My first 5K race

I fell in love with running when I started doing the 5K training plan in September 2013. It was hard at the beginning but the 5K plan went easy on me and I did alternative running and walking for weeks before doing more running than walking. I’ve built up my endurance and performance over time and eventually at the end of the training plan about 3 months later, I managed to run longer without difficulties.

I did all my runs outdoors, enjoying the morning sunrise, the fresh air and simply just being outside made me so happy. Come end of November, winter brought the cold and frost so I joined a gym thinking that I will continue training on the treadmill. I did weekly runs on the treadmill multiple times but it wasn’t as exciting as running outside so I eventually stopped doing the 5K training plan and did my own thing, additionally to weight training and classes like pilates and yoga.

I’ve always wanted to take part of a run with many people, but until that point I never felt that I could actually do it, mostly because I never could run for long enough. I searched for runs nearby on the internet and came across the New Year’s Eve Run 2013. I thought this could be a great way to end the year 2013 and hopefully it wouldn’t be too difficult since looking at the pictures from the previous years, people of all ages were running at this race. This was as I was still doing the 5K training plan rigorously outdoors and on one spontaneous moment I hit the register button.

Before the race

The race was on the 31st of December 2013 and I was away till the 29th, scheduled to catch the flight on 29th and have one rest day before the race. Well, the weather thought that it could be fun to play a trick on me and my flight was cancelled so on the 29th afternoon I set out on a long drive of 14 hours, arriving on the 30th in the morning around 8 o’clock and not having slept for over 30 hours. That day went by as you can imagine, getting some sleep, packing out and going grocery shopping. I woke up on the next day, the race day, feeling still tired and wondering what I got myself into.

Ever since I registered for the race, I’ve been going back and forth about whether I should do the race or not and not only because I haven’t been really training for the 5K since end of November (if I don’t count the 20 minute runs on the treadmill), but also because I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

Race day

I prepared my running clothes the night before (the same running clothes that I usually wear during a run), still not being sure if I should do this or not, but as I got up on the morning of the race day my doubts disappeared and excitement took over. I quickly ate some porridge and had a black coffee (my usual breakfast before a run) and got ready, hurrying to have enough time to walk to the location (luckily it was close by) and to pick up my number.

The more I got closer to the venue, the more nervous I got. As I arrived there, I saw the big crowd and tried not to think about what will come next. I searched the place where I could get my number and also picked up my souvenir t-shirt and, after one last bathroom visit (super-important before a run), I got in line at the starting point for the race.

We still had a few minutes so I tried to stay warm (it was so cold!) and calm (I was a nervous wreak!). I did the usual warm-up exercises and finally the countdown started.

There were two big groups, as I found out later, and I was right in the middle of the first group. As the signal went off, everybody started running, a lot of people were even sprinting (as I found out later, the first guy to make it into the finish line was sprinting the entire 5K and made it in about 16 minutes).

I tried to keep up with the group but it wasn’t even 1 km when I started panting and losing my breath so I had to slow down and people were overtaking me by dozens. I continued with a slower pace and more and more people passed by me and I kept looking behind me to see if there was anybody left behind me at all or if I am the last one. I saw even two people doing the race while running backwards and even they overtook me. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Around 2 km an organizer passed by and told me that the second group was approaching and that I should stay on the side. Some from the second group overtook me but most of them kept the same pace as me so I was really glad that I was not the only one so slow. Thinking back, perhaps it would’ve been better to start with the second group but I didn’t know about two groups being split by pace (lesson learned!).

Around this time, I felt that I can go no longer because I still couldn’t get my breathing under control so I decided that there is no shame in walking and did alternative fast walk with slow run from then on.

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I can’t count the number of times I thought that I cannot do this anymore and almost quit but then told myself again and again that I just have to go on. Doing a race is not only a physical stress but it is also mentally exhausting. Music helps (I usually listen to the Tiesto Postcast while out on a run and it helps keep my mind off and my pace is faster) but I couldn’t even enjoy some music because we were advised against it for security reasons so that we pay attention instead.

Nevertheless I kept going, doing my run-walk thing, and not being ashamed of it. People and organizers were cheering us on, I can’t even describe how awesome it all was, despite being mentally and physically tired and wanting to get this race over with.

At the final km I could barely go further and I was walking as I saw that my boyfriend was waiting for me as I was crossing the bridge and going towards the finish line. He started running next to me (in street clothes!!!) filming me with his iPhone and yelling at me to go-go-go (I definitely needed that!) so, even though I felt that I could only walk or crawl for the last meters, I started running (slow, but that was as fast as I could go). More and more people appeared on the side in front of the finish line and they were all cheering, there was even a group playing on the drums and singing and dancing (I had to smile at them, they were so cool!). All these people gave me the last boost to go strong through the finish line.

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After the race

I completely forgot about the most important rule after a run and that is not to stop but to keep walking and to stretch. I stopped a little after the finish line and just let my breathing go and kept panting till I could no more.

After finally catching my breath, I sat down for a while and had some water with a slice of lemon trying to rehydrate myself. I was shaking all over but I was so happy that I made it till the finish line, despite having to run-walk. On my way home, I started to realize what I have accomplished and felt so proud! I was already thinking about all the races I could go to next!

Finish time: 37:07

P.S.: I didn’t finish last! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lessons learned

  • Prepare running clothes on the evening before the race (same clothes I usually wear on a run).
  • Have breakfast (same food like before a usual run)!
  • Search for the right place at the start based on pace.
  • Start the race slow! Starting too fast will get me tired too soon.
  • Keep calm!
  • Stay hydrated!
  • Smile! There are cameras everywhere!
  • After the race walk, stretch and foam roll.

Links:

Pictures
Official pictures
Results
Article in the newspaper (in German)

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