The gun went off and I was startled. Was it supposed to be this loud? People started going, fast, while I just kind of stood at the starting line in a cherry printed cotton tank top and gray cotton shorts. My sneakers were 2 years old, and I didn’t know it at the time, but they were ill fitting and very worn. I was the typical rookie. I had no idea what was going on, and I had no idea what was coming. As the people behind me pushed past to get going, I started my shuffle down West River Drive.
This was my first 5k, the Clean Air Council’s Run For Clean Air.
At the half way point I was out of breath. I stopped to casually chat with the water station volunteers at the turn around. Because why not! And then 45ish minutes later I was an official runner. I had done an actual race, and got a coveted medal! I celebrated by drinking wine in the streets with my friend Megan. We felt like queens!
A lot of self work, a little confidence, and some well meaning peer pressure, got me to that starting line. I ran/ walked 3 times a week with my dog, Baci Ball and my friend Adrienne. I took a vow that I wanted to be healthy- and I wanted to be fit.
3.1 miles – for many womxn, sounds impossible. I know it did for me! I didn’t think I could do it. Run a race! Who did I think I was? I was a junk food vegan, drinker, a late night partier. My weekends consisted of brunch, bars, and binge watching Law and order. Deep down though, while I was spending my twenties having fun, I was somewhat depressed with my lack of mobility. Everything was a challenge. Walking to work, going on vacation, household chores, everything just felt annoying. Until I started running.
Online now, we see so many people hating on 5ks. So many in the endurance world rudely correcting others: “A marathon is 26.2 miles, not every race is called a marathon!” I saw that as a comment on a person’s page recently. This amazing lady, so proud of her accomplishment, so grateful for her body for getting her all the way through 3.1 miles, that she boasted “5k Marathon – Done!” And you know what – YESSS!!! So technically a 5K is not a marathon- sure. But the idea and concept of “a marathon” can be actualized in a 5k race.
To me, a marathon used to represent an unimaginable challenge. Something that I believed I could never ever accomplish. I remember saying to people after my successful 5k finish- “Well, I’m sure I can do an 8k, but I’ll never be able to run a half.” And then you know what, with a training plan I printed for free offline – I did my first half. I broke the bones in both of my feet, but that’s because I was running in old sneakers that were worn to the sole. I tripped over a sidewalk at a water stop. I didn’t know any better. I finished in over 3 hours.
Now I am at the place in my life where no challenge seems scary. No challenge seems unimaginable. It’s not because I am supremely fit, and it’s not because I am overly confident. It’s because I know, with the proper training and planning – I have it in me to succeed. We all have it in us to succeed – we just have to let ourselves embrace that.
The day I ran my first marathon – I mean my first 26.2 actual marathon- I crossed the finish line and was in shock. I was in good condition, top of the line shoes, technical clothes, and had the “look” of a runner that I didn’t even realize was a thing, all those years ago. What I have learned on my 7 year path from 5k Finisher to Ironman Finisher – is not that one race is harder than the other – but that they truly are ALL HARD races.
5ks still challenge me like no other race. But now, for different reasons. When I race a 5k I have to spend the entire 26 minutes focused, concentrating on my stride, pushing myself, breathing, and I usually have a time goal that I want to get. It’s not an easy talking pace like a marathon. It’s harder, it’s faster, it’s still my ultimate challenge. The 5k will always be the race in which I leave everything I have on that course, when I finish with nothing left, and it will always be a race I am most proud of running.
So to everyone out there that grams they did their first 5k Marathon – I have your back. Even though that’s technically incorrect – whatever. You earned it! I am proud of you!