Friday, 5 July 2013

Guest Post: Adventures of a Newbie: My First Race

After running for a few months, I wanted to get some race experience under my belt. I signed up for the Canada Day 10K in Elora, thinking that I could train through the spring and race before the heat of summer crept in. I used the ‘10K: Own It’ training plan from the highly recommended book ‘Train Likea Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job, orSanity’, a ten-week plan with a mix of easy runs, speedwork, hill workouts, and long runs designed to get the body ready for race day.

When the big day arrived, my husband and kids were dragged with me to Elora at 7:00 am, which sounds dreadful, but my husband and I have a saying: “Why set the alarm for 6:00 am when the kids will wake us up at 5:55?” No alarm needed that morning with all the early risers in my house! Once in Elora I picked up my race kit and time chip, then we walked around, took pictures, and watched the racers warming up. Normally I would have felt intimidated lining myself up beside other runners – REAL runners – but I trusted my training. I knew I had worked hard, pushing myself up hills, on the track, in the rain, and on mornings so early that all I could see of Lexie, coming to pick me up for a run, was the circle of light from her watch bouncing toward me through the darkness. I could do this.

There was all kinds of fancy footwork on display in the minutes leading up to the race. While I had done a bit of jogging and stretching to warm up, I wasn’t nearly as ‘warm’ as I could have been. Before I knew it, it was time to line up at the starting line. When my husband wished me luck, all I could say is, “I’m not ready!”. As much as I hate strides, I am sure one or two would have helped.

The gun went off, and I pumped up my power jam:

Yes, I am a nerd.

The race started on a road, but quickly turned onto a narrow trail, which meant that the runners were tightly packed. I glanced at my watch, and saw that the cluster of runners I was in was travelling at a fairly leisurely pace (about 30 seconds/km slower than I wanted to be). I’m sure this is terrible racing etiquette, but I ran around them onto the grass and booted it to a faster looking group. Perhaps because of my not-so-warmed-up body, my brain searched out people who were running at my target pace to follow. I expected to run the race focused on myself and my watch; I was surprised by the feeling of desperation and by how much I needed other people around. I felt just about done by the time we reached the 3K mark.  7 more to go…

One hope I had for the race was to be able to be grateful; that is, I wanted to feel gratitude for the strength to run, to soak in the scenery, to enjoy the race. I was overwhelmed when I saw all the volunteers and organizers who had worked to put this event together. To think that they, like me, had spent the last several weeks preparing for this day, that they had woken up as early as… well, my kids to create this experience for us. I made sure to say thank you or wave to the volunteers who clapped and cheered us on at each turn of the route, to the lady who applauded the runners from her front porch, and especially to the two bagpipers who were situated at the end of a bridge somewhere around the 7K mark. It was such an unexpected treat. I turned off my music and made sure to take in the view:

There were no more signs to mark each kilometer after the 7K point, so I had to keep an eye on my watch for both pace and distance. The race came once again to a narrow stretch of trail, which was muddy due to recent rain. Although I felt like I was maintaining my pace, my watch informed me that we were travelling at 6:10 minutes/km, which is not exactly the speed I was looking for in a race. Because I have trust issues with my watch, I assumed that it had broken. Fortunately part of me thought it might be a good idea to start hustling. Which is always fun in mud…

My plan was to hold my pace for the first 5K, then speed up if I could, especially after 7K, but I found that I wasn’t able to do much more than simply keep up with the lady in front of me. Once we arrived at the home stretch, I sprinted to the finish.

Watch out, finish line! There’s a monster in a blue shirt trying to sneak up on you and attack! Oh… wait, that’s… me… (Let me get this straight, y’all have been letting me run like this IN PUBLIC for the last nine months? We need to talk.)

Despite my lack of form, my final time was 52:53 (and I love every single one of those seconds below the 53 mark). 

I plan to tackle another 10K in the fall. My goal is for a similar time, but to feel stronger (less desperately struggling) while I run.

A special thank-you is due to my family for months of encouragement and support. It meant so much to have them at both the starting and finish lines, especially my daughters and nephews with their homemade signs.

It is no small thing to have a cheering section. 


  1. Lesley I love your post, you really bring your experience to life with your words as always. What a spectacular view and amazing sprint to the finish to have your girls cheering you on! Also love your getting pumped tune :)


  2. This is awesome! Congrats, Lesley on a great time and being grateful and present. A triple whammy that we runners are lucky to experience every once in a while. :)