What I Learned From My First 5K Race

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Well, today was the BIG day...I completed my first-ever 5K race! Since back in June when I first got the crazy notion that maybe I would start running, I knew I needed to train for an actual race to keep me motivated. So, when hubby and I found this local race, we knew it was the one for us. When I first signed up, I had only two goals: 1. to finish in less than 45 minutes; and 2. to not be last. I believe I managed to hit those goals, but the official time hasn’t been posted yet, so I’m not 100% sure. I do know that I didn’t come in last…but I came in second to last. Still not last though, right???

Not only was this the first 5K that I have ever competed in, but it was the first race that I have ever seen in real life. I truly had NO idea what to expect. No wonder I was nervous last night while trying to fall asleep. So, since I was a total newbie, I thought I would include a list of what I learned today and what I will do differently next time.

1. I should have done a “practice” run ahead of time. Normally, I get up at 5:45 am and head out to run at 6am. This is because it has been so crazy-humid this summer and I just can’t stand running in the heat. Also, I have two little kiddos (ages 6 and 3). It is so much easier to be out when they are still sleeping. Prior to my normal run or walk, I drink about ½ - 1 cup of water. That is it! Nothing else. One time I had about a half of a banana along with about a ½ tablespoon of peanut butter, but usually it is just water.

So, this morning, I woke up at 6am, but the race wasn't until 8am. I knew I would be starving if I waited until after the race to eat, so I ate two pieces of toast with peanut butter and a banana. That alone probably wasn’t bad. But…here is where I learned a HUGE lesson. When I normally eat breakfast, I also drink a diet coke. I know…weird…it is a habit I would like to kick, but for now it is what it is. This morning, I had one can of diet coke and was still so thirsty (I think I had a lot of nervous energy that was making me feel weird) so I decided to drink ANOTHER diet coke. Now, I did make sure to use the bathroom prior to leaving for the race, so I thought I was good. (Here is where it gets even better). In the car, I decided I should make sure that I was REAL hydrated, so I drank a bunch of water. I was feeling fine, so that was that!

After the race started, I got through to the 1 mile mark and I was feeling great. I was at the end of the pack, but I always assumed that would be the case. But after that first mile, I started to notice something. Uh oh…I really had to pee! AND I started getting a funny feeling in my stomach, kind of like all of the food in there was sloshing around. This was not a good feeling. I kept running as much as I could, but from the 1 mile mark to the 2 mile mark, I probably ran half and walked half. You see, I am a 34 year old woman who has had two children and I was afraid that I wasn’t going to get much of a warning before I wet myself! I guess walking was easier on my bladder than running.

After the two mile mark, I knew there was a bathroom coming up. At this point, I had to walk (it was that bad), but uh oh…up ahead I saw my parents along with my two children. I knew my kids would be so disappointed if I didn’t run past them. So I stepped it up, ran past the kids, prayed a lot that I wouldn’t lose it, and I did make it to the bathroom. So, note to self before next race – preplan my eating and especially my drinking! I like the idea of a "trial day race", where I get up at the time I would have to get up on race day, eat and drink, and then wait until race time to run. Hopefully this will tell me how my body will react to my breakfast. What a way to learn this lesson though...

2. When I find the next race that I want to run in, I will not register right away, especially if it is a small, local race. I think I mentioned before how nervous I was prior to the race. I had read some about others’ experiences in races, but I truly did not know what to expect. I am NOT one of those people who thrive on the unknown!!! So today, I wasn’t sure how things would work and I was a little unsure of the whole thing. Also, this race was benefiting the local cross country team. I knew there would be a bunch of kids running. I wasn’t sure if there would be any other thirty-something women out there who planned to take a LONG time to finish the race. Frankly, I was a bit embarrassed since I knew I probably couldn’t run the whole thing and I just hoped that I wouldn’t stand out.

So, hubby and I got to the race and I finished off my bottle of water in the car (see above) and then we headed off to the registration table. I walked up and gave our names (since I registered us together) and the lady at the table said “Oh yes, I have you right here on top”. She gave us our fun t-shirts and our bibs and…can you believe it…my bib was #1!!! Yikes, I was that dorky girl that was so excited about the race that I preregistered months ago! And in that time, I couldn’t even manage to train well enough to run the whole thing.

Now I know I was being hard on myself. Trust me, hubby convinced me that I really needed to chill out. And I did. But I do not want to be #1 again…that is, unless I really get to the point that I can actually be competitive!

(I will admit though that since I plan on keeping all of my race bibs, it will be kind of fun to have the #1 bib for my first race.)

3. When you are in the back of the running pack, even if you decide to change your status to Walker, the little golf-cart-thingy still has to drive behind you. This race was a run/walk. I really liked this because this way I knew that I wouldn’t be the very last to finish the race. When we took off, they encouraged the walkers to hang out in the back. I know that my pace is S-L-O-W so I decided to hang at the back as well. There ended up being four of us running in the back of the group (I mean, the way back) – two girls my age or younger and an older man (who I later learned just started running a year ago due to heart problems and has run 16 races in a year!). Of course, the golf-cart-thingy drove slowly behind us.

