Running is my therapy. Being on the trails feeds my soul. But racing! Racing is a different story. Racing always leaves me feeling vulnerable and exposed. I show up to every start line committed to giving it my best on that day, yet there is so much you can’t control. Some race finishes leave me feeling triumphant while other races leave me feeling like I’m face down in a mud puddle.
I’m on a quest this summer to conquer the 5k PR I set in November 2013. The time to beat is 24:50 (7:59 pace). My plan is simple. Get strong. Run a 5k a month. Grab a new PR before I start training for half marathons this fall.
Yesterday I ran my May 5k at the inaugural J&A Racing Corporate 5k. This race was a little different than most 5ks in the area. With a focus on employee wellness and corporate involvement, it was a 5k race after work with a tailgate party to follow. The race kicked off at 6:30pm just outside our local baseball stadium.
I had all day to be nervous. I had all day to come up with scenarios of success and failure. Would I finish feeling triumphant or would I finish face down in the mud?
After a gentle reminder to let go of outcome expectations, I took a few deep breaths and made a mental list of my own expectations. What was I hoping to achieve?
- Run faster than ODU 5k
- Feel strong
- Feel healthy
- Run mentally strong
There is a reason my 5k PR is nearly three years old. There were a few years where I mentally struggled with racing. I was afraid to get uncomfortable. I shut down when it got hard. I may still be wiping some of that mud off my face. All day I felt vulnerable and exposed. Would I end up back in the mud puddle after I’ve worked so hard to lift myself out of it.
When I arrived in the parking lot of the race, rain decided to welcome me. It was nothing like a typical day in May in Virginia. Cold, wet and windy. My nerves would not relax.
Rain or shine, I was running. Good day or bad, I was going to run with all I had to give. It was time to race.
“I believe that vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy.” ~Brene Brown
With three great friends by my side, the race was off. The start was incredibly congested. Puddles filled the streets. My own personal game of leap frog started my race off strong.
Mile 1 – 8:24
Mile 1 arrived, and I felt great. Had I gone out too slow? My good friend Karen stuck by my side for the race. She knew my goal was to run faster than a 8:30 pace. With her on pacing duties, I promised to not look at my watch once. There is no room for second guessing in a 5k. Keep running hard.
With little running since Shamrock, I was shocked by how good my cardio felt. My quads were burning, but my entire body felt engaged. Instead of focusing on what hurt, I focused on what felt strong.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Mile 3 – 8:22
With the finish literally around the corner (around the baseball stadium straight towards home plate), I just focused on holding on.
Final stretch – 7:42 pace
Garmin finish – 3.22 miles, 26:51 (8:20 pace)
Official finish – 5k, 26:52 (8:39 pace
While the official time is a few seconds slower than the ODU 5k, the course was longer. The growth is clearly there. My pacing (and pacer) was perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever run a race this consistent. My body feels strong. My confidence is growing.
This race was a huge win!
Pushing through the fear of the unknown, of expectations, and discomfort is worth it every time. Sometimes you do end up face down in the mud, but sometimes you soar! Showing up and giving your best is only way to learn to fly.