I finally ran my first race last Sunday. It was just a 5k in the Adidas King of the Road, but for a race-virgin who had been putting off joining races, it was a bit intimidating.
For quite sometime I’ve been a closet runner. Running in the treadmill in the house or running with P around the neighborhood or the nearby university campus. I knew if I wanted to keep pushing myself, I had to start joining races. But I always had excuses. The venue was too far. It’s too early in the morning. My husband patiently listened to all my excuses, often saying in the end, “The best thing to do is to do it.”
So one night, when he came home from work with a race kit with my name on it, I knew it was time to leave the excuses and run with the rest of them.
We woke up before 4 a.m. Had a breakfast of cereal and yogurt. Got ready and got to the race venue around 5, just before the 16.8 runners crossed the starting line. There were a lot of people. I mean, I knew running had gained a big following in Manila and that there was a race almost every week, I just didn’t realize how big was big. It seemed a large part of Bonifacio High Street up to the NBC Tent in Bonifacio Global City was crawling with runners in their pink, neon green, or blue singlets.
While I waited for the 5k race to begin, people beside me were taking pictures, some were following the host (yes, there was an actual host and stage and program) for a bit of warm-up (pretty hard to do jumping jacks when you’re all standing cheek by jowl behind the starting line though), others were chatting. I was excited, anxious and just eager to get going.
When the race finally began, we all started shuffling. We were probably 30 meters away from the starting line so there were no dramatic starts to witness. Quietly we all shuffled forward, then you pick up your pace and then you realize you’re running.
It was still dark. Hall & Oates was singing “You Make My Dreams” in my ears, which was how I had been starting my runs for the past few weeks. I was going to follow my recent running plan, which had helped keep me in the treadmill for 5k distances, 10 minutes easy effort, 2 minutes hard effort, 4 minutes easy, 2 minutes hard, and so on until I finish.
Four minutes into the race, while the sky brightened up, I forgot about my plan and decided to get past this tall, prepubescent kid whom I wasn’t sure if he was really participating or just following his mom. Yah, way to pick a competition, Mabel.
When I got past him, I decided I would go back to my plan. Keep an easy pace, then push myself, easy, then push. But then 2 minutes into the easy pace and I would think, okay, get past that girl who’s been in front of you for the past few minutes. So I would push myself and run faster, 2 minutes or longer as long as I had a pretty good lead.
By 3k, more and more people were walking. Walking then running then walking. I found myself cursing under my breath when someone who was walking behind me suddenly breaks into a run and get past me. It’s called running, people, run! Then the patient voice inside my head would tell me, It’s okay, just keep running. Pace yourself. Wait then push. Wait.You’re only competing with yourself.
Oh to hell with it, that girl is not getting past you after she almost stepped on you and squeezed between you and the street cone. Running past her put a smile on my face while Katrina & the Waves sang all about walking on sunshine.
By 4.5k, my thighs were throbbing. Walking would have been a welcome break from the pounding on the road. But I kept repeating in my head what Murakami wrote, “at least he never walked.” At least she never walked. I told myself my running-walking days are over. This was a race. Competitive me made herself heard again, It’s just a 5k race. You’re not going to collapse if you keep running for half a kilometer. Keep running.
Before I knew it I could see the finish line. When I finally crossed it, I slowed down to a walk. Now you can walk.