I walked my first 5K last night. The closest "big city" was hosting their annual marathon today, and there was a "day-before" 5K and 10K. I don't know why I felt the need to do this - I just did.
So I registered for it a few weeks ago, turned in my $35 check, and started training for it. Well, sort of. I'd been walking a mile or so a couple days a week, but I decided if I was going to walk 3.whatever, that I'd need to get on the stick. I basically had three and a half weeks to get ready, so my plan was to walk a mile a day for the first half-week, 1.5 every day for the next week, 2 miles/day for the second full week, and then 3 for the final week. Of course, that was my plan, which doesn't mean it actually happened. I did decently until the last week, when I basically did nothing at all.
By Friday morning, I briefly considered not going, since I hadn't worked out all week, it was raining and icky, and just, you know, I don't do these sorts of things. But remembering that I had paid $35 and wanting to feel good about myself, I went. I got on the road a little later than I planned, but I thought I would have plenty of time. Apparently I was wrong. The "race" was to begin and end at the arena where the local university plays basketball, and traffic was terrible. The parking lot was full (for the 5K??), so I parked in a hotel parking lot about 2 blocks away, and was sprinting to make the deadline to pick up my "packet." (Dude. It's a 3 mile walk. How much of a 'packet' do I need?)
Regardless...I get inside the arena, and immediately spot two volunteers. I ask one where I go to check in, and they direct me to "section 24/25, and then go down to the floor." Sounds good. So I get down to the floor, and it's a madhouse. Apparently there was more than just "check-in" going on at the arena. There were all kinds of exhibitors - everybody from adidas to Topricin. A local gymnastics group performing at one end. Scheels selling bottles of water. Nowhere do I see what looks like the registration table.
So I grab one of the adidas guys and ask if he knows where I go to register. He thinks it's against the back wall. I head that direction, even though I don't really notice anything different, and eventually I come to an "information booth" of sorts. By this time, I'm panicking, thinking they truly might not let me pick up my packet if I was late. The info booth sends me "over there, to the 5K line." I can barely see, because apparently the people designing the banners to mark all these lines did not consider the background they would be hanging against. The color blended right into the arena seats, making them virtually unreadable. Anyway...I get over the 5K line, step up to the front, and tell the lady volunteering there that I need to pick up my packet. She wants to know my number. Huh? My number? I don't have a number. I registered online, but I don't have a number. She points me in the direction of the number pick-up line, marked by an equally unreadable sign. In that line, it takes the lady three tries to find my registration. A little receipt printer thing prints out a little slip of paper with my "number." Now I can go to the 5K line to pick up my packet, which consists of my "bib" (Seriously? Am I a toddler at the dinner table?), the timing chip for my shoe, a tshirt, and a semi-permanent bag to put it all in.
By the time I'm done there, I'm starting to think that the hotel is going to run my plates and figure out that I shouldn't be parked there. I find someone with a watch (because I have neither my watch nor my phone with me) and determine that I have 20 mins until I have to be at the starting line. So I head back to the hotel, take off one layer (it's raining, but warm, so I decide I'm going to walk in a tank top and a jacket), and load up my pockets with cell phone, ipod, keys, and ID. The bare essentials. I attach the timing chip to my shoelace, and pin the "bib" to my jacket, and then proceed to drive about a block closer to the arena.
Still close to a block away, I head for the arena, find that the starting line is literally on the other side of the arena. This is close to another block, and when I finally get outside, it's another until the actual starting line. At this point, I'm tired and crabby and I appear to be the only person doing this by myself. Everyone around me is in groups of friends and families, couples and kids. I'm standing there alone, in the rain, texting my friends for moral support. Awesome. Eventually I met another woman (Tina?) and we bonded because she was looking for her husband but didn't have her phone, so I let her use my mine. We were chatting until she realized that there was a separate lineup for runners, and since she was running, she left to go there.
Finally - deo gratias - the "race" starts. I'm not racing anybody at this point, I'm just trying to not be last. From there on out, it was fairly standard. I had my ipod, and listened to last Sunday's sermon at Gigantor Church, and then a Freakonomics podcast on Warren Buffett's kid and the succession of family-owned businesses. I knew how long the podcasts were, and the route was marked, but I was surprised when I crossed the finish line in less than an hour. Not a great time, by any stretch of the imagination, but I was super-proud, since my "2-mile practice sessions" had taken me about an hour. I was certain it would take me more like an hour and a half.
Beyond the finish line are a bunch of volunteers handing out water bottles and little "medals" with the race logo on them. I grab two bottles of water and a medal, and keep walking, fearful that if I sit down I will not get back up. I make it back to the car, get all my stuff organized and back in my purse, crank up the AC, and head out of town. On my way out, I stop to buy gas and reward myself with Little Caesar's cheese bread. At the gas station, I run into a guy from Omaha, who is in town for the marathon. I went to college in Omaha, he went to college about an 45 mins from where I live now. Cool fact of the day.
Interesting things from my first (yikes - does that mean there are more to come?) 5K:
- It's a 5K race, but they marked the route by miles.
- There was a lady from Canada with a Canadian umbrella. She passed me as we neared the finish line, still holding her umbrella over her. It stopped raining about 2 blocks into the race.
- As you cross the finish line and your chip registers, they call your name. I thought this was weird, and sort of uncomfortable.
- The volunteers handing out the registration packets should know where the starting line is.
- One of the local group homes for the developmentally disabled had some of their staff or volunteers walking with some of the residents. I thought that was extremely cool.
- Two ladies walking in front of me had shirts that said, "If you can read this, I'm not last." Haha, awesome, I want one!
- Muscles I did not know I had are now all but immobile. I have spent virtually the entire day laying on the floor with my Magic Rice Baby, ice packs, and topricin. My dad swears it will be better by tomorrow. I hope so.
- All kinds of people enter these things. There were fat old ladies in stretchy mom jeans, and professional atheletes in spandex and all kinds of "running accessories."
- I don't really understand "running accessories." I'm not sure what you really need besides a good pair of shoes and a tshirt and shorts. It's basically the cheapest sport there is.