RUNNING A 5K By: Jackie Clark
Lining up with the other runners in my start group, I feel some butterflies in my stomach and a mounting sense of excitement. This is my first 5K race. Thousands of other runners are here with me today, and even more people standing on the sidelines cheering us on. I look over and see my family and biggest fans all huddled around watching, as I am about to take off! It’s time for us to start; the group moves forward slowly at first, like a herd of cattle, before the faster people break ahead and the crowd spreads out.
As I keep up a steady pace, not trying to wear myself out, I think back on the weeks of preparation I spent: the daily jogs, the stretches, the fitness workouts at the gym. Proper nutrition was another element of preparation and also my worst enemy. As a new marathon runner I felt it was extremely important to stick to a sweet free diet. I know my body and myself well enough to know that sweets provide me with nothing more than a stomachache. It was important for me to feel my strongest and diet was essential to accomplishing my goal.
The week leading up to the race, I drank lots of water and abstained from alcohol to ensure I was sufficiently hydrated. Runners know to eat about four hours before a race. I stuck with something safe with my soon-to-be jostling stomach: oatmeal with a banana. It was nothing unusual as it was and has now become my go-to breakfast meal. It gives me just enough energy to push through those morning trainings.
Knowing that I have prepared for this helps me as the miles go by slowly. Steadiness is my goal, not speed. I have built up my endurance over the weeks of training, so I can keep up a good pace without tiring. My body falls into a rhythm as my feet pound the pavement. I try to run on my toes. I have found it takes the most strain off of my shins and allows me to distribute my weight more evenly.
Hearing my shoes hit the ground; the measured puffing of my breath, and the sounds of the people around me gives my mind something to focus on besides the act of running. Always when I run, I look for something to distract me from the effort and the tiredness in my legs, something that motivates me. It is clear what motivates me now: making it to the finish line with a good time.
The final stretch approaches. The spectators cheering for us make me feel like an Olympic hero, like Rocky Balboa. I give the last quarter mile my all. The energy I have saved up comes in handy now as I pick up the pace and pump my arms faster. The last hill is before me; the finish line looms in the distance. My legs are tiring, my lungs burning, and my heart working double time, but I make it across the line.
Cooling down with a walk and plenty of water, I feel better in mere moments. What a feeling of accomplishment! I am not tired, but bursting with vitality and an I-can-do-anything feeling. My happiness and clarity of mind must be due in part to endorphins; the chemicals released by exercise that make a person feel good. I understand now how people become addicted to running and that natural high. It’s an exhilarating sensation.
Accomplishing my first 5K was one of the most exciting times in my life. I actually lived a transformation. I felt my body and mind change for the better. I knew if I could stick to a routine and accomplish this then I could take anything on. I loved the rushes, the pain, and frustration because in the end it was worth it once I crossed the finish line!