Letting Go

A few months ago, one of my colleagues invited me to join her for a 5K race, the Night Nation run. I said yes immediately without much looking into it; all I needed to know was it was within walking distance of my house, and I was sold on it.

I looked at the race information a bit more closely after signing up, and discovered that the race was not timed, they had various fun stations set up along the course, and they seemed to be actively encouraging people to take their time. This is kind of my nightmare set-up.

I’m not fast, so I recognize that some people will look at my times out of context and think I must be goofing around on the course anyway, but of course I’m not. I’m showing up to races to do my best. Of course I want to enjoy myself and show sportwomanship at all times, but beyond that, I’m there to suffer a little. I mean yeah, maybe if I was faster, or once I’ve reached my peak and I’ve started to level off on my performance, then I can show up in jorts or goof off at aid stations or take pictures on the way, but I’m not there yet. It already takes me a longer-than-average amount of time to finish races – I’m not interested in adding to that time with distractions.

With its accommodating and welcoming philosophy, this race forced me out of my comfort zone. I did my best to go with the flow and enjoy the race for what it was.

My friend Samantha decided to do this race with me (actually, when she refused to let me pay her for shoveling the sidewalk at my house when a big snowstorm hit in the interim between closing on our house and moving, I offered to pay for a race entry so we could spend time together and I could ease my guilty conscience over not compensating her for the burdensome task of shoveling the sidewalks of our corner lot), and met me at my house so we could walk down and avoid the parking fiasco. It’s a bit over a mile walk, and it was still sunny and hot, and I was still a bit tired from my afternoon run. I figured since I wasn’t going for a PR at this race, a 10 mile trail run (easy trails) wouldn’t be a problem. It wasn’t, although I finished running at 6 and we started walking to the race at 7:40.

We realized it was going to be a bit of a letdown because it wouldn’t be that dark, so we didn’t even bother to wear the light-up glasses we got with our “premium” registration. We got bags to put our stuff in, as well, and it turned out we had to carry them during the race, so that was irritating. Sam chose to wear hers and just endure the bouncing, and I chose to carry it in one hand.

Since the race is untimed, they release people in waves about 2 minutes apart. Since the race had a lot of participants and was partially run on the bike paths of the Mississippi River Trail, it made sense to do limit the number of people pouring onto the trail, although it turned out not to matter.

Because it seemed like every single participant was walking. Or stopping. Or wandering aimlessly. Seemingly unaware of their surroundings. This happens to some extent at all races, but it was much more prevalent here. Sam and I spent most of the race weaving and dodging through the crowds; the race never opened up and gave us a chance to set our own pace. In a way, this was good, because we stayed together the whole race, but it was so frustrating. At the first station along the way (a DJ), we ended up at a standstill as people bunched up to take selfies, or dance, or whatever. At other times, we were stuck running through grass on the side of the trail to try to get around people.

There were parts I enjoyed. People were dressed up in amazing outfits – tutus, butterfly wings, light-up shoes, glow paint in intricate patterns on faces and bodies. I liked the DJ music along the way. And I liked spending time with my good friend. But this confirmed to me these races are not for me. Maybe I’m too uptight about running, or maybe if I want to go to a dance party, I’ll go to a club, and leave the races for when I want to run.

I finished in approximately 44:20 (of course I wore my watch! I am getting credit for these miles!), which is about 15 minutes slower than my last 5K. I knew going in that this race would be slower, but I didn’t think it would be such a drastic difference. It doesn’t matter that much – the time is what it is and I’m not ashamed of it. This race was a learning experience for me, and I can say that I went in with an open mind, enjoyed the atmosphere (though I didn’t truly take in all that the race had to offer, as I didn’t stay to dance at one of the DJ stages and I didn’t wait in line for a selfie at one of the selfie stations), and made the best of it.

And now I don’t have to run one of these ever again!

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