A few weeks ago, I finished my first race.
It was a 10-kilometer run in the annual Manitoba Marathon, and I am absolutely thrilled to be able to say I did it. In fact, I’m still smiling about the experience and replaying my favourite moments.
To most people, a 10k run isn’t a huge accomplishment. It’s not like a half or full marathon, and only sits about a step on the awesome scale above the 5k and most fun runs. No, a 10k isn’t the most prestigious of running events. But to me and many others, it’s an important stepping-stone to bigger races and further distances.
My desire to enter a race began about a year ago, when I used running as an aid to help me quit smoking. I didn’t want to use traditional quitting methods – like the patch, gum or electronic cigarettes. I wanted to do it on my own terms and in my own way. Believe it or not, it worked. For the past year, I have been smoke free.
This past Father’s Day was my one-year quitting anniversary. To celebrate it, I wanted to do something special. So, I slowly transitioned from a casual, once-a-week jogger to a committed runner following a training plan with an end goal in sight.
For me, the biggest challenge was switching from a treadmill to running outside. I didn’t think it was going to be a huge issue, but boy was I wrong. Things I thought would be major challenges – like uneven pavement – took a backseat to the real concerns like heat, humidity, UV rays and wind. Oh my goodness, the wind. After I finished my first outside run (which absolutely kicked my ass), I realized I’d been living in a bubble by using a treadmill.
Gradually, running outside became less challenging. Then, it became somewhat fun. Now, I glare angrily out my window and pout a little when I have to use my treadmill because the weather isn’t cooperating. Running outside is exciting, interesting and invigorating, and I can’t believe I went so long without doing it.
With the switch from tread to pavement under my belt, I gradually increased both distance and speed and was ready for the big day. I was so nervous and had no idea to expect. It was raining, of course, but that didn’t stop the roughly 12,000 marathoners from flocking to their starting spots just after seven a.m. The gun went off, I waved to my husband and my first race was officially underway.
The combination of cheering spectators and countless runners jockeying for space along the route was intense. I had never even watched a marathon before, so this experience was completely new in every way. Bands and other entertainment had been set up strategically near refreshment stops and portable bathrooms. I’d heard there is actually a beer stop somewhere, but it’s for full marathoners only. One day…
What really touched me were all the spectators who set up camp along the route and stayed for the entire event. It was raining, as I mentioned earlier, and they must have been cold. But damp weather didn’t deter hundreds of exuberant people from lining the roadways and cheering on everyone. They really kept me going, and added a festive feeling to the atmosphere that made my run even better.
I can’t quite put into words how I felt crossing the finish line. Growing up, I was never particularly sporty or strong. Usually, I was the last one picked in gym class. Finishing a race in front of hundreds of cheering people was never something I thought I would – or COULD – do. But I did it. And, I’m going to do it again.
A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with running, and I totally get it. There have definitely been many moments where I’ve second-guessed my choice of physical activity. Especially when it’s hot out, or cold, or windy or… well, anything really. But just when I feel like giving up or taking another walking break, I pass another runner on the road. We share a private smile that says “I feel your pain,” and I quicken my pace. Just like anything else in life, practice makes perfect and you get out of something what you put into it. Running is no different.
My first race was such a great experience that I’ve already signed up for a 10-mile run in September. If that goes well, I plan to be running the half marathon next Father’s Day. I think that training for and running in races has become part of my life for good, and who knows – maybe you’ll see me at the Boston Marathon one day.
I never though I’d say this, but my name is Amanda Hope and a few weeks ago I finished my first race…