Saturday, November 3, 2012

My first ever race


I was probably forced to run some races in primary school (grades 1-6), in fact I can remember a 400 metre race where I started out fast and was in the front group for a short time, then I burnt out and I don't think I even finished. In high school I don't think I even went to any of the athletics carnivals, which were nominally compulsory. So it's been a long time between races.

My goals were 1) To finish the race, 2) To not come last, 3) To get a decent time (for me), although I wasn't really sure what that would be. 30 mins would be a dream time, I though somewhere between 35 and 45 was likely. The race was 3.4 km.

The race was scheduled to start at 9.30 am so we got up at our usual time and were there by 8.30 which was the time I was supposed to pick up my bib by. I walked around and looked at my starting line and the finish, but then still had an hour to kill. The kids played on the nearby playground equipment and I went to the toilet three times, just in case. Yesterday had been cold and cloudy, but today was warming up nicely. I was feeling pretty terrified, full of nervous energy.

Shortly before 9.30 we walked down to the starting line. There were only a handful of people there, but going by the bib numbers we'd seen around there were at least 2000 participants doing the two races (the 6 km had a different starting point but the same finish line). People gradually trickled down from the oval where the finish line and all the tables were located, and joined the queue on the narrow bike path. I didn't want to be right up the front as I would be running slowly and then walking, but I didn't want to be too far back either, so I was in about the 5th row of people. There were several hundred people behind me, I guess. All ages including kids, and a few dogs. And we waited. There was one official there, keeping people behind the line but not doing much else. We waited some more. Ronald McDonald (spokesclown for the major sponsor) had some photos taken in the front row.

Finally a ute drove up and someone with a loudspeaker went over some race info and introduced the family of organisers. It became clear that they had started the 6 km at 9.30 then come to our starting line. Finally, 20 mins after the advertised start, the gun went and we were off.

I already had my music going (Tina Cousins) and had been poised for 20 mins to start RunKeeper. Despite the countdown I still managed to be startled by the bang, but I pressed start and I was away. I enjoyed running along with a big group, people started to spread out but we were still pretty clumped.

I walked a bit then ran again until I got to a sign that said 1 km, with an official beside it cheering us on. Surely that was too soon? It didn't feel like I had run that far -- if I had I was going to nail this race! I checked my RunKeeper shortly after and that said I had gone about 600 metres. I think the sign was for the 6 km race which joined the bike path at a different place and then did a lap of the whole lake whereas we went out and back. Anyway, it was a bit confusing.

At this point, after two quite long intervals of running (long for me, anyway), my body was feeling good except for my shins which really started to hurt. They were hurting a lot. My walking pace at this point fell below 5 km/h and I was trying to stretch as I walked -- going on tiptoe for a while. I continued walking for quite a while, I think, then up the steep ramp to the bridge. Just before going up, the first runner past me going the other way back towards the finish line.

About halfway across the bridge a little kid (maybe 7 or 8 years old) somehow walked straight into a metal street-light pole, face first. Maybe he had his eyes closed? There were tears. His mother was with him for cuddles and remonstrations ("remember at running school they told you to run with your head up?") so I just kept going and shortly afterwards they ran past me so he mustn't have been too hurt.

On the other side of the bridge there was a nice down slope, so I ran again until I got to the water station, had a few mouthfuls of water, ran a bit more. Looped under the bridge and back up the slope again onto the other side to cross back. I wasn't in quite as much pain now but for some reason I felt a little teary. I was about halfway now. I didn't see any distance markers except for that one erroneous 1 km one. As I was on the bridge on the way back, the last of the walkers in my race were crossing for the first time.

On the way back along the lake I kept bursting into brief spurts of speed, passing a few walkers each time. I wanted to do one big sprint across the oval to the finish line so I was saving a little bit for that. My running sements up until then were up around 8.5 km/h, I tried to keep the walking around 5 km/h.

Finally I got to the grass and ran for it (RunKeeper says I did 11.15 km/h which is excellent for me). The final stretch wasn't as far as I had thought, I definitely could have run further. There were a few people still cheering us on and I looked from side to side for my family but couldn't see them. I crossed the finish line, dodging Ronald McDonald (I realised afterwards he was probably trying to high-5 me) and there were my family, taking a picture.

I don't have an official time yet (not sure when I get that, if at all) but I remembered to stop RunKeeper after a short time and it said 36:48 at that point so I'll call it 36 minutes for now. An average of 5.74 km/h over the whole race.

I handed in my bib with its timing chip and got a certificate and scoffed down some watermelon. We didn't stay for the presentation, although they announced it as we were walking away, I felt my family had already been hanging around for a long time. Otherwise I would have applauded the winners, and had more fruit. I was starving when we got home and ate a lot of leftover chicken.

So in terms of my goals: 1) I finished! 2) I didn't come anywhere near last, although I might have been near the back of the run/walkers. Plenty of walkers behind me. 3) I got a time at the lower end of my guesstimate, so I am happy with that.

My shins hurt pretty badly during the race, probably worst during the second quarter but still painful after that. I feel I could have run much more if I didn't have that problem. As it is, I am still undecided whether to run again. I could run on grass to build up my endurance, but I hate the feeling that I am damaging my body every time I run on a hard surface. I'll take a week off running, and see how I feel after that. Really, aside from my shins, I could run/walk a 5 k race now and enjoy it. 

I did a race! And didn't suck!

random photo of a fun run by phonakin


  1. Natalie,A huge congrats to you! Well done, you sounded a bit stressed in your previous posts building up to the race, so I am really glad you did well. Here's to the next one!

  2. Thanks! I bought myself another Pandora charm for my bracelet to celebrate.

    I tried to comment on your blog but I couldn't get past the "prove you are not a robot" verification although I tried about five times. A bit of a worry. Does that mean I actually am a robot?

  3. Struggled about 3 times to get past yours, hopefully we are both fine, and will get out of the shower alive and not sparkling tonight!