My First Race


I ran my first official race this weekend.  When it comes to joining the Cult of Running, your first race is along the lines of being allowed into the forbidden barn or being told your first parable about Xenu.

But my first race was so unpleasant it might have done half the work of deprogramming me.

Let’s start with the weather.  I started running over the summer.  Running through the soup that Pittsburgh calls air during August could suck, sure.  Collin would tell me, “Just wait until fall.  Running in the fall is awesome.  50 degrees is perfect running weather.”  Turns out, he’s right.  The ten-mile run we did a few weeks ago was definitely aided by the cool weather, which wasn’t too chilly to distract me but enough to motivate me to keep moving.  But Pittsburgh only gets about two weeks of those silly “transitional” seasons.  In fact, our city motto is “Pittsburgh: Where Autumn is Ephemeral.”  [Okay, okay, it's actually Benigno Numine, which means "with the benevolent deity."  Factsy out.]

So when I opened the door on Race Day to see huge snow-globe-style chunks of frozen water falling in the sky, I wasn’t particularly surprised.

I put on my brand new thank-God-I-allowed-myself-to-be-sucked-into-a-Target-spending-spree running gloves and my I-don’t-care-if-it-hides-half-my-costume running jacket and tried to suck it up.  But the race started 15 minutes late because of a felled tree in the course and waiting outside near the start line without running to stay warm sapped most of my ability to stay positive.

And then there was the course itself.  The Terrifying 10K’s slogan is “the first hill’s a killer,” so I guess I can’t say they didn’t warn me.  Wait, yes I can, because it isn’t just like there was a steep hill for the first half-mile of the course (although there WAS), the entire 6.2 miles was a series of rolling hills.  Steep enough that running downhill wasn’t a break or chance for recovery so much as an “Ow, my quads!” experience.

Finally, it felt like everyone was passing us.  I want to say the weather scared away the other novice runners or at least diverted them to the 5k course.  Because otherwise I am the slowest runner in the Greater Pittsburgh Area.  I know it shouldn’t matter, that I should only be racing against my internal desire to quit, but this was my first race and I haven’t learned that skill yet.  So being passed and never passing was definitely a further demotivator.

Despite all of this and literally wanting to roll down the snowy banks of North Park to GET AWAY from this horrible race before we’d even hit the second mile marker, I finished the race.  I ran the whole thing without any walk breaks, which was my goal. I was only able to do it because of Collin’s constant support and patience with my misery.  I also got a huge mental boost when my friend Josh ran into us around the 4th mile (he was in the middle of a 20-mile run in his training for the Philadelphia marathon).  Around the last half mile, I was insisting that after finishing this race I’d never run again.  A few days removed from that moment of abject misery, I want to say it isn’t true, but I’m going to need some kind of re-motivation to get out there again.

Part of me thinks I need to run another official race ASAP so I don’t cement this idea that race = misery too firmly in my brain.  Part of me wants to pull a Baby Lickity-Split and insist that I’ll Go It Alone for the rest of my running life.

But I still passed this milestone, no matter how miserably. I’m trying to hold on to that and pull whatever tiny amount of pride I can from it.


  1. First of all, Yay! You DID it! Have some exclamation points. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Second, every day of running is different than the last. I can remember (way back when I actually ran and did things that were good for me) that I used to have days when every step felt like agony. Every. Freaking. Step. No matter how hard I pushed, I could only shuffle my way through my run. Then the next day, the wind was behind my back (or something) and I would fly through my run, shaving off five minutes from the day before. Then, shuffle, shuffle, moan, cry, moan again.

    I imagine actual races are much like this, too, although I never got so far as to enter races.

    • Yeah, Collin and Josh were like, “you know some running days are like this.” I do. It just sucked that one of them was RACE DAY. It makes it hard to psych myself up for a half marathon. I think I definitely need another 10k under my belt first.

