Monday, February 10, 2020

Running & Racing; Then & Now


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Well, not exactly...at least in terms of my experience as a runner.

A lot has happened since my first-ever race. Physically, I have definitely gotten faster, stronger and more consistent. Emotionally, it's been a bit of a roller coaster (but in a fun, adventurous way).

Shall we take a jog down Memory Lane?

My first-ever race was when I was still in college, at the University of Iowa. Several friends, and myself, signed up for a spring 5K. I certainly didn't consider myself a runner at the time, though I'd always kind of fantasized about it. Naturally, not being a "runner," I didn't know the first thing about racing, or training.

I tried running the first mile while talking with a friend. Before the first water stand, I was ready for a serious walk break. I don't remember how many walk breaks I took in those 3.1 miles, but it's a safe assumption to say I walked more than I ran.

Fast-forward to a few years later. I was now married, and still living in Iowa City. The hubby and I decided to sign up for this same race, though I had not run any (or very little) since that first near-disaster. Again, same song and dance...I tried to run that first mile, walked part of the second, and ran/walked all of the third. Not sure how I thought it would be any easier the second time around, but there I was...entertaining all kinds of doubt as to whether I'd ever pin on another race bib.

Several years later, we'd moved back to my home town (with our three kids in tow), and I got the itch to do another 5K. This time, though, I wanted to run the entire race with no walk breaks. That would mean actually running some before race day, to get my body in condition for that long non-stop distance.

Since I was so new to the sport of running, and the internet wasn't too prevalent at that time, I designed a training plan all on my own. I still didn't consider myself a true runner, after all, so it never occurred to me to summon the help of a coach. My plan wasn't anything ground-breaking, but I honestly didn't know any different. I simply started out running a mile at a time, three times each week. After a couple weeks, that 1-mile run became 1-1/4 mile, then 1-1/2 mile, etc. until I had the endurance to run three consecutive miles.

Race day arrived and I was a nervous wreck! It would have been so much "easier" toeing the start line with no training done, because there would be no expectations of my performance. Although I knew I could run three miles, it was a different ball game doing that with all the other "real" runners lining up alongside me...runners who I knew were all probably faster than me.

Well, the race went better than expected. I was able to run the entire 3.1 miles, and finished just under 27 minutes...which was substantially faster than the 10-minute pace I had trained at (on the treadmill). I still didn't consider myself a real runner, but I liked that feeling of running a race well and crossing the finish line satisfied with my efforts.

As they say, the rest is history. But some things have definitely changed for  me...

*Race day anxiety? Not really an issue anymore. Sure, I get a little nervous if it's a big event, or one I've trained especially hard for and am hoping to PR. I've done enough races, though, that I know not every race is going to go as planned, and it's alright. Really, I'm just thankful to be there at the start line. If the stars choose to align, all the better. The one thing I have 100% control over is my attitude, so it's up to me to make it a good day or a disaster.

***I know the fine art of fueling, both on race day itself as well as in the days ahead. The same goes for hydration. I've learned it's always best to stay ahead of the game...if I start to feel the slightest bit thirsty, sluggish or light-headed, it's probably too late.

***My pacing is still far from perfect, but it's much improved from those early years. I still go out faster than ideal (most of the time) for that first mile; at least now I am aware of it. It's tough to hold back when your legs just want to go, but it's usually the smartest thing you can do if you want to finish strong.

***I've upped my game with accessories. In those early years, I didn't wear a watch, fuel belt or hydration pack. The phone stayed home, and there were no ear buds or music to keep me entertained. Granted, none of these are necessary for every run, but they do come in handy on race day.

***My gear has done a 180. Gone are the cotton shirts (and shorts and socks). My running shoes are ones that have been fitted for me (by someone who has a more objective opinion on what my feet need). Also, I have lost all fear of bright colors (not that I was ever especially shy about them anyways).
  

***My confidence has grown. I no longer shy away from tough race courses (I'm looking at you, Bix-7), back-to-back race weekends, marathons or ultra distances.

