Sunday, 27 April 2008

You never forget your first time

I ran in my first ever race today--the Blenheim 7K. The weather called for a 50% chance of rain. Well, I prayed to the the sun gods this morning and offered them a sacrifice (sorry Mr. Pigeon, but you had it coming) and they benevolently answered my prayers. No rain, cloudy for most of the race, but then the skies cleared and my pale face was even able to catch a little color today. And not of the burned variety. Aces!

Since this was my first race, I really had no idea what to expect. A friend and I caught the first bus to Blenheim and made it with plenty of time to spare. This of course made my concerns of last night laughable, but you just never can tell with Sunday traffic, ya know. I used the Porta-Loo for probably the dozenth time that morning and then it was off to do group stretches on one of the lawns. There was kind of a weird cult-like feel to the whole thing, but we weren't forced to drink doctored grape koolaid nor were we raided by the Waco PD, so it was all good.

You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out...

Then all the runners gathered onto the road and suddenly everyone started running simultaneously--except for me, because I hadn't realized we had started yet. I was only a beat behind though and then I was off with the rest.

and we're off!

I have done all my runs to date solo so the whole experience of running in a pack was new to me. I wasn't quite sure if the rules of etiquette for passing on the left applied in this large of a group or even for English runners, so I tried to be courteous and give people leeway and warning if at all possible. I know I started faster than I had intended, but about half a mile in I slowed down to my regular steady pace.

Sadly, the tissues I had tucked into my waistband (boo! no pockets) decided to migrate down my leg for most of the first mile then evacuated themselves out of my left pant leg at about the mile and a half mark. Must of looked weird to the volunteer that I was 'pooping' out tissues, but at least it was better than the more natural alternative.

Most of the race was on the trails of Blenheim's vast grounds, but a few stretches were actually paved. I've run mostly on compacted gravel park trails, so I was fine. What I wasn't quite expecting were how steep some of the hills were. To be honest, I shouldn't even call them hills, especially since I am from New England, but my university town has some of the flattest ground I've tread on since the last time I visited the plains states of America and all my running to date has taken place on flat terrain, so the hills were a new experience. What I'm most proud of is that I never stopped running. I slowed down to a crawling jog, but I never gave in to the temptation to walk. I shuffled my way past walkers and just kept chugging. Granted those same people would then pick up speed on the flat or downhill parts and then pass me, but I still felt morally superior--especially since they looked like they were fitter than me to begin with.

The lovely scenery did distract me for a lot of the run, which was nice. I don't even remember hearing half the songs on my iPod playlist.

I did stop to walk at the one and only water station smack in the middle of the course...for all of 10 seconds. I chugged a cup of water and took off again. I rounded the next corner and enjoyed the downslope til I looked up and noticed another hill ahead. I said something elegant under my breath like 'F*ckin' hills!' which made the woman next to me laugh in agreement. The last hill was just after the 4 mile mark, so once I ascended it, I kicked up my speed and ran as fast as I could to the finish. I saw another friend at the finish line cheering me on while the one I had arrived with was taking my photo. As I neared the finish I noticed that runners weren't running over it, but stopping in front of one of two individuals who then waved what looked like a ping pong paddle in front of their bib numbers. I did the same realizing just in time that this was how the timing chips in the bibs worked and then was greeted by lovely little people (children, not midgets) handing me a participant's medal and a bottle of water.

My friends met up with me and after chatting a bit I realized I hadn't turned off my watch, so I don't even have an unofficial time for my race, but it should be about 50 minutes, which I'm pretty pleased with since I wanted to run the course in 52 minutes or less.

The three of us then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the grounds of Blenheim and then went for afternoon tea at a local tea shop.

sweet reward

A great end to a great day. Now I'm sitting in my room, a little tired, but happy and proud, admiring my race medal. Who would have thought I would ever run a mile much less over 4 of them? Not me, that's for sure.

I think I could really get into this whole running thing.

My official time was 50:10. Not bad considering the terrain and my lack of hill training.