I woke up yesterday feeling excited, scared, happy, and nervous. There was definitely anxiety, but more so there was a sense of building eager anticipation for what was to come. The fact that I was about to embark on a 10K was monumental in my mind, and I enjoyed every single second of those pre-race moments.
My husband and I arrived early to avoid feeling rushed and there were already thousands of people milling around in the downtown core where the run was set to begin. This was a large event! Apparently it is the second biggest 10K race in the world, and there were over 51,000 participants in this year’s event.
We found our assigned area – which was organized according to your estimated finish time; we had both guessed we would complete the run sometime in the 1:01 to 1:15 interval – and had lots of time to get water, use the washroom, ask questions, check out the start line (which was about two blocks away from our section), and drop off our bag at one of the gear transport trucks. At nine o’clock we were completely ready to begin and excitedly counted down the start of the race with all those in attendance.
And we were off… or not! From talking with people beforehand I knew full well that it would probably take about twenty minutes for us to cross the start line due to the sheer volume of people participating. Because everyone had time chips attached to their shoes it wasn’t a concern since each individual’s personal time would not begin until actually going past the beginning marker. It ended up taking longer than forty-five minutes, and about seven or eight waves of different commencements counted down by the organizers, before we got up to the start line. Finally we were ready and, after a quick kiss exchanged with my hubby, I was on my way!
I was prepared too. I started my stopwatch at the right moment and began the music on my mp3 player to help me with my pace. I had walked the route as closely as I could last week so that I was familiar with the hills and turns. I also had a fairly good idea of where the halfway and three-quarter points were; I had even figured out approximately where the last kilometer started so that I could push myself during that final stage of the race.
What I was not totally ready for was the number of people. I knew that it would be crowded, but I had not anticipated that it wouldn’t let up and thin out at some point. For the entire time I was running I was surrounded by other participants. There was no real chance to fade into any type of jogger’s zone; it was completely necessary to stay focused to avoid crashing into someone else at all times. Even with paying close attention it wasn’t always easy to anticipate the actions of those around me and there were a few individuals whom I accidentally lightly bumped into throughout the race. There were no serious collisions or anything though and I always said sorry when I knocked into someone. Where the water stations were located, especially, I noticed that many people slowed down suddenly, and so I found it best to stick to the centre of the pathway during those sections to minimize such problems.
There was a slight downward slope within the first few blocks so I went faster along that without overdoing it. Then the route leveled out and I settled into my pace. Generally I felt like I was passing people much more than I was being passed, but that wasn’t important to me apart from the fact that it served to help me figure out which paths to take through the crowd. If a strip of space opened up in front of me I ran more rapidly to take advantage of it because I soon realized that there would be many moments where there would be no gaps during which I couldn’t go as quickly as I would have liked.
The majority of the first half was relatively flat which was great, but by the time I was nearing the biggest hill I was getting a little anxious because I was losing my confidence about how far along in the race I was. I hadn’t noticed any distance markers apart from the 1K one much earlier in the run and was really wondering how far I had gone. While my main aims were to simply finish the 10K and to complete it within my estimated time of 1:01 to 1:15, I also had my usual “secret” goals in the back of my mind too. I really wanted to do the entire race without walking or stopping and I (probably foolishly) thought that I might be able to do it in under an hour. When I hit that first real hill I wasn’t sure that I was far enough along to accomplish that latter ambition.
But I kept my head down on the hill and climbed it without any problem (it was pretty steep, but not very long) and about a block later had a slight incline to face as I went over the first of two bridges. The downward slope leading off the structure was nice, but not nearly as rewarding as the 6K marker that I passed at its end. That was when I knew that if I kept up my pace that I could meet my goals.
I was, however, also aware that nothing was decided since the second half of such a long run generally goes slower than the first half. As I hit the next flat patch I promised myself that I could slow my rate slightly at the next incline, which I did about five minutes later. After that I had another straight, flat stretch so I went back to my normal pace. I also had the chance to high-five a woman who looked like she could use the encouragement as I ran past her.
Then I hit the second big hill. It was a ramp leading onto the final bridge and I climbed it with determination, knowing that its crest meant that I only had about a kilometer to go. I knew I had done it. Nothing was going to stop me. As my husband said afterwards, it was the point where even if you had fallen down with broken legs, nothing was going to keep you from crossing that finish line.
I picked up as much speed as I could. There were still countless people around me and I was surprised that there was not more of a push by the masses to finish strong. I did the best I could in the space that I had available to me. I got one really nice open stretch for the last few seconds of my race where I really pulled it out. I finished with a time of 57 minutes and 1 second.
I ran the whole thing.
I still can’t believe it.
My husband completed the race less than a minute before me with a time of 56:05. He was waiting for me off to the side, perhaps a hundred meters past the finish line. I walked up to him, fell into his arms, and burst out crying. I do that a lot these days, but with good reason I think. It’s hard not to put all of these accomplishments into the context of where I am now as compared to when I weighed 266 pounds. Happy tears are a good thing.
It’s more than twenty-four hours after the event and I am still feeling the same way. I can barely believe that I participated in a 10K… running the whole time… in less than an hour. I even placed 367th out of 2,584 females in my age division and 8,387th overall. Of 22,301 women, I earned the 2,162th spot. My pace was 5:43 per kilometer, or 9:11 per mile.
Honestly, I don’t really know how all of that information measures up. I don’t care. My standing compared to others doesn’t matter. For me, what is important is that I far surpassed my own hopes and expectations and delivered above and beyond what I have been capable of in the past. Yesterday was about more than a 10K race. It was about living.
FOOD & BEVERAGES:
- 8 glasses of water
- 2 1/2 cups celery with light peanut butter
- 1/2 pear
- 3/4 cup fat free strawberry yogurt with 1 cup maple nut oat cereal
- 4 cups spinach salad with sliced deli ham, cubed cheese, croutons, dried cranberries, mushrooms, and calorie-wise Greek feta and oregano dressing
- 1 golden delicious apple with cinnamon
- 4 cups low fat butter flavoured popcorn
- 1 banana
- 2 mugs chai tea with honey and milk
- 55 minute Body Strengthening class