***I'm much smarter about warming up, cooling down and recovery. I also do a lot of cross-training (stair-climbing, HIIT, strength-training and cycling), so my entire body is fit...not just my legs.

So, that's my story...and it's far from over.

Do you remember your first race? Was it a good experience, that made you want to go back for more? Or, was it a tough, borderline-defeating endeavor that enticed you to try again? Do you still have your first race bib?

I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up
I'm also linking with Debbie,  RachelDeborahLisaSmitha and Jenn for the Runners' Roundup
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46 comments:

  1. It's amazing how we learn something new at every race! I don't remember my first race but I remember my first marathon.... I walked/ran the last few miles on that one. Looking back, I can't believe how untrained I was for that event.

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    1. Yes, after all these years of races, there is STILL something to learn each time we pin on a bib.

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  2. It's interesting to look back on running then vs now. for my first 5K I think I wore the cotton shirt that the race provided. I had no clue about proper running clothes.

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    1. I didn't ever wear the event shirt (too paranoid to do so LOL), but I definitely was decked out in cotton. UGH.

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  3. My first race was a total disappointment. It was a 10k and it was fine, but I was expecting some kind of magic to happen and it didn't, I just felt like I could have saved the entry fee and done my normal weekend run. Years later my inlaws asked me to join them for a 5k and that's where the magic happened. It's so much fun to look back on the races over the years and to day dream about the ones to come.

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    1. It took awhile for me to experience much magic at a race, because I was overwhelmed with the running/breathing/water-gulping/fatigue....it definitely did not come natural to me! Once I figured out the TRAINING aspect, it was game on!

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  4. The funny thing is that I expected my first 5k to be a one & done but I basically have not stopped racing since then, LOL!

    You have come a long, long way from that first race, and it's been a pleasure to be along for part of that ride.

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    1. It has been quite a journey for this klutzy, picked-last-in-gym gal :-)

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  5. i did a 5 k as my first race in a cotton t shirt, some cute shoes i got off of the sale rack and some cotton yoga pants! I still remember not knowing what the heck packet pick up was and remember the nerves starting thinking what if I can't do this!

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    1. Oh gosh...yoga pants? LOL! When I did my first big event, the expo was like the Magic Kingdom....it was so neat seeing all the "running stuff."

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  6. It is funny to look back on those early running days. I remember thinking 3.1 miles felt like forever, but I also couldn't wait to do it again :)

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    1. Yes, 3.1 miles felt like an ultra! It was such a challenge getting my mind around the idea of running the entire 3.1 miles!

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  7. I honestly cannot remember when or what my first race was! So fun to look back on the early times and see how much has changed and how much we have learned

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    1. SO much has changed, indeed! I remember seeing a gal at my first 5-mile race...I'd done a few more 5K's by then, but 5-miles really seemed so much further. This gal was all decked out in matching shoes, tank, shorts, headband and a fancy watch! She looked big time!

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  8. I do remember my first race! It was a 5k back in 1999. I made my sister run it with me. It took me 8 years to run another! Haha!

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    1. Well, it's a good thing you came back after that 8-year hiatus!

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  9. June 15, 2013 was my first 5k. I still have my race bib ��...if I remember correctly it took me 37 minutes to complete ��. It was hard,there was a bit of rain and it was super humid. I was hooked ��.

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    1. I still have most of my bibs, at least from the races where I truly "ran" them. They are fun too look back through...most of them still have the safety pins, too LOL

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  10. Now that you mention it, I may have run a race in college--it was called Al's Race and it was down Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee. It's always fun to look back and I always still get nervous before a race.

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    1. It's a lot of fun looking back...crazy how much things have changed, and I've only really been serious about this running thing for 15 years.

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  11. My first race was a 5k with my best friend when we were about 21. We started front and center not knowing anything about racing. A nice man told us to quickly move to the side when the gun went off to avoid getting trampled. Thank goodness too!Lol

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    1. You were brave to head to the front of the pack. I felt so intimidated at those early races...I didn't want any of the "real" runners getting annoyed at me LOL

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  12. I love hearing these stories! My first race was a half marathon (go big or go home, right?!). I only had 6 weeks to train. I figured it'd be a one-and-done experience, but obviously I got hooked!

