When I signed up for the Buck Creek Winery 10K a few months ago, I was a little terrified. The furthest I’d ever run was four miles. And while 6.2 miles isn’t that much more, by the time I’ve run four miles I am usually DONE, so 2.2 extra miles would definitely be a challenge for me.
But I think I knew I needed a challenge to push me to a new level with running. I received a Garmin Forerunner watch for Christmas, and for some reason knowing my dad spent $150 on a running watch motivated me to actually use it. I’ve been running around two to three times a week pretty consistently since March. Even in the heat of summer, I tried to get in at least a couple short runs each week. One definitive lesson I learned is that I am NOT a hot weather runner. My body feels heavy, sluggish and uncooperative when the temperature’s above 70. I anxiously awaited cooler fall temps, but September and early October brought unseasonably warm temperatures, to everyone’s delight but me. I kept hoping once it was cooler I would get faster, that it would get a little easier. I kept waiting for the perfect running weather.
One day a few weeks ago, it was finally 60 degrees. I set out to do at least four miles after work. Miles one, two and three were a little rough as usual. I purposefully ran away from my house so I’d hit four miles. And then something happened around mile three: I got my first-ever runner’s high. All the sudden my legs felt light. The discomfort disappeared. I felt like I was flying. I didn’t look at my watch. I didn’t stop to walk. For the next two miles, I floated up and down the Monon effortlessly. “I Can Lift a Car” by Walk the Moon came up on my playlist right as I entered the final leg of my run. I looked down at my watch and realized I had run five miles for the first time in my life, and rather than feeling spent, I felt awesome. Honestly, I could have run more if it wasn’t too dark. I finally felt like a “real runner.” Despite these extra pounds I’m carrying, I felt like an athlete. I had done something not everyone can do. I had done something that proved I’m fit, if still overweight.
I ran a few more five-milers before the race, but unfortunately never recreated the amazingness of that first runner’s high. But I did learn that, for me, the magic happens after mile three. It takes me a long time to get in the zone.
I prayed for cool temps on race day. The weekend before almost hit 80. But thankfully, the forecast predicted a high of 54 for Saturday, Oct. 19. I felt as ready as I could be on race day. Jeff snapped a photo of our friend Neil and me before the race:
It was a small race–about a hundred participants. I had set three goals for myself.
- A goal: Finish under 1:15.
- B goal: Finish under 1:20.
- C goal: Finish before the 1:30 time cutoff.
I felt like a badass lining up with the 10K group. I swaggered up to the start line like, “Yep, I’m about to run 6.2. No biggie.” Before the gun went off, Neil and I bumped fists and I put in my headphones, blasting my current favorite “get in the zone” song: “Beating My Heart” by Jon McLaughlin. The course was uphill for the first mile and a half. I immediately regretted training only on the Monon, possibly the flattest trail in existence. I settled into a rhythm by mile two and reminded myself to run my own race.
The hills continued, and I started to feel discouraged as countless people passed me, but I kept chugging along. At one point I got lost. I missed a course marker and veered about .2 miles in the wrong direction. I had to turn around and run back the way I came to get back on the course, so I unfortunately added almost half a mile to my time. But I took my strawberry Clif shot blocks and didn’t let it get me down.
Around mile four, I had a funny interaction with a fellow runner. I was about fifty paces behind an older man, probably around 70 (yep, the 70-year-old was beating me). He turned and started jogging toward a heavy patch of trees. I assumed he was staying on the course and followed him. He kept glancing back at me. I thought it was strange but kept following him; I didn’t want to get lost again. Finally, after the fourth or fifth time he turned around to shoot me the evil eyes, I realized he was trying to break away to pee in the woods and understandably wanted some privacy. Poor guy just needed to take a leak and didn’t get why this crazy woman insisted on following him. I FINALLY got the message and turned around, laughing at myself.
I looked down at my watch and it read 4.23 miles. TWO MORE MILES? But just a minute later, I passed the mile five marker. My Garmin must have gotten confused at some point.
The last 1.2 were downhill, our reward for the uphill start. I paced myself behind a girl about twenty feet in front of me and vowed to stay right behind her. Before I knew it, the finish line approached. “Raise Your Glass” by Pink came up, a perfect track given the complimentary glass of red wine in my immediate future. I saw Jeff, Neil and Jesse cheering for me about 200 feet from the finish line. I cruised toward them, feeling awesome.
I felt fantastic and unbelievably proud. I crossed in 1:17, not quite hitting my A goal, but I was happy with my time since I’d added a least an extra half mile along the course.
And then I enjoyed a slice of pizza and a delicious glass of zinfandel. A fine reward indeed! Sometimes during a run it’s hard to remember why we crazy runners intentionally do this to ourselves, but I always feel fantastic after it’s done.
So what’s the next chapter in the story of Lauren running? A few people have urged me to sign up for a half marathon. And while I have fallen in love with running, a love I hope will last a lifetime, I’m actually taking a step back for now. I think the next chapter for my running journey is to get serious about losing some weight. I haven’t gotten faster at all in the last six months of running, and I think it’s because I’m carrying 50ish extra pounds. I read that every pound lost shaves 12 seconds off your time. That’s incredible!
But don’t running and weight loss go together? Not for me, I’ve found. If I try to cut calories, my runs immediately start sucking. My capacity for vigorous exercise plummets when I cut calories. And running makes me extra hungry. So while it’s counter intuitive, I actually need to cut back on the running in order to focus on my diet. Unfortunately exercise, while essential for my mental and physical health, doesn’t actually contribute to weight loss for me.
More info on my new food plan coming soon!