I ran my first race on April 1, 2012. No, this is not a April Fools joke!
It feels bizarre talking about April Fools Day at the end of May…this post is obviously very overdue!
My first race was the New York Road Runners New York Colon Cancer Challenge. This race counts towards the 9 that I need to run during the 2012 calendar year to be guaranteed entry into the 2013 NYC Marathon. There were two run distance options to choose from: a 4-miler and a 15K (which is almost 10 miles). There was also a 1.7 mile walk for folks that wanted to be involved sans running. I embarked on the 4-miler (about a mile longer than a 5K, which is the distance that I had been training/preparing for via the Couch to 5K program). Over 6,000 people came out to run or walk. For the race that I did, the 4 miler, there were 2,828 total finishers (spoiler alert: I was one of ‘em)! The race was around Central Park’s inner loop, which is the location of many NYRR races. All of the funds that were raised (nearly $480,000!) support the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to a world without colorectal cancer through public awareness, prevention, screening and research. I love this so much. As a public health professional, and as an individual embarking on a weight loss journey as a method of disease prevention, the fact that so many races sponsored by the NYRR are focused on issues of health promotion make my heart sing.
New York Colon Cancer Challenge!
I picked up my shirt, bib, and D-tag (fancy name for timing chip) from the NYRR headquarters on the Upper East Side the Friday before the race. I was a little discombobulated (and A LOT nervous) when I walked through the door, because there were a TON of people, all whom looked like they knew exactly where they were going, and then me, who very clearly hadn’t the slightest clue. Thankfully, a stranger pointed me in the right direction (she must have seen the look of panic on my face), which was much appreciated, since there weren’t any signs or people telling me what to do. After I picked up my race materials, I decided that it might be a good idea to have someone show me how to properly affix the D-tag to my shoe. When I approached the D-tag booth, the woman working it asked me which distance I was doing. When I told her the 4-miler, she replied, “Oh, you’re running the baby race”. Um, what?! Thankfully, I’ve reached a point in my weight loss journey (and, I’d like to think, a point in my life overall) in which I don’t allow people’s comments and/or negativity to discourage me. I replied with “Actually, it’s a bit of a stretch for me, but I’m ready”. And I was right. I WAS ready.
I woke up at the butt crack of dawn on race day with all of the butterflies in the world flying around my stomach. I had picked out the clothes that I was going to wear the night before, so I didn’t have much to do to get ready. I decided to wear the shirt that everyone who was participating in the race got for free (even though I read online that you’re not “supposed” to do that). But the thought of NOT wearing it didn’t cross my mind for a second. Running a race was something that I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember, and I wasn’t going to let the internet tell me what to do! Central Park is about an hour train ride from my apartment. The race started at 9 (which is an hour later of a start time than most of the weekend AM NYRR races), so I left my apartment around 7:15AM to allow time for the trains to be slow, and to locate the race starting point once I arrived to the Park. I grabbed a yogurt and stuffed a handful of almonds in a ziplock baggie on my way out the door to eat on the train, but I ended up only eating the yogurt. During my commute, I was too self conscious to wear my bib, which came as a surprise to me. I have no idea why I got all shy about it. I ended up affixing it to my shirt on the train just before my stop. There were other people from the race in my subway car, which I think was what did me in and made me feel less self conscious. It felt awesome to be surrounded by people that were going to be at the same event that I was. I’m so accustomed to being the person staring in awe at people in their gear en route to the event on race day. But, now I was on the other side! And that felt GOOD. Really, really good.
I arrived at Central Park around 8:30AM, about a half hour before gun time. It took me a while to orient myself with the space and find where I was supposed to check my bag.
Starting line before corrals were open to runners.
After I stopped stumbling over myself, my jaw dropped when I saw how many port-a-potties there were. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many in my life! Around quarter ’til, I made my way over to the starting line.
One of the questions that the application for the race asked was what my pace was in a run greater than 3 miles. Honestly? I had no idea. I just answered 12, because that sounded like where I wanted to be, but I hadn’t the slightest clue as to where I was. Thankfully, that pace put me in the last corral, which is where I felt the most comfortable as a new runner. As I made my way over to my corral, I was SCARED. It hadn’t really hit me that I was about to run 4 miles until I was waiting for the gun to start the race. I was scared for a few reasons. Mainly, I think, because this was unlike anything I had done before. What will I feel like during my run? What’s it going to be like having other runners around me? Would people be nice to me if I needed to walk? Would I finish last? Would I even finish at all? I was really good about keeping up the positive self talk (which is something that I’m continuously working on, and is also one of Weight Watchers tools for living), but I’d be lying if I said that those ideas didn’t cross my mind a time or two before the race. I didn’t complete the Couch to 5K program before race day, which also definitely scared me. The most I had ever run was just under 3 miles. Would I be able to run for 4, even though I had never done it before? I really had no idea. But that wasn’t going to stop me from trying. I spent the few minutes leading up to gun time upping my positive self talk, and reflected on the journey that I had been on to get me this far.
Let’s do this!
It took me about 3 minutes after gun time to reach the start, because of the 2,000 or so people in front of me. A dozen or two strides before the start line, I queued up my MP3 player for some tunes. The Ting Tings were just the jump in my step that I needed. Once my music started playing, my mind shut off and I just ran. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing thousands of runners in front of me, as far as the eye could see, all moving forward, at their own pace, working on or maintaining their physical fitness goals. It was SO cool. I was smiling so much; I couldn’t contain it at all. People must have thought I was out of my mind, but I didn’t care. I had a race to run.
Words can’t describe how I felt throughout my 4 mile journey to the finish line. My experience is both blurry and crystal clear. Which, of course, makes about zero sense, but that’s the only way that I know how to describe it.
I couldn’t believe how quickly the first mile went. I was moving right along, bustin’ a move to my playlist, and before I knew it mile marker 1 was right in front of me. Then mile 2. At the second mile marker, I grabbed some water and managed to get about half of it in my mouth…the rest ended up all over my shirt. Thankfully the bibs are water resistant!
The most challenging part of the race for me was between miles 2 and 3. It’s the middle! Between miles 1 and 2, I was running on pure excitement, and between miles 3 and 4 I was like “OMFG I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M DOING THIS I’M ALMOST AT THE FINISH!!!!1111″. Between miles 2 and 3, Central Park’s inner loop consists of several monster hills, which upped the difficulty for me during this part of the race, for sure. I felt pretty tired halfway up the second hill of the route and ended up slowing down to a walk for a few minutes. I was so ridiculously proud of myself [and way surprised] that I had made it that far without needing to walk for a bit. I started running again soon after that, and before I knew it mile marker 3 was right up ahead.
The last mile of the race was exhilarating. When I saw mile marker 3, I was definitely feeling more beat than I did when I started the race. Thankfully, I found someone to trail that had a good pace, and I just stayed directly behind him for the majority of the last mile. The back of his shirt said “crazy legs”, which made me smile the widest. At the last quarter of a mile or so, I gained a second wind and sprinted to the finish. Without even thinking about it, I threw up victory arms as I crossed the finish line. So incredibly fitting, as I can think of few times in my life that I’ve been more proud of myself as I was in that moment.
At the finish, I drank a few cups of water and a cup of Gatorade, and grabbed a well-deserved bagel. Mmm, delicious. I also saw a colon!
Crossing the finish! Can you see me? Just look for the goofy grin! [Taken by Brightroom]
I can now cross “walk through a colon” off my bucket list.
In running this race, I totally caught the racing bug. I can’t wait to run more races, and continue to share this journey with ya’ll!