My first race was a half-marathon. I tell people this and many of them are surprised. Most people start with a 5k race, figure out they love running, and go from there. I wasn’t in the mental shape to actually run a race though until I was capable of running what I considered a truly long distance. It wasn’t enough to run 3.1 miles, I needed 13.1. So much of this comes back to my poor mental state and low self-esteem.
In my head, I couldn’t possibly be a runner. Runners are people who get up early and eat salads all the time. They wear tiny shorts and bright shoes and they have their own little club that I wasn’t in. I made a lot of assumptions early in my running career that were terribly unfair to others and to myself.
In any case, I did about a year of solo running before I decided I wanted to try a race. This was good and bad. Going it alone meant I didn’t have the advice I desperately needed about things such as foot strike, stretching, and good footwear. But it trained me up mentally. It took me just over 2 hours to finish my first race and (seemingly) countless hours in training runs. I listened to music to break it up but it still comes down to spending hours moving in the same pattern and just watching the world around you. This can be incredibly uplifting and also incredibly challenging.
I picked the race I was going to run more or less at random. I had found a program I wanted to use, Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Program. It was a simple, easy to track program. I understand now that it lacks some things I would have loved to have known to do, but it is still a great program and I would recommend it or really any of his programs to people who want to take up running.
The race was in its inaugural year, it fit the 12 week time line, and it was for a good cause. It lined up so I took the risk and registered. And that’s when the nerves set in. I was going to run a race. That’s such a loaded word. When you run a race, you run to win. But there was no way I could win this thing. Dan Vassallo, an Olympic Team Trials qualifier was running it. I did not understand that winning a race isn’t just about the competition between oneself and others, it is also a race against yourself. Of course I’d never beat Vassallo, but I could beat my own best time and maybe a few others in my age group. Running is incredibly flexible that way. You can set your own goals!