Sunday, January 11, 2015

My First Race

When I first began running in 2009, I never expected to run a race. Honestly, I'm not sure I was even aware that races were a thing you could just...sign up for! I was pretty inconsistent in my running at the time and I wasn't running very far...maybe a couple miles here and there.
In January 2010, this was my usual pattern: runs shorter than 2 miles a couple times a week. The 5k is the last green bar.
But after the 2010 earthquake that wreaked havoc on Haiti, a local church set up a 5k to raise money for disaster relief, and Matt and I signed up. I had just celebrated my one year runner-versary (runniversary?).

The race was pretty much as unofficial as you can get, but that's not to say it wasn't well-organized or successful. It was untimed and part of it was on bouncy Florida crab-grass and packed dirt. I remember it was overcast and the air felt wet. I was scared I would get lost. I was scared I wouldn't be able to finish. I had never run 3.1 miles before; I had no idea if I could.
Yes, that's right. I ran in cut-off sweats and the cotton race T-shirt. This was before I believed in race-shirt superstition. Also, can you tell I'm smiling?
For the first half of the race, I felt good. When we hit the grass, I walked. Part of me was devastated to be walking, but I noticed a lot of people walked in the grass so that helped my confidence. It lasted about a quarter mile as it looped behind some baseball fields; then came packed dirt, and I ran again.
You can tell this was in the days before everyone and their mother had a smartphone with a good camera. Here I am nearing the finish.
Matt was there when I crossed the finish line. I wasn't last. I'd done the whole thing. I had walked, but not too much. I sprinted the end of it. Having had a clear view of me for the last half mile or so, Matt was surprised and impressed that I had run the end of it and finished strong.
Matt and I post-race with our friend Ryan.
Going back into Nike+, I can see that I ran that race way faster than I remember. My subsequent 5ks were all over 30 minutes, and I've always believed my first 5k took me 33+ minutes, but apparently not!
Seriously? These are splits I would kill for right now.
My runs leading up to my first race were all less than 2 miles. Even though I knew nothing about running clothes or gear, my paces averaged in the 9:30s pretty consistently, which I guess goes to show that all the bells and whistles don't really matter all that much.
My last .1 was at a pace of 8:56 and I finished well under 30 minutes, which became a barrier in my next few 5ks that I set to work breaking. I totally forgot that I ran this 5k so successfully!
I was totally unprepared for my first 5k and I didn't know what to expect, but it was the perfect race to break the ice for me. After that, races were less daunting. Suddenly I realized that 5ks could be found pretty much any weekend, and I started to push my distances and train more consistently. 

I learned that having a goal race in mind helps keep your running on track. My running frequency increased like crazy; in 2010 I ran 35 times that year. Yes, that whole year. My total distance was about 82 miles.

Comparably, in 2014 I ran 115 times and my total distance was about 538 miles.

It's really cool to be able to go back and see my progress. I know I would have just kept running short runs a couple times a month if I had never run that first 5k.

It's true what they say, I guess. The 5k is a gateway race drug!

This post is fortuitously well-timed...Just before winter break I convinced a friend who had just started running to try C25k. She's hooked. We will be running a 5k together in February; it will be her first.

Do you remember your first race?
Do you have access to your entire running history?
What do you wish you had known before you ran your first race?



  1. Fancy clothes and gear are overrated! Most of my running career I ran without a Garmin. Though of course now that I have one I could never go back!

    My first race was a half marathon. I ran for years before I ran a race. I was in the middle of marathon training and someone said I should run a half so that the full wasn't my very first race! It was definitely a fun time and I knew I could finish it because I had run 13 miles before, just not in a race.

    My first 5k wasn't until 2013! :) 5ks scare the crap out of me. NO room for error.

    1. I think back on my first half and can't imagine that being my first race ever...I think I would have quit racing!

  2. I wish I had access to my running history. It would be so fun to look back at it. My first race was also a 5k, it was Turkey Trot and I know I ran it nowhere near as fast as your first!

    1. I bet it was fun to run a themed race for your first 5k!

  3. I started blogging (on tumblr) when I was training for my first 5K so I can always go back and read those old posts which is really nice. It's funny to see what was important to me back then. Also, just like you, I was running faster back then. There were days when I was knocking out 12 minute miles flat which are a challenge for me now. I think my mentality just changed when I started wanting to run longer distances and I just stopped trying for 12 minute miles and ran with whatever was most comfortable.

    Those photos!!! Isn't it so crazy how the quality of cell phone photos has improved in such a short period of time?!

    1. I wonder if going longer has made us slow down...and how do we get faster again?! (I mean, I know how, but I wish it were effortless haha.)

  4. I love this post! My first race was a ten km race and I peed a little in my shorts when I was sprinting to the finish, LOL.

    1. You hit a runner milestone in your first race! Nicely done! haha

  5. I totally remember my first was the Navy 5k race. I had never run 5k before...I'd only been run/walking about 2.5k and decided to sign up for a goal. I remember going to buy a new pair of sneakers to wear (eeek....I did something new on race day), and the sales person was doing the same race. No one was there to watch me...I was doing it just for me. So I ran 4 minutes and walked 1 minute for the entire 5k...finishing in 32.40. Can you believe there wasn't a medal either? Eeeek!!!
    Great post Ali!!

    1. I don't think I saw a medal for a 5k until the end of seems to be a new thing and I do kind of love it!

      It sounds like your first race was a good one!

  6. This post is great! My first 5k was sort of on a whim as well. I've tried to track down results but can't seem to find any... I can't imagine I did very well. I was also running in cut off sweats and a cotton t-shirt and I remember it being so hot and humid out. I'm not much of a gear junkie, but I do believe that wicking shirts help a lot.

    1. A friend of mine pointed out that my body has changed so much that these days I wear a tank top for pretty much any weather because I overheat too easily. I can't wear cotton tshirts to workout anymore! And I never wear the race shirt to the race anymore...I've developed a superstition about it haha.