By Rebecca Godlove — Pediatric Alliance, Chartiers/McMurray Division
My hips hurt, my thighs are sore, and there are blisters on my feet.
And I feel fantastic!
Earlier this week, I participated in the 36th annual Great Race. It was my first 5K, and, after the experience, I think I can safely say it won’t be my last.
Now, because I had gotten off-track regarding my official “Couch-to-5K Plan,” in addition to the fact that I’d been fighting an upper respiratory infection for the entire week prior, I had made the conservative decision to walk the race instead of running it. I would complete it, nevertheless. I’d made a commitment and I wanted to be able to check it off my list.
My former rookie, Megan, who had been behind me 100% when I started training, encouraged me before the race. “Do your best, whether you walk or run, but I think you’ll be really inspired once you’re actually there and surrounded by everyone,” she said, and she was right!
The morning was absolutely beautiful – blue skies, a cool breeze, and a serving of my mother-in-law’s delicious homemade whole wheat bread with peanut butter for breakfast! Once we made it downtown, my first-race jitters were put to rest. Instead of thousands of the long-legged, lean-bodied sprinters I was expecting, I saw men, women, teens and kids of all ages and body types. I saw dozens of people sporting their “Running 101” shirts, meaning that I was among plenty of other newbies. What a great feeling!
Once the race started, I found myself speeding up. I ended up jogging the first mile – and I barely broke a sweat! I kept saying aloud to my husband, who was beside me, that I could hardly believe I was really doing it. The second mile contained a bit of a hill, and I found myself slowing down. I power-walked a little bit, and as the crowd began to thin out and chatter quieted, I became aware of the other sounds around me: The constant slapping of sneakers against pavement; the measured breathing of the runners beside me; the mom, holding her daughter’s hand, who was saying, “You’re doing great!”; the murmured “thank you” of runners accepting cups of water from volunteers; members of Duquesne’s marching band playing “Eye of the Tiger” to my right. I realized that my husband was somewhere behind me, and I was going to have to rely on myself to keep going. Songs ran through my head and kept me focused. One foot in front of the other. Remember to breathe. Slow down when you need to.
That second mile was definitely hard. I tried to look at the scenery – it was strange to be running a route that I used to drive every day (I once worked at the Starbucks in Oakland). Here and there, families and friends of runners were scattered along the route, clapping and cheering. There were a few people who didn’t seem to have family in the race at all, but who were simply yelling their support to everyone who passed by. The second mile seemed to last for five miles.
The third mile, of course, was the hardest. My side was hurting. It was getting harder to breathe. My legs were screaming. Even though I was surrounded by other people, this was my race. My chance to prove to myself that I could complete something I started. My chance to prove that asthma is a condition but it is not my identity. As we neared the turn that led us into Point State Park, I felt tears spring to my eyes. “I’m doing it, Mom,” I whispered. I knew she’d be proud of me – and that she would probably have asked about a hundred times if I’d remembered to bring my inhaler with me (I did). Then she would have said I was crazy (I am), and then she would have made me my favorite meal (her breaded baked chicken, a salad and a huge glop of gooey mac ‘n’ cheese – with bacon).
As I pulled in to the finish line, I slowly forced one triumphant fist in the air. Then I immediately felt like I was going to throw up all over the grass. The wave of nausea passed almost at once, and I was amazed by how quickly my body recovered. My legs still hurt, but my breathing returned to normal within minutes. I wandered around, dazed, and still in disbelief, for several minutes until I located my husband – who had managed to find an Eat ’n’ Park Smiley cookie and a banana before he found me! A passerby offered to take our picture, and while I pumped a fist in the air, Ross simply smiled and stuck his cookie in his mouth. All part of the experience, I guess.
Of course, we visited the giant, slightly ridiculous, but really cute rubber ducky that’s currently moored near the fountain. We took a few more silly pictures, then stopped at Carnegie’s newest coffee shop for a post-race treat. As the day wore on, I slowly began to accept the fact that I had run a race. Of course I didn’t win. But I had maintained a twelve-and-a-half minute mile and completed the race in 39:22. I can only imagine what I could have done had I kept up with my training!
Already, I am looking ahead to next May’s Race for the Cure. A very good friend of my family just finished her final round of chemo for breast cancer and got the “all-clear” from her physician. I am so excited to honor her – and some of my survivor co-workers – by participating!
Before I officially sign off on my running series, I want to share some tips for any other beginners out there.
First: Stay hydrated! Even if you don’t feel thirsty! Never pass up those smiling volunteers and their little paper cups of water! Drink plenty before and after your work-out, too.
Second: Stretch! Because I expected to be walking, rather than running, I did little to prepare myself before the race and WOW was I sore the day after! I mean, I could barely walk! Take care of yourself.
Third: Make it fun! Starting to exercise, if you’ve never done it regularly, can be really tough. Get a buddy or make a mix of your favorite music to cheer yourself on. (It’s okay to put some corny power ballads on that list. No one will know your little secret!)
Fourth: Have a goal! Whether it is to lose weight or to improve health, or just to cross a 5K off your bucket list, try to keep yourself motivated by focusing on your goals. Stick them on your fridge or mark them on your calendar.
Thanks for taking this journey with me — and for letting me cheer you on as you begin yours!