Monday, September 26, 2011

The Great Race

Yesterday, I had a grand time running The Great Race through the beautiful city of Pittsburgh. There were over 14,000 runners at the venue, 5000 of them running the 5k and the rest the 10k.

I was up by 6:15 a.m. to prepare myself for the start of the 5k at 8:00 a.m. I made sure the night before to go to bed as early as possible, so I could rest my muscles. I've always learned the earlier you go to bed, the better you feel the morning of a race. Also, take it from someone who decided to eat Italian food the night before running a half marathon, do not eat anything that you know could be difficult on your stomach the night before your race. If I do eat in the morning, it is usually something small like a granola bar or piece of fruit. I'm one of those runners who has to wait a couple of hours to digest before running, but I know some that can eat dinner and then run three miles easily. I don't like feeling nauseous when I run, so I usually won't even drink much water before I head out. Just know your body. Overtime you'll see what you can handle and what you can't handle.

After some much needed stretch time, I hurried up and got dressed, tied my Aasics extra tight, but not too tight, and headed to the shuttle that brought me to the start line. We arrived in Oakland around 7:30 and I immediately began to prepare myself for the run. In the past two years of running, I've learned that it is very important to warm up before a race, especially if it is cold outside. Since it was the morning, dew was still on the ground and the air was still cool. I knew I had to get my body temperature up, so my muscles would loosen up and not spasm during the race. As I looked around at the certified athletes, children, grandmas, grandpas, and families at the start line, I knew this was going to be one interesting race. One of the reasons why I love running so much is because anyone could grab a pair of running shoes and just go. There are no exclusions in running. Likewise, there are no exclusions for the reasons why a person runs. When I jumped off the bus to see a sea of runners of all stages and ages, the excitement in me rose and I was ready to run.

Before the gun went off, I had to do some much needed warm ups. I ran around the block a few times and did some jumping jacks. I also made sure to stretch out before I jumped behind the start line. The anticipation of waiting for the gun to actually go off is almost unbearable. I just clear my thoughts, say a prayer and focus. I wanted to beat my time from last year more than anything in the world. I had a goal with this race and I was going to give it my all to complete. Once the gun goes off and the runners slowly move through to the start line, the pressure of completing my goal can sometimes be hard to handle. It hits you like a pile of bricks once you realize you are actually running the race you have trained for, for months. I try my best to stay focused and listen to the pit pat of the runners shoes around me.

The best part of this race hands down is the volunteers. The people who cheer, the band that plays and of course those who pass out water are what keeps me going. It can be difficult to stay focused at times, but with people all around you cheering you on and being surrounded by people who all have a love for running gives you the feeling of pure excitement. In that moment I want to prove to everyone that I am a runner, even if I'm not the fastest I can still hold my own in a race.

Around mile two, I started to feel the burn like never before, but I needed to book it. I realized then that I shouldn't have started so far back at the start line. Doing so, definitely made my pace slower than usual. I kept on going as fast as I possibly could and tried to divert my attention to something else besides the pain I was in. Half way to the finish line and I took it up a notch. I knew I had to finish strong and I know I did. Even though I didn't complete my goal of beating my time from last year, I am still proud of myself. I did not have the time to train as much as I wanted to and I know I always have next year to improve. This year I clocked in at 30:27 and next year I will clock in at 28:00. I better start training now.

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