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.
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.
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.
***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.
***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.
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?
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