Running a 5K: It’s All About Distractions

Yesterday my husband Mike and I ran the Lakeview 5K race in Roosevelt Park in Edison, N.J. The race is a fund raiser for the school and its students, who are affected by cerebral palsy. Some folks ran as teams — I saw at least two that represented wheelchair-bound students — and donated far more than their race fee entry by getting sponsors and donations. The day was a real family affair with lots of cheering and heartwarming conversations all around me.

The course, all run on roadways within the park, was really pleasant in part sun/part shade with what I call “inclines.”  An incline is a small hill that has a gradual ascent then a fast descent. I’m slower on the ascent, but feel like I’m flying when I “take my brakes off” and let’er rip on the descent. Inclines are better than hills in my world, and I suspect most runners feel the same, right? The organizers held a Zumba warm-up that got everyone loosened up and ready to run, then we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and listened to the National Anthem. A minister sent us on our way with a prayer. Nice, right?

Yup. That's my finger. And that's part of the running crowd in front of me.

Both runners and walkers lined up at the Start line. That made me pretty nervous because I had to figure out where to stand in the crowd; typically, I head to the rear third of the starting line crowd, but those races didn’t include walkers. I didn’t want to get run over by a faster runner and I didn’t want to run over a walker. Finally, I picked a spot in mid-crowd near the curb, figuring I could hop onto the grass if I thought I was getting into trouble.

The gun sounded and we were off! “Rolling in the Deep” by Adelle was humming through my earphones. At about the half-mile mark I started to get a side cramp. A first for me. I didn’t stop running, but it did make me slow down just a little. I think I drank too much water too close to the start of the race. But I ran on.

Mile one in 9:57.

Up ahead of me I could see a very large brown dog running the course. It’s head flopped from side to side as he ran. I tried to run faster and get closer, but the dog was significantly faster than me. Just before the two-mile mark was a turnaround, though, so I got to see the dog as he ran by me. It was Scooby Doo! And he was burning up the course!  I love Scooby Doo!

Mile 2 in 9:56.

When you run do you listen to music? I do. It helps me ignore my labored breathing. I can freak myself out and end up forgetting how to breathe if I have to listen to my wheezy self! Scooby Doo added a whole different element of distraction that made me forget my breathing. I hit the downside of the second incline and headed for the finish line. I didn’t have any “burst” of speed left in my legs, but I crossed the finish line in 30:17, a new personal best and good enough to take second place in my age group. I was thrilled!

See my two fingers? That's victory! Thrilled to have come in 2nd in my age group!

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