Today was my first 5K since 2003, and it was almost anticlimactic.
Two weeks ago I decided to venture out and try the course ahead of time, and it marked the first time I ran a 5K straight. That was a big day, a great achievement.
Today was almost an afterthought, think the Gold Medal hockey game against the Swedes in the 1980 Olympics after the US beat the Russians in the semis. Like that Gold Medal game in Lake Placid, I still had unfinished business.
I got to the event early to pick up my number and the running conditions were nearly perfect: mid-50s and cloudy. Unfortunately, also featured was 90% humidity, but I'll take that over blazing sun or steamy temps.
I hung out in the car and listened to the radio, and with 10 minutes to go started walking around to Lady Gaga, The Who and Metallica (there's a dinner party) to warm up.
I queued up in front of the walkers and soon we were off.
As I have in the past, I went out way too fast in the first quarter mile, running on adrenaline and the vibes of hundreds of other runners. As we made the first turn, I told myself Slow down, run your race.
I downshifted into my familiar shuffle stride and settled in along a route I knew very well. I knew where it got challenging and I knew where it relaxed, so I could pace myself accordingly, jamming along with Queen along the way.
At 1.5 miles we faced the first big hill, but I'd run it twice, so I relaxed and took my time. Once over the hill there was a water stop, then quickly we were 2 miles down and headed for the second steep hill. I mentally talked myself through it, noting that once I was over it, it was a straight shot to The Dead Putnams and then the finish.
An explanation: Just over the 3-mile mark the course passes the 18-century Putnam Cemetery, appropriately full of dead people with the last name Putnam. Making it to The Dead Putnams was an important milestone in every run. I think it will become my shorthand for "almost at the finish."
Anyway, soon it was Dead Putnam time. I had one last turn to the main road, then the turn into the finish. Unfortunately, I could not find my heart-rate monitor watch/receiver before the race, so I had no idea of time, but I figured I'd make it in less than 45 minutes.
When I made the final turn I spied my friend Kristin, who fortuitously for me was at the race and graciously offered to snap some pictures. Thanks Kristin!
I saw the 5K finish corral and the clock: 43:00. So not only would I finish, I'd get in under 45 minutes, my best time yet on this course.
I crossed the finish line to several volunteers, cheering and clapping. They had no idea what the finish meant to me, so their cheering and clapping was even more appreciated than they knew.
I really like racing. Races are challenging and a little scary. And for me, that's a good thing. Because when something is easy and I'm complacent, I'll eventually weigh 282 lbs.
The only thing I don't like about racing is I'm slow. And I figure I'll always be slow. But as I read once, "I may be slow, but I'm running faster than everyone sitting on the couch."
I may be slow, but I'll always finish.