I’m noticing some great progression, as I start down this road towards an Iron Man in 2017. Yesterday (May 23rd 2016) was my first 5k Road Race.
I’ve done Obstacle Course Races over a 5k distance and I’ve obviously carried out my training runs over the distance but yesterday was the first time that I actually lined up against other competitors who wanted to win just like I did. I was blessed enough to have won in a time of 21m 56s. Not a fast time by a long shot but it’s a foundation. A starting point of sorts and I’m now preparing for my next race on June 11th, where the goal will be to break 20 minutes.
The race was strange. I know I started off too slowly and there were spots where the route wasn’t clear and I had to slow to ask directions but that isn’t what made it strange. The ‘strangeness’ came from not knowing, at all, how to approach what I was doing. For the first half mile, leading up to me picking up the pace, I was pretty much spaced out, trailing the left shoulder of the man in front of me.
I watched his stride. Long and heavy, while I concentrated on keeping light and turning over with a decent cadence. Once we climbed the light gradient and the ground levelled off, I comfortably moved past him to see if he would respond. I could tell from his posture and heavy breathing that he wouldn’t be doing that so I allowed myself to push on a little, with the idea of simply maintaining a steady pace and a concentration on form. It definitely paid off.
We turned about, on ourselves, at the half mile point and I could see that I had a lead of about 50m or so. Not the safest but as I watched my competitors heading up to the turn, I didn’t feel threatened. Although there were one or two that I didn’t want to end up getting into a battle with so for a minute or two of downhill running, I allowed gravity to help me pick up the pace, knowing that, if they did catch me, they wouldn’t have what was needed in a sprint finish.
At the bottom of the light gradient, we cut into the trees to follow a pleasant walking path, surrounded by nature. I allowed myself to listen to my breathing, keeping it in time with my footstrikes (Roughly one breath per 4 strikes) and I took in the smell of damp wooded environment. The air was cool but in the density of the trees the humidity rose to blow it’s watery breath into my face. Here, I realized something to address for future races: my glasses started sliding down my nose.I took a quick look back, removed the glasses, used my sleeve to clear the water from my face and put my glasses back on. In hindsight, it may have been a better idea to hook them over the waistband of my shorts. In June, I’ll be looking to run without the glasses, which may become a challenge should the race become wooded.
There weren’t too many spectators but those that were there shouted words of encouragement and then I started to pass those that had opted to do the 3k walk, which was part of the same event, in memorial of a gentleman that had taken his own life, having battled with mental illness, 2 years previous.
I allowed myself a little smile as I realized I came to the finish a lot quicker than expected. I watched the photographer run from the tent as I opened my stride through the finish line. I smiled for the camera as I crossed the line but I kept in mind that this was just the beginning. There was no need for ecstatic grandeur or celebration. Neither was this the forum for egotistical moments. Humbled by the occasion, I’ll simply be happy with my win but, more so, I’ll be happy that I managed to execute my own plan for the race. To practice running with a distance runner’s cadence, as opposed to a sprinter’s power, and to retain form. Relatively upright with hips tall and feet light.
You know, mental illness and suicide are things that I strongly feel about. I love life and have been blessed with a life that I have been able to live in relative ease, in comparison.
The dark places that people reside in, around the world, that bring them to the point of ending their own life, are so real.
To not be understood, no matter how hard you try. To have people around you smile and laugh with you while you cry inside. The frustration of not being able to carry out, successfully, that basic human function, often taken for granted, communication. To have a medical term slapped on you and be pumped with drugs because the system doesn’t deem your social issues important. To be so lost that, when left alone, you only see a friend in death. Those are the individuals that overawe any achievement on my first 5k and my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by suicide and mental illness. Prayers and the Love of God to you all.