Surviving my First 10K

I’ve been up since 5:30AM, jacked on adrenaline anticipating what it would feel like to run 10K or 6.2 miles. I wanted to be in Central Park by 8:15AM so I could meet my team mates (Team Jack, of Jack Rabbit Sports, a retail store in Park Slope and Manhattan) and get a pep talk. I rode the subway alone, iPod buds in my ears, favorite mix relaxing and preaching to me at the same time … I’ve only been running since September but after that first Beginner I class ended, I knew I wanted to do it again – just not in the dead of winter. I’m hardcore, but not that hardcore. So, I waited for the spring offering but upped the ante and went for the second level of the Beginning I class.

Fast forward to now. I’ve never run a 10K. That’s a lot of running. I know how it feels to run around Prospect Park, which is 3.3 miles, and how hard it is to motivate up the hills, to go with your body and talk your mind out of laziness. I have no grasp of how marathoners do it … my colleague ran the NY Marathon in November, and though she happily got engaged at the end of it, she’s still gimpy from fucking up her knee. Body issues aside, psychologically preparing yourself for that kind of physical challenge IS the challenge. Because getting through any race can be brutal.

Today was brutal. But I was completely charged up from taking it easy all week. My goal was simple: I didn’t want to walk. I would slow myself down as much as I needed to, but I didn’t want to walk any distance. And, I’m proud to say, I didn’t. I did slow down when I hit the watering stations because I needed fluids … even though it was only 69 degrees it felt a lot hotter. My instructor told me I was going to be hot in all black and pants. Still, I’m not a shorts wearer and I ain’t starting now.

The Mini 10K has been going on for a while, and is all women. They call it mini, not to be sexist, but because apparently a pantyhose company sponsored it for many years … get it, pantyhose, mini skirts … yeah cute, I know. Anyway, it didn’t matter to me … this was the finale to my class and of course I was in …

Upon walking into the park I see a broken keychain in the shape of a 3. My lucky number. 3 Prong. I know it’s going to be a good race, regardless of what happens.

We line up according to what we put down for pace per mile. I reported 10:50, and got a pink bib. Some woman sang the Star Spangled Banner and then the gun went off … we got going slow at first because we’re waiting for everybody to move forward. Then it’s on … the race, it’s sunny, warm and I’m just thinking about how I want a tan. People are cheering us on and I’m feeling good. Before I know it, the mile one marker is ahead of me and I’m like, “OK, only five more to go.”

I don’t know anyone around me. I lost the two women from my class I lined up with and I don’t care. I actually prefer to run solo, though do think talking with people at random increments does help make time go faster. For me, though, I concentrate on my breathing, I have to breathe evenly and calmly and having some conversation distracts me from focus. I just keep going. I see a woman to my left knock down an orange cone … a little later a women to my right just takes a huge digger on the grass. All the women around make sure she’s OK, but don’t exactly stop and she gets right on up … I see older women, women on crutches, women of all sizes, moving their bodies and just doing it on this early Sunday morning. My Ironwoman instructor was right: this IS inspiring.

Somewhere along mile 3 I start getting a pain in my side. It’s weird and I’ve never experienced it before. All I can point to is my speed because I do feel like I’m going at a faster pace than usual. I just talk to my side and stomach and tell it nice things. Like, stomach, yo, think about the brunch we’re going to have when this is all done. Like side, you work so hard, just a little more and we’ll be done, we can do it! It seems to work or I, at least, ignore it now. I grab a cup at a watering table and put the liquid to my mouth and realize it’s gatorade. Yuck! The sugar gives me a slight headache now to contend with. But the electrolytes and the fact that I ran under a sprinkler give me an added burst of energy and I’m almost done with mile 4.

At this point, I can taste the finish. I’m not walking though my side hurts. I’m not walking though my legs are getting tired. I’m not walking. I will realize my goal and I will totally relish and enjoy the bragging rights when this crazy shit is through.

The hills on this course are baby, but I can feel them. It’s such a beautiful metaphor for life, if I can get cheesy for a minute. Here I am, amazing, supportive people all around me, but it’s only me that can take it forward … the hills slow me down, but make me even more persistent to reach my goal … and then when I reach the pinnacle of the hill and I feel the pavement lead me downhill, I can just go with the flow and enjoy the natural push …

When I see the mile 5 sign I know it’s almost over … people on the sidelines are cheering and I am so grateful for them. I have a little over a mile to go …. I straighten up, the ends of my hair are wet in my ponytail and bouncing into my naked arm so it feels like little shocks going through my system … I’m ready for this to be over … I continue to go at my stable pace … I’m on target with time at every mile mark I pass and I’m not even trying … I hear a woman say upon hitting the 800M mark, “that doesn’t make me feel better, it’s a half mile more …” I’m grateful for her complaint because now I know where I’m at. And then I hit 6.

Mile 6 I start feeling shaky, like, nervous for the finish line. I’m so there. The adrenaline is pulsing through my body and my endorphins are carrying me now. The crowd is rowdier over here. I have a fear I won’t make it there so I step it up. At the 200M mark I can see the finish line and out of nowhere I just start sprinting. My head is pounding and my stomach is clenched in stitches but I just fucking go for it. I have no idea what happened or how I pulled this extra energy out of me. I’m telling women in front of me, “right behind you! right behind you!” as I pass them on the left. I’m running fast. I see my friend, Jess, and give her a high five. A few more steps and I cross the line. Relief.

My breath comes back to me in tumbles and I am dizzy. I walk to some water and am seriously all smiles even though I wanted to just lay down on the pavement. My body is pulsating and throbbing and I’m just hot and sweaty and Jess gives me a hug … I came in at 1:04:57. Pretty amazing, considering that’s a 10:28 mile. Compared to my first 5K I ran in November, at 45:29 with a mile pace of 11:22, that’s a huge improvement. Then I remember what I saw when I hit the 5K mark earlier, that my time was around 34 minutes. Not that I’m counting or anything …

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