This past weekend, for the first time in 10 years, I ran a race.
I like to think I’m in pretty good shape. I mean, I do run a fitness website. So why has it taken me an entire decade to run a race? Lots of reasons, actually, but two reasons stand out above the rest.
- I hate running! Seriously. Not a fan.
- I’m one of those people blessed/cursed with an overactive metabolism. I try to minimize cardio because it keeps me skinny.
So what the heck got me running this weekend? Easy: peer pressure, a really good cause, and humility. Read on.
How I Prepared for the 5K
Honestly, I didn’t, which is a pretty terrible way to prepare for anything. I spent my past few weeks reading books, watching the Wire on DVD (just started season 3), and playing Modern Warfare. I still did my normal weight training (3 days a week), but I didn’t do any specific training for this race with running. I figured 3.2 miles was short enough that I could manage without killing myself. Actually, I didn’t actually agree to running until about a week before, and you can’t exactly cram for a race like you can cram for a test (my specialty). So, I woke up on race day having run 3 miles just once in preparation.
How the Race Went
Having never run a scheduled race before (other than cross-country my freshman year of high school), I woke up on race day and had no clue what I was doing: where I needed to go, what I needed to do, what I needed to bring, etc. Luckily, I was running with a few friends who DID have a clue: my friend Joe (fellow Five Fingers shoe wearer and the strongest mofo I know), his wife Ali (big-time runner, med student, and one of the coolest people I know), and my other friend Kate (who is indirectly responsible for all the bandages on my hands now. Long story).
I woke up around 7:30, ate a bowl of Cheerios and an apple, and then carpooled down to Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. While getting weird looks for the gloves on our feet, Joe and I ran some warm-up sprints to get our heart racing and muscles warm. We headed over to the starting line, about 5 or 6 rows deep, and had some conversations with the people around me about what happened to our shoes.
I then got butterflies in my stomach. I had forgotten what it felt like to be in a real competition.
The race began, but it didn’t happen like I had expected it to. Due to the sheer volume of people in front of me, I couldn’t really run. I had to jog/walk for the first two minutes of the race until the pack thinned out, and then it was another few minutes until Joe and I could really run without interruption. Note to self: get much closer to the front of the pack for the next race.
Here are the highlights from the race that stick out:
- Heavy breathing, followed by us passing only the 1-mile mark. Crap, I really am out of shape.
- Getting passed by a dude running in Vibrams! More about him later.
- Struggling through a lot of the downhill portions of the race. I haven’t perfected the art of running downhill “barefoot” without slamming my heels into the ground.
- Surprise and happiness that my feet never really hurt. Woohoo!
- Watching a kid who is probably 10 beat me by about 10 seconds.
In the end, I finished huffing and puffing with a time of 26:40-something. Factoring in the few minutes for a slow start, I was actually pretty happy with my time. Sure that 10 year-old kid beat me, but he was running pretty fast, and I’m out of shape. I chalked that one up to his youthful exuberance. Then, I talked to Ali (who had run a 10k earlier) after the race ended:
- Ali: “I wish I had my camera out!”
- Steve: “Yeah that would have been cool to get a picture of me crossing the finish line.”
- Ali: “No not for that. I wanted to take a picture of the 10 year-old girl that finished like 3 minutes ahead of you.”
- Steve: “Yeah, but at least I can drive myself home.”
Okay, so not only did I lose to a 10 year-old boy by a few seconds…I lost to a 10-year old girl by like 3 minutes. Oh well, humility is good. Plus, she probably had homework to do yesterday when I got to sit around and watch football. I WIN, LITTLE GIRL!
The Other Barefoot Guy
Let me tell you about the other guy wearing Vibrams. He came jogging up next to me with a HUGE grin on his face, but I didn’t notice until he was right next to me. This is because he was literally floating down the road. The best word I could use to describe his running style?