  2. Congratulations for hitting your goal of not walking! I had a bit similar experience with my first (and thus far only–though largely because I picked up CrossFit instead of going for a longer race) race because I was getting passed by parents PUSHING STROLLERS and it was “only” a 5k. It sucks really badly to feel slow. Perhaps one day, swiftness of foot, much like upper body strength, shall finally be mine.

    • It will be! Back in college when I first started exercising I was really into weight lifting. I had wet noodle arms. I never got super strong, but I got to the point where I could do a Big Girl Pushup or two, which at one point felt impossible. The best moment was when I beat a dude arm wrestling. I never, ever though I’d be able to do that, but I did! You can do it!!

  3. You know that if I were running with you, you could lap me a hundred times. Maybe that mental image will be a motivator for your next run. My guess would be the beginning of winter is always a time when lots of people cut back on their running for a few months. Since the cold is your nemesis, maybe yogaing it up for awhile would be good?

  4. First of all,

    OMG OMG OMG OMG! That sounds like a terrible first race!

    Now that that is over, buck up! You should not throw away months of training because it snowed outside. Do you remember when you first started? You probably couldn’t run for more than a couple minutes without wanting to pass out hyperventilating. And now you go out for 10 mile runs with your husband. Think of how much you have accomplished! You are way impressive.

    Now here’s the most important piece to running that I have found. Don’t let yourself feel like crap while you run.

    Here’s how I keep from having bad runs…

    1) I do not run outside if the weather is way too hot, way too humid, way too cold, or precipitating. (Now obviously for the race you had no choice.) But in practice, I won’t do it. It almost always guarantees a bad run. So on those days, I use a treadmill.

    2) Be an “organic runner.” What is an organic runner? Well, set goals for yourself but set them with some flexibility. For example, you go out thinking you’re going to do a 5 mile run and into mile 2 you realize you feel like crap. Be flexible. Take a walking break. Cut your run short. Listen to your body. You’re still out there doing something positive for yourself, but it may be different than what you expected to do that day. Conversely, you go out thinking you’re going to do a shorter run and you start feeling great. Go longer. See where your run takes you.

    To quote Steve Jobs, “The journey is the reward.” Running is not about race day. It’s about the entire experience and your overall improvement. Don’t let your goals get in the way of your happiness. Be flexible with your training.

    I’ve really appreciated the support you have given me as a fellow novice runner. So hopefully a part of this was helpful, and we can continue to be a support for one another.

    • Thank you, Aimee! Such great advice. Collin explained the organic runner thing (at least the cutting things short part) as “the Oatmeal Rule” as in, “you can at least eat your oatmeal.” Like, “Maybe you can’t run today, but you can at least eat your oatmeal,” and by extension, “Maybe you can’t run 8 miles today, but you can run three.”

      You’ll be happy to know I went out for a brief run yesterday to get back on my feet, so to speak. (The great weather helped.)

  5. Congratulations on finishing the race! There’s a race in North Park in March called “Just a Short Run” that I try to do every year to help prep for the half marathon. It’s 8 miles, and starts with that HORRIBLE first hill. Isn’t that thing so intimidating? But at least it’s over at the beginning, and then the rest is literally downhill from there.

    I get passed all the time during races, but I try to ignore it and focus on one person near me and try to keep up with them. I remember last year at the Run Shadyside 5K getting beat to the finish line by a lady dressed as a pumpkin. And this year at the Burg’s 5K Justine had to give it her all to not be passed by an old guy in a knee brace. It’s definitely humbling but I try to use it to motivate me to keep running so I can beat the pumpkin next time.

  6. Go you! I know you are still learning but teach me, teach me!

  7. I kind of like running. I remember the same weekend you did the 10 miles, I did about seven, and I was thinking of tweet-bragging about it until I read about your distance. Meh! Lousy seven miles! Who even cares anymore.

    I’ve never raced before, though, and I haven’t ever wanted to. I think this means I will never reach Cult of Running status. And it means I am completely in awe that you did it.

    I am also completely in awe of that giant pink bow on top of the My Little Pony house.

  8. Pingback: Half-Marathon Half-Monday | HitchDied

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