoint them, can I?
I blew past the 3.11 mile, and then past the 3.5 – things seem a bit easier once you’re half way done, because you just say to yourself that if you did it once you can do it again. However, something happened at the 3.75 area that I wasn’t expecting.
A big terribly painful cramp around my right rib area, which I believe is called a stitch. No one likes to be in pain, especially not when they’re tired and trying to run. I held onto my side, and tried to massage it as a ran. “Looking good runners, you’re almost there!” That helped, once again, but there was something even bigger that helped to work through the pain.
I thought about how I was going to write this article, and how I’d be able to inspire someone by sharing my running story of pushing through, and not giving up. I was tired, I was in pain, and I had nothing to prove to anybody. All that kept me going was a personal challenge, and the fact that I wanted to get to the end.
Around the 4.5 mile point I completely forgot about the pain. At this point I could pretty much see the finish line, so I started to run as fast as my feet would take me. Everyone in front of me who wasn’t already done was on the slow side at this point, and I felt like The Flash as I passed them on their left hand side.
As I ran I saw hordes of people on both sides of the finish line area. Some were cheering, and waiting for their loves ones, while others were taking video and photo shots. I felt like a star and like all eyes were on me. That didn’t matter though, I knew I didn’t win any prize, or finish within the first couple of thousand.
All I could think about was that I made a goal, and in about 20 yards that goal would transform into an achievement.
I finished the 5 miles in 48:41, which is about 9 and a half mile pace, a bit faster then I estimated on the sign up form. Not Olympic speed yet, but not at all bad for a first timer.
There’s nothing better than the feeling of integrity – of saying you’re going to do something, and then doing it.
Now it’s time to hear from you. See if you can answer these two questions in the comments section below.
- Motivation. What motivates you to push yourself in a race, at work, and in life in general?
- Aspirations. What do you aspire to do in your life? Let’s set a new personal goal right here.