Taking it easy the day before the race was tough. After 4 miles, I felt like running more. My legs were loose and ready to go fast! I knew I needed to come up with a good race strategy to finish with a good time, so I decided to think of this race as a track workout with no recovery jogs. There would be the same kind of hurt over about the same distance. I would need to stay on the inside, hold the same pace, and have the same mental focus that I have at the track. I saw that there was a pretty steep hill around 1.5 miles, so I knew I would need to do a mental check after that climb. I added a few more mental check points to my plan to make sure that I did not get comfortable holding a slightly slower pace. There was no “comfortable” in my plan. I was ready to tackle this 5k.
My husband and kids dropped me off before 7am at the race site. I was tighter than I wanted to be for my warm up jog, but I felt good after my drills and strides.
I made my way through a few hundred people to get to the starting line. That was the most squeezing through and accidentally pushing people that I have ever done to get to the front. Usually people notice that someone is trying to get by, but not at this race, not at this party. It was either squeeze through or remain stuck in a sea of green!
After I made it to the front, I did a few strides down Greenville, and then squeezed back into the wall of people. The other runners that were warming up past the start unexpectedly lined up in front, and the announcer told everyone to step back about 5 feet. I felt like I was on the subway in Japan where they have pushers that push people in so the doors can close.
The start was chaotic. I found my way out of the pack quickly, and I focused on staying strong, light on my feet, and relaxed. I never checked my watch, but I knew that I was running at the right pace. The steep hill was rough, but I was prepared for it. After I recovered from the hill, holding onto the same pace became a fight. I remembered that my coach tweeted something about how if you are a jellyfish, then you don’t need rhythm. I was not exactly sure what that meant, but my interpretation was that if you let yourself stay with the pack, then your legs will do what they need to do. I stayed on one runners shoulder for half of a mile, and I didn’t have to think about keeping that pace, I just did.
The last turn came quicker than I thought it would. I gradually picked up the pace, and when I saw the finish, I passed one runner and then another. About 20 meters before the finish line, I heard someone gaining on me. We raced to the finish, and she crossed a few tenths of a second ahead of me. My time was 19:01. 35 seconds faster than my 5k PR. Coming in 6th instead of 2nd or 3rd (which meant prize money) didn’t even matter. This race gave me a huge boost of confidence with my training and my ability to run a 5k.
Next 5k goal…. breaking 19:00!!!