I turned into the chute, pumping my arms and gasping. On either side of me, there was a cheering crowd spread along the metal dividers. The noise and energy was incredible. I’d paced myself well, and I was just running out of gas when the crowd buoyed my spirits. I’d picked it up in the last half mile and passed about ten people. “What an amazing accomplishment,” I thought. I’d gone from barely being able to walk to finishing a 5k ahead of people in just over a year.
Then a man in his fifties with a pot belly and an abnormally large handlebar mustache blew by me like I was standing still and totally silenced my internal narrative.
He was also wearing all orange. He looked like Hulk Hogan crossed with a pumpkin. As the realization that Pumpkin Hulk was outkicking me sank in, I crossed the finish line in 24:31. The ridiculousness of the moment made finishing even better.
Not to get sidetracked or anything, but there was also this guy camped out at about 2.5 miles with his Euphonium totally jamming out on “Louie, Louie.” As I faded off into the distance, I heard him start playing the theme to 2012: A Space Odyssey. About twenty minutes later, my mom ran by and he was still playing the theme to 2012: A Space Odyssey. This leads me to believe that he alternated between “Louie, Louie” and theme to 2012: A Space Odyssey for the entire duration of the race.
For these reasons, this guy was clearly the MVP of the entire event.
Where was I again? Oh, yeah. Race report. Gotcha.
All in all, I had a great race. Due to my insomnia, I only got three hours of sleep, but the magic of yerba mate helped me get into the correct (and by correct I mean “jacked up”) state of mind. In the days leading up to the race, I had repeatedly admonished myself to run smart, pace myself correctly, and begin by running well within myself.
To my complete and utter surprise, I did all of those things. I resisted allowing my pride to get the better of me and I started out far back from the line with the slower runners, and I began at an easy pace rather running the first quarter mile in a mad dash like I used to. After that easy beginning, I began to reel in runner after runner as I allowed myself to slowly and conservatively pick up speed. I covered the first mile in about 7:50 and I estimate that I passed about fifty to sixty runners as I picked it up.
Historically, my pace tends to lag badly in the second mile of 5k races The rolling, deceptively tiring hills of the second mile on this particular course usually cause my pace to slow down even more. However, I managed to maintain my focus over the second mile, and I came into the second mile checkpoint in about 8:20.
The final mile was run almost completely down a hill, and a steep one at that. I used gravity to increase my turnover eased into a faster pace. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill with about a quarter mile to go, I’d reeled in about ten or fifteen runners, and I began to pick it up. I covered the last mile in about 7:30-7:40.
I had to gitupandgo in my legs left to sprint to the finish, but I did manage a faster run. However, this increase in spend was not enough to hold off the ferocity of The Orange Hulk Hogan’s handlebar mustache, and I got outkicked as I previously mentioned.
I wound up in 222nd place out of 779 runners, or roughly in the upper quartile of the field. I was also 17th out of 25 in my age group, which surprised me a lot because the 19-24 age group is usually pretty competitive. Ultimately, I wound of feeling pretty good about myself after looking at the results. It’s nice to know that my level of fitness is actually pretty decent compared to the general population of runners as well as people my own age.
I don’t necessarily mean that strictly in the context of running, either. After I was diagnosed last year, I felt like I was stuck in Matrix-esque slow-mo while the rest of the world continued to buzz along happily. Everyone was advancing through their lives, while I was stuck on the couch feeling powerless. Lupus made me feel like I was in last place, and finally racing a 5k and doing comparatively well was a nice milestone that let me know that I’m moving again. God has truly been good to me.
However, the feeling that prevailed in the immediate aftermath was that it was just another day at the office. During my cool down, I found myself thinking of the ways I would train to be faster for the next race, adding up mileages and planning schedules. Then, it hit me: I’m thinking like a normal runner. A normal runner thinks of ways to do better after he runs a slower time, and that’s exactly what I was doing.
I felt like a normal person.
So, I’m happy with my time and the way that I ran the race, but I know that I can do better. I’m not satisfied. Greater things are yet to come.
Phillipians 4:13, everybody.
Run in joy,