On Monday, I ran my first race ever. It was the Wounded Veteran Run, which is a local Memorial Day race which benefits nonprofits that serve wounded veterans and their families (i.e. Wounded Warrior Project and similar organizations). The race has four options: a kids’ fun run, 3K, 5K, or 10K. Being a realist, I opted for the 5K and convinced my dad to run it with me. It was an exciting but gritty affair, and not necessarily one that I’d like to repeat anytime soon. But you know what? $35, four blisters, and a mild case of heatstroke later, I can officially say that I’ve run a race.
Here’s where I overshare/tell you how it went:
- The cause! I could not think of a better cause to which to dedicate my first race, and I am thrilled that 100% of our entrance fees are donated straight to the nonprofits. It was great to see such a huge portion of the community come out to run and support our wounded veterans, as well. Having a meaningful purpose for the race made the harder parts of the run more bearable, because I could think of the reason I was running and all the hardships that have been endured by the veterans and families that the race benefits.
- My playlist. All country music with the exception of one track – The National Anthem by the US Navy Band. It was another great reminder of why I was running – to support those who have given so much in support of our great nation.
- Hardly any hills! When I run, it’s in an area of town that is pretty hilly, so I’m used to climbing plenty of inclines. This course was almost entirely flat, which was a nice change of pace (especially given everything else that was working against us).
- Running with my dad. I was so glad not only to have a running buddy, but to run with my dad in particular. When I first started running regularly at about 14, and I only did it so that I could run with my dad as he prepared for his Army Physical Fitness Tests. (He smoked everyone else, by the way.) It was really neat to still be able to run together 10 years later.
- The heat. Sweet baby Abraham, the heat. The 5K started at 9:30am, and it was already pushing 90°F when we took off. Normally I run in the early morning (around 6am) and it will maybe get up to 70° by the time I finish running. Now, I’m not someone who loves the heat, and my body tends to overheat really easily when I get nervous/anxious – such as in a new situation, like my first race! – so running in weather that was 20° hotter than I’m used to was rough.
- There was hardly any shade. A lot of heat and a lot of sun are a lot of bad news for me.
- I was still rocking my redneck phone case (aka, wrapped my phone in a sock and shoved the whole bundle down my bra).
- Well, remember how last Saturday was the first time in two months that I’d been for a run? Yeah, I’m still not exactly a good runner….
- Short version: We ended up on the 10K course instead of the 5K. It was awful.
- Long version: After about 25 minutes of running in the life-sucking and shade-less heat that only Northern California can produce, I was feeling pretty miserable. Still, I know my pace and figured I was at or about to hit the 3-mile mark…meaning the finish line had to be just around the next bend, so I kept pushing myself. The farther I went, the sickening feeling in my stomach grew – and not just because the heat was making me nauseous. I had a horrible suspicion that we had somehow made our way onto the 10K course. Eventually, I realized the chills and lightheadedness I was getting wasn’t going away, so I slowed to a walk as I checked the time once more. It had now been 30 minutes and we were nowhere near the finish line (it was at the same open field as the start line). My dad noticed I had stopped and trotted back, and when I mentioned my suspicions, he agreed. We alternated between walking and jogging for another 20-25 minutes, and still no sign of the finish line. Let me tell you, there are few worse things than pushing yourself to finish a race and finding out that you have no idea when the hell you’ll get to the end of it. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed. Not in myself, for stopping to walk or anything. (With simultaneous chills, dizziness, and feeling like I was roasting from the inside out, I had no issue putting my pride aside and slowing down in order to keep from, you know, keeling over.) I was disappointed with the race directors for creating a course with such shoddy marking. It was frustrating to try to navigate an unfamiliar course with unclear directions, and all the more so when it was my first race. It was also just irresponsible. This is a race for a fabulous cause that draws a large number of local participants. The majority of these people were running this to support the cause rather than to engage in a sport that they love and train for regularly. Translation: There are a lot of relatively untrained people on the course, including young kids (10-13 years old) who are allowed to run it alone, all who are exerting themselves physically in extremely hot weather. Combine that with piss poor course markings and an increased likelihood that someone will get lost or have to run farther than they are trained for/capable of…well, that’s a glaring liability risk if I ever saw one. Now, sure, it could be that we just misread the course markings and got misdirected all on our own. But my dad and I both have a pretty good sense of direction (admittedly, his is probably better than mine – me being female and half Asian-ish, and all that…), and I heard no less than five other groups of runners on the course debating whether they were on the 5K course or the 10K course. Clearly, this was a major problem. A little over an hour, we finally reached the finish line. By some miracle I managed to refrain from flipping off the photographer who was trying to capture each runner crossing the finish line. I had never been so glad to dump a bottle of water over my head. I was only sad that my tank top wasn’t white.
In spite of all that, it was worth it. There were several amputees that I saw in the group, including a triple amputee who did the course in his wheelchair. Seeing them running this race (and every one of them finished before we did), supporting their brothers, and defying any kind of victim-label that society may try to hand them was inspiring beyond words. If the least I can do to give back to those who have clearly given so much, then I will gladly run an accidental 10K any day of the week.
Besides…my dad and I already agreed that we’ll do it again next year.