Yesterday my great friend and I ran in the Medford 10k His & Hers. It was my first ever run race as well as my friend’s. We’d be running slightly over 6 miles around a plot of Medford as the sun rose and began to fry the asphalt under our feet. I was so nervous when I woke up yesterday morning that it was hard to get any food down, but I knew I’d need the energy to move fast and finish the mileage.
I met my friend at her place and we took off together to the 10k start. I am running two half marathons(October and November) so this was a great experiment for me to see what I’d need to change for my half mornings. I’ll probably be a lot more nervous on those race days since I’ll be a. running alone and b. running a greater distance with probably a lot more people. Once we started to run I realized I probably should have forced more food down my throat. My stomach rumbled and I felt nervous that I’d hit the ground by mile 2 from hunger pains.
But as we ran to our first mile, my friend and I kept pace, I clocked us at 8:30. I actually felt great about that since I had been clocking myself at 8:50 race pace on tempo days. We kept the middle of the pack pretty much the entire race.  A group had dashed ahead of us at the start, but I told myself not to let it effect how I ran. Some runners came up along side and passed us, which was fine, but I knew the pace I had was good for me. But I definitely continued to have conversations in my head going “you can keep this up, don’t let yourself down, push harder. You’ve got this. You’ve got this.” My mind was buzzing with various thoughts about how my running felt: shin achy on the right side, but tolerable, hitting midfoot=good form, feeling like I was grasping for air, but still lacking cramps and dizziness, I knew I was where I should be.
My friend kept the two of us entertained with mild conversation. As we can down toward 1.5 miles people stood at attention with arms stretched out holding the greatest gift of the Earth: water. I grabbed my Cosi cup(which totally made me laugh) and tried to sip from the rim. Big mistake. It mostly ended up on the ground, my face, or my shirt. I got a few good sips in and some shot out my nose, a straw would have been very very helpful, but I felt hydrated. I realized how much water stations really did help. I later would use those Cosi cups of water for 2 sips and a quick shower to cool my heated body. That encouraged me to keep going as well.
When we reached mile 3 we high-fived each other. Half way there, keep it up. The water station grabbing had slowed us down a bit and I was clocking us at 9:00 per mile. It kinda hurts to think we gained 30 seconds because of the water stations, but I felt that if I didn’t reach for those cups I would have died down to 10:00 per mile. I also have to give myself credit as this was my first race and I’ve been training for my halfs since the end of June, but by myself. It’s me who encourages and keeps the pace. I know what feels good and what doesn’t. I’m also 5 feet tall so I have a shorter stride than those large lean giraffes in front of me finishing with a 5:45 per mile. I’ve only been running for over a year and only seriously for 4 months. This girl needs to cut herself some slack. So when I clocked us at 26:27 5k I felt I was doing a lot better than expected.
The next mile flew by. As we reached mile 5 I picked up the pace and in turn so did my friend. We had been running with a woman pacing in front of us since mile 2, but as we reached for a new gear we slowly passed her. Then we put a good third of a mile in front of her, then we passed another woman, and a man. I suddenly felt as if I had more in me than what I had been running. Or just the idea of finishing sooner than later pushed my feet forward and down. As we shifted gears into “must finish” we came around the bend that we have deemed the worst part of our 10k. A slow inclined hill located directly in the rising sun’s glare. I felt as if my face burned and my legs were going to give out. I just wanted to be cool. I looked at my friend and let the some profanity slip out. But we kept telling each other, “we got this, we can do this!!!” My friend began to chat more and I felt myself grow quiet as I silently told myself to hold on. We only had 0.5 miles left. As we came to our last bend toward finish a race official snapped our photo; my friend’s thumb up and my typical peace sign, Japanese appreciation move, we made her laugh and ourselves and I felt a bit more energy move through me.
I thought I saw finish. But it wasn’t. And I had turned on the last high gear I had to reach for those last meters. I had calculated incorrectly and ended up wasting a bit of needed energy for my last sprint. My friend kept looking at me and going “only a bit more, come on!!!!”
When we saw the shoot we needed to run through and the time clock I felt aggressive yet exhausted. I said “don’t sprint.” I didn’t know if I had any left in me. Of course any good friend responds with “Spring? ok.” and off she took.  You have to understand that she is probably the greatest sprinter and even at the end of a race she still has some bounce left to carry her fast and furious over the finish line. I looked within myself to find the same speed and I pushed. I felt my body going “this really sucks” and I heard the cheers of the crowd and one woman’s, “go get her!” as I finished about 5 seconds behind my friend. I stopped in front of a man taking pieces from our paper number and all I could say was “I don’t care what you need just take it.” It was over. And man did I feel spent. My head was spinning inside and my legs felt weak. I told my friend we had to walk in order for me to gain back some breath and energy.
We walked the loop of the lake and came back. I felt great. We both did. We were as high as kites on a Runner’s High built for two. I grabbed a bottle of water and gulped it down. We walked back to the finish and cheered on runners finishing after us. I’m always a good sport and I believe that time is nothing, finishing is everything. So we danced to the music playing and screamed “you can do it!!” to those runners.
When results were in we stood and listened and clapped. The male overall winner completed the 10k in a little over 34 minutes. I could only dream. The female overall winner, an amazing woman of 58 sporting a broken wrist with cast as accessory, finished a little over 38 minutes. I really hope some day.
Then they moved into the relay  teams and then into the 20-29 age groups. First the men. Clap clap clap. Then the women. Now before I tell you what happened next I have to say that I never entered this race thinking of winning or beating anyone. I entered it because my friend asked and I love my friend’s companionship and both our loves for running, so I said yes. I felt like this was a great opportunity to test out a race and see how I’d end up and what I needed to improve before my halfs. I was just in it to try my hardest and finish. I never expected when the woman read off the top 3 females to finish in 20-29 age group that my friend would place in 2nd and then me, right behind her, would place in 3rd. We screamed for joy as we collected our hats. I could not have been more elated. After being exhausted toward the end and looking deep within myself to find that last bit of energy, we came out collecting 2nd and 3rd in our age group. It was wonderful and I never felt like as such a strong person as I did at that moment. I proven so much to myself.
Our victory warranted a trip to Honey’s, our favorite breakfast spot on 4th street in Philly. We chattered like mad women in disbelief over huevos rancheros, omelettes, and fresh squeezed orange juice. After filling up we got lost in Philly(which was fine because we ate alot) as we made our way to my all time favorite fitness clothing store, Lululemon athletica.
The rest of the day held the vibe of accomplishment and happiness. By 10 o’clock I passed out exhausted. My right shin is a terror this morning but it was all worth it. Some ginger tea and ice will solve the problem. As well as rest. I look forward to getting back into training mode for my halfs with a bit more wisdom and determination.


About KatONeillPhoto

The fun-sized version of a photographer
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