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  13. Mine was a local 5k. I was hooked. Then 3 years later I ran half. And since then 40 more. It took me 11 years to run a marathon.

    Love following your running journey.

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    1. It took me a few years of 5K's (and never running more than three miles at a time) before I got up the nerve to do a 20K. ANd, that's the race I've gone back to every year since...#13 is coming up at the end of May :-)

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  14. This is great.

    My first race was amazing, except I hyperventilated and threw up right beyond the finish line. Whoops. I haven't looked back, but there's generally much less vomit. I still get anxious with big races or races that are important to me, but that's just the way I work.

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  15. You've come a long way, baby! It's amazing to see you nailing your runs after all these years!

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  16. Isn't it so funny to look back at our first races and be like, "what the heck were you thinking" haha. I have so many of those. And the race anxiety was OFF THE CHAIN!!!! Now I'm like *shrug* whatevs, let's go have fun! :) It's so much more enoyable.

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    1. HA ha! I love the *shrug* whatevs comment! Yes, it does make it more fun, especially if it's raining :-0

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  17. I wrote a post about my first race in 2007 which was a half-marathon! Why would I run 13.1 miles for my first race? I wore my race shirt on race day, which I never do anymore. And yes, so much cotton! Alot has changed for me as well.

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    1. I've only worn the race shirt for the race a few times, and then it's been more of joke rather than not knowing better. I'm glad cotton has taken a hike as far as running gear is concerned LOL

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  18. It's fun to take a stroll through Memory Lane. My first race was a 10k when I was 37. At that point six mile was the most I'd ever run! I ended up running 50:51 and 3rd in my AG so a new hobby was born!

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    1. That's a great finish time! It's turned into a great hobby for a lot of us ;-)

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  19. It's always interesting looking back to see how far you've come, all that you've learned, and what things have changed vs. stayed the same! I've only ever run two races, so I remember em' well. Nothing catastrophic for either of em', but I just don't seem to derive too much joy from running, so I went back to lifting (+everything else). I keep thinking I'll maybe try picking it back up again though!

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    1. It's been a fun journey! It's always humbling to look back at where one starts such a journey, and it's fulfilling to see where it's taken them.

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  20. First are often memorable for me and my first race I did a Halloween Trot. I was a bag of leaves and safety pinned fake leaves all over a sweatshirt. The safety pins scratched me the entire run and I had little scratches all over my chest and arms for about a month later. Definitely remember my first.

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  21. Love reading your story. Lucky you, you had your husband running with you. Wish I have my with me on my runs. I haven't done any race for now, but hoping to start this year.

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    1. Thanks! It is nice to have him along on some of my races. He's not as "in to" running as me, but he does like the challenge of making it across the finish line ;-)

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  22. love this Kim! I feel like we are all a part of the same club with how we started! I know runners (my husband's ex-coach) who ran his first race and won it... and even his first marathon BAREFOOT and won that (and only signed up because his brother was doing it - did not train for it either!!). You are my people!!

    I do remember my first race - I skipped over the 5 and 10K and did a 12KM "Circuit Run" - 5KM on the race track (fun), 3KM on the beach (so not fun) and 4 KM through the little streets of the beach village (fun!). i learned that I needed to tie my shoes better AND pee before the race... yeah, holding my bladder for 1+ hour was not 100% successful... when I finished though, I felt like I ***finally*** succeeded at something athletic. And the rest is history :)

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    1. My thoughts exactly. I was not the least bit athletic growing up, and I had no one encouraging to me (my gym teachers were terrible!). Every finish line has been great, especially the first 26.2 one :-)

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  23. Looking back at my previous races and now, so much has changed throughout the years. Of course it is all good and it makes me wonder if 10 or 15 years from now we'll be thinking and writing about our race experiences that are going on now.

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