About half-way through the race, the girl behind me started walking for good (I guess); as I heard her tell the golf-cart-thingy-people that they could pass her because she was going to walk from now on. But they said that they couldn’t. I guess it is a “rule” that they stay behind the runners, even if we become walkers, as I suppose we could kill over at any moment from our previous running exertion.

I truly disliked having the sound of the golf-cart-thingy in my ears as I was trying to run, as it continually reminded me that I was in the back. Maybe I could turn this into motivation for next time and pick up the pace so I don't have to deal with it.

4. Kids run FAST! I won’t spend a lot of time on this one, but my hubby and I spent a lot of time after the race discussing how crazy it is that so many kids (and by kids, I mean younger than 10) were able to beat us by A LOT!

Okay, so I won’t spend any more time talking about the negative, because it was an awesome experience. I loved the feeling of crossing the finish line. I loved seeing my children as they cheered for me. I loved getting my bottle of water and orange slices at the end and really feeling that a runner (oh, and I loved finding a bathroom because I had to go AGAIN!).. It was great. And I definitely plan to do it again! Here I come Pumpkins in the Park 5K on October 16. This time…I will be ready to run the whole thing!!!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for sharing your race experience! I am training for my second 5K on Oct. 23. I think we will both do better now that we know what to expect. Hope your training goes well!
    3724 days ago
    You did a great job and you should be so proud! I have to admit that I laughed at all the potty breaks - I've been there, done that but luckily not during a race! Poor girl. Ah well, you'll know better next time! Congrats on a great race!
    3750 days ago
    Great job Melanie and congratulations on reaching your goals! So proud of you & love the fact that you have your next race lined up. I was waffling on signing up for my next one in October, but maybe I will have to now LOL
    3750 days ago
    Congratulations! You were awesome! I can really relate to the urgent need for a bathroom break. emoticon I think that's a universal experience. Even if you don't drink 3 sodas! It must be the nervous energy. The more I race, the less it becomes an issue.

    Now that you have one under your belt, you'll do even better at your next race. Jeff Galloway has a good run/walk interval program for training and races. Believe it or not, you can set a PR with it. I use it for my long runs, but it works on the short runs, too.

    Good luck on your training. Looking forward to hearing the results of your next race.

    emoticon emoticon
    3751 days ago
  • no profile photo CD6329775
    I love this blog!!! So much honesty and REALITY. Well, I have yet to run my first 5K because it would take me SO LONG TO FINISH. Maybe I will find one and register! Thanks for sharing!
    3751 days ago
    Congrats! I save all my race bibs and with the pictures I take, I scrapbook them into an album. It is a great way to look back at my races and you can write about the day and put in your time and the weather and such! Congrats again!
    3752 days ago
  • BOBBYD31
    congrats on your first 5k!!! remember it well because there is only one first 5k. i can tell from you blog you are very excited as you should be. in time you will learn what works best for you prior to a run/race(my wife always hit the potty right before we head to the starting line) i would suggest more water before your morning run because you are dehydrated from not having anything all night, second learn to eat something also that way you know what to do prior to a race. once you find the right combo it will make your runs better and easier to prep for race. welcome to the racing world.
    3752 days ago
    All the potty breaks! Poor girl!HAHA!! I couldn't imagine running after one soda let alone two-that's alot of carbonation!
    The one thing I've noticed is that when I take my walk breaks, my bladder acts up so I start running again-that's motivation!

    Great job on your first 5k! I hope you've been bitten by the race bug-
    3752 days ago
    Congratulations on your first 5k!!! That's kind of cool that you got bib #1 for your first race. I have been racing for a year and plan to keep every single bib i get. They are kind of fun to have as souvenirs! Anyway, you did a GREAT job, and best of luck with your next one!!

    3752 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4655845
    Great blog, I plan to run my first 5K at the end of October. Ironically, my name is Melanie also! I'll know what to look out for now.

    3752 days ago
    Wooohoooo! WTG! This is a great blog post to share with rookie runners. Hope you don't mind if I post it over there? I share with you the joy of being "not last". For me it was in my first race after some 25 years of not believing I'd be able to run again. Since then, I've done several runs and have been "not last" in all of them ;)

    I just love the fact that your whole family was out there to support you!

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3752 days ago
    Good job Melanie!! And great post. I will learn from your wisdom and experience. And i like your idea to keep your race bibs, i think I'll do that too. Way to go!!!!!!!!
    3752 days ago
    You can do it! Trust me, if anyone would have told me last spring that I was going to run a 5K this summer, I would have laughed at them. If I can do this...I am certain that anyone can. Thanks for the comment :)
    3752 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7737851
    Congratulations of running your first 5k. I still have to get the courage to even think about signing up for one. You're lucky to have hubby with you. Great Blog!
    3752 days ago
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