The thing about running is that it's a great idea on paper. You get a great cardiac workout, it helps with losing weight, you create endorphins and that elusive runner's high. The Couch to 5K program is a wonderful premise, and probably works for a bunch of people. Indeed, I was not one of them. Surprising to anyone who knows me? Not so much. To be fair, I started 3 weeks late in my training and the 5k came up before I had finished. But come hell or high water, I was running the Chocoholic Frolic!
The morning was a bit chilly, maybe 45ish outside. It was November after all and I was happy we didn't have snow or ice. The course ran through part of lowertown St Paul, across the Wabasha bridge and finished on Harriet Island. I had my official number, a timing chip, my good shoes, the best gear I had and the will to finish. I also made myself a sign. It said Stage IV won't stop me today! What's stopping you?" and a link to Metavivor.org. A bit heavy-handed? Anyway I thought maybe it would inspire me not to quit. Truthfully it was incredibly inspiring to get smiles, cheers and high fives along the route so I'm glad I wasn't too chicken to do it.
My friend Melissa met up with me at the beginning. She ran on to get her personal best and cheered me on at the finish. Yay! I also found my friend Annette and her friend Paula at the starting gate and we kept pace off and on throughout the race. More on that later. My previous running experience involved an extensive walking warmup and some stretching before hitting stride. Of course when there's a thousand or so people in a crowded street, we got in a few attempts at Zumba from some well-meaning fit person above the crowd. I tried to jump up and down and get my legs limbered up but I knew I was not getting enough. Still though, I was going to do this or die trying. Here's the starting gate. Imagine a thousand people crammed in, waiting for the starting gun. (number is approximate, it felt like ten thousand)
After a little time up the hill, I realized I was not going to be happy if I ran all the way to the top of the hill. As in, I would either pass out or throw up. Deciding not to torture myself was an easy decision and I walked to the top. Once up on the bridge, I started running again and was shortly passed by a woman who cheered me on by saying "I've been trying to catch up to you for 20 minutes, you're amazing!" Nothing like a good feeling to keep you going! I can't remember if she kept up with me or passed me. Probably passed me but at that point I was looking at the ground in front of me. Just keep swimming...
Meanwhile Annette and Paula were doing more of a fast run, slow to walking, repeat, pace so I saw them on and off until Harriet Island. At that point, Annette decided to walk and Paula ran with me. So helpful! The rest of the pit stops had tables of scattered boxes empty of chocolate until the last stop where they had already picked up the empty boxes and were taking the tables down. Oink oink, people.
Rounding the bend to the finish line, Annette speeds up to us and we cross the finish line together. Running! So sorry to the poor lady (walking) who got a bit nudged as we went by her. Finished! Not as exhilarating as I'd expected but it was pretty damn good to be done. We were surrounded by all of those fit people casually laughing about the little race, and shouldn't we run some more tonight, blah blah, it was all I could do to not kick them in the shins. My knees had started to whine by mid-race and they were full on bitching at that point. I hopped out of the long waiting line and missed my chocolate milk but I managed to get the bar from a grumpy hander-outer guy. Whatevs. Melissa was there and we went into the pavilion for the chocolate treats, thankfully not taken by all the early finishers.
And for the next two weeks I walked like Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump when he got his fake legs. I did all the icing and Ibuprofen I could take and finally went in to get cortisone shots in both knees. Holy wow did that hurt. And then it didn't! I love modern medicine!
In the end, I finished at a respectable 41:10, which is a 13:15 pace. A bit off from my 11:10 pace in the Quick Bix but this was longer, I was (too much) heavier and well, there's the damn cancer and all. I finished 1684th out of 2591 and 365th in my division of 600 runners. And there was chocolate.
Thanks for the fun, running shoes, but I'm just not that into you...