After the race ended, I went over to the dude and talked to him about his experiences running in Vibrams. He said that two years ago he was running in some New Balance shoes, and he managed to blow out one of them while messing up his ankle. He switched to Vibrams and never looked back. Moving forward, I plan to do some more reading on the POSE method of running and find a way to run barefoot more efficiently. Thanks Vibram dude, for showing me how a veteran barefoot runner takes care of business.
What I Liked About the Race
Although I don’t like running, I’m glad I ran.
- It was for a good cause – I’ve been volunteering at the Atlanta Children’s Hospital for the past year, and this race raised money for the hospital. If I’m going to run a race, might as well help some kids while I’m at it.
- I got to try out the Vibrams – I bought these ninja-gorilla shoes. I’ve been messing around with them in the gym and on the occasional jog, but I wanted to see how they’d hold up in an actual race.
- My friend made me – Everybody talks about how bad peer pressure is. I think it depends on what they’re pressuring you to do. If it’s something good like exercising, running a race, robbing a bank, etc., what’s the problem?
- I wanted to know how out of shape i am – Prior to this race, I had only run 3 miles once in the past decade…and that was two weeks ago. What better way to test my endurance than by running a race.
- To say I did it – I guess it’s one more thing to check off a list – run a 5k. Done!
- Competition – I haven’t competed in anything in a while, and I missed that great feeling of excited nervousness.
What I Hated About Running
I realized what I hate about running: the actual running. I’m assuming being out of shape didn’t help, but my stomach started to bother me halfway through the race, I was exhausted the entire time, and I just felt like crap for most of it. Of course, I felt absolutely amazing after the finish, which reminded me my favorite part about running: the end.
I came to the realization that I just don’t get the satisfaction out of running that others do, which is fine (and not really surprising). Some people get in shape by running. I am not one of those people. I get more satisfaction out of lifting heavier and heavier weights. That’s what makes me happy. For millions of other people, it’s running. I’m happy for those people. Are you one of them? Do you KNOW if you’re one of them?
How to Run a 5K
Okay, so if you’ve never run before, how the heck do you set out and run a 5K? You might hate it, you might love it, but you won’t know until you do it. I wouldn’t recommend following my training regiment of NOTHING. The best plan I’ve found to prepare for a 5k for desk jockeys is the Couch to 5K Program. This is literally a day by day plan for couch potatoes on how to run a race.
Here are some other tips:
- Take it slow. Don’t be an idiot like me, go through the plan and actually train for your race. It doesn’t matter where you start. It matters that you finish.
- Sign up for a race, and pay for it ahead of time. If you pay weeks/months in advance, you’ll be more likely to actually kick yourself in the ass and go through with your training.
- Do it with a friend. I had my friend Joe running alongside me the entire time. Joe is in better shape than I am, so I spent the majority of the race trying to keep up with him. Without Joe, I probably would have finished a few minutes slower because I wouldn’t have had somebody to push me past my limits.
- Compete against yourself. Don’t worry about the people around you. You will get passed by small children. It’s humbling and embarrassing, but it will happen. Or, you won’t even see the small children, because they finished 3 minutes ahead of you. Just do the best you can. Then, for your next race, do better than you did last time.
- Run with somebody who knows what they’re doing. Race day is chaotic. There are thousands of people running, and if you don’t know where to go it’s easy to get lost. Go with somebody who has gone through the motions and can help you.
Does this mean I’ll never run a race again? Absolutely not.
For whatever reason, I’m a glutton for punishment (which you’d know if you’ve read my Crossfit article). So, if I decide to run another race, I’m going to do it for a great cause and raise money through Nerd Fitness. As my friend Matt says on his blog DoGoodedness, humility is free. If I have to run a 10K dressed as Optimus Prime to raise money for a new kindergarten, sign me up.
Do we have any runners out there? Any tips for first-time 5Kers? Any suggestions on costume suggestions? I’m thinking more and more ridiculous based on how much money gets raised.
photo from: KalerBlind