I wanted to do a race on my birthday weekend, it seemed fitting and symbolic.
Originally I thought I'd do one on my birthday, but since I had long-standing plans to strap on a feed bag that day and not look up until the next morning, I decided that probably wasn't a good idea.
However, it being September, there are plenty of races, and I found a large one the day after my birthday.
The CVS 5K in Providence, RI, fields upward of 5,000 runners, and the thought of a huge race appealed to me. My upcoming Tufts 10K has a field of 7,000+ runners, and I figured running something comparable in preparation would be a good way to acclimate to running - or at least starting - in a very big crowd.
And that is was.
I woke up early on race day, the day after my birthday bacchanal. I was wary of what I would feel like, having overeaten the day before, and was concerned my stomach would not be happy with my decision to race. When I woke I was still full from the night before. Not uncomfortable or sick, but definitely not hungry. All things considered, not bad.
Scheduling a race the day after my birthday was also a bit of insurance in case I had the urge to extend my birthday eat-a-thon for one more day. I know myself well and it's possible I would be tempted to extend a one-day splurge into a weekend-long one. And that would not be good.
Having a race the next day would force me to exercise. I knew if I had prereigstered (and prepaid) to race, I would race. And if I raced, I would eat wisely before and after, ensuring my spot back on the healthy bandwagon.
When I got down to the race, I picked up my packet, geared up and headed for the starting chutes. Because the field was so large, runners lined up by their expected finish times. I headed to the 35-minute area and this was my view of the starting line.
If you're thinking, "Hey, I don't see the starting line," you're not blind. It's up and around the corner, out of sight. About two-thirds of the field was ahead of me, the other third behind.
I'm not claustrophic and it's a good thing because this was one big mass of people. However, I found it fun. Everyone was getting pumped up and excited to run, and the vibes rolled off the crowd in waves.
It was exciting and energizing and one of the best things about racing: hundreds (or thousands) of people, all converged in the same place with the same goal. Sure, someone may run the course in half the time it takes me, but we all run the same distance.
Also cool was the fact there were several elite runners in the field (at the front, of course). I'm talking Olympians and folks who have won or placed in the Boston Marathon. In what other sport could a 41-year-old, 12-minute-a-miler soccer mom run the same course as an Olympian? Pretty cool.
Anyway, after the anthem, etc. it was "Runners, on your marks..." We were so far away from the starting line, we didn't even hear the gun go off. But I knew it did because soon we were shuffling toward the start. How big was the field? It took my group 3+ minutes to run/walk to the starting line.
Once we cleared the official line, the road opened on both sides and everyone was able to get some much-needed elbow and running room. The weather was great - mid-50s, cloudy and a slight wind.
The course started near the RI Statehouse (at right) and wound its way through the capital's quaint streets and along of the city's famous places sites: along the Providence River, up to Brown University, back toward the well-known Rhode Island School of Design and back to the also well-known Providence Place Mall.
It was interesting running in a big race because there was a lot of traffic. In smaller races (say under 1,000 runners) I may have a half-dozen people running near me. In this race, there were dozens, so it was good practice navigating runners and passing (amazingly, I did pass people) and practicing good race etiquette.
There were clocks displaying the gun time at every mile marker, so I had a good idea of where I was at. My first mile was great, Mile 2 was less so, but the magic of Mile 2 is, "Hey, only 1 more mile to go."
I wasn't trying to PR this one, instead trying to conserve energy because I knew the last quarter-mile of the course was uphill. I don't mind hills, but the last quarter-mile (on left) seems a bit cruel. Thanks, race director!
As I ran I thought, "Hills build character." I kept trying to convince myself of that before I made the final turn into the hill/homestretch. The climb wasn't as bad as I expected and I've got so much experience running hills around my neighborhood, it wasn't that bad.
I crossed the finish with a time of 37:36. Not bad for running on a food-hungover stomach.
Overall, it was a very fun race, one I'll do next year. The course was interesting and I enjoyed the big-race feel.
That's my last warm-up race before the 10K, now just 16 days away.