My first 5K event took place in January of 2009. I signed up to run in the Chilly Dawg because it was sponsored by my employer. The plan was to walk it, but I quit before I even reached the half way point.
In 2011 I ran in the Sleighbell. Having failed miserably at my first 5K, I was bound and determined to finish. To guarantee my success, I trained for three months. I set my pedometer to 5K, ran at least three times a week, and had no trouble going the distance. I was ready.
The temperature on race day was a brisk 34 degrees when I got up. I put on my running shorts, and to remind me of my prior humiliation, the long-sleeved t-shirt I received for participating in the Chilly Dawg. I slipped on a hooded sweatshirt and took the dogs outside. I got cold, so when I came in, I added a pair of gloves and a skin-tight red nylon undershirt that makes me look like an over-stuffed sausage.
We reached the course forty-five minutes before the race started. Fortunately, the shelter housing the registration table included a fireplace. After picking up our numbers (#800 for me), we huddled in front of the roaring fire until ten minutes before the starting time, then started walking to warm up for the race.
As we warmed up, I set the pedometer on my iPod Nano to 5K and started the podcast I’d downloaded the night before. Minutes later, we were off! I hit start on the pedometer and settled into a comfortable pace.
The pedometer includes a feature where a female voice comes in over the podcast to update me on my progress. When she said I’d completed one kilometer, I was trudging along with a very mixed group of runners. So far so good.
When she said I’d completed two kilometers, I dropped the hood to my sweatshirt and removed my gloves. The sweatshirt came off as she announced I’d reached the halfway point. Yes! I can do this!
By the time she announced only two kilometers to go, I’d settled in with a crowd of senior citizens, chubby girls, and mommas pushing strollers. A dude on a unicycle passed me. Then most of the seniors, chubbies, and mommas left me behind. But I was still running and feeling pretty good.
Panic set in when I passed the two-mile marker. What? How could this be? According to my pedometer, there should be just a bit more than a kilometer to go. Then I knew. My pedometer had betrayed me.
When the voice informed me I’d completed my goal of 5K, the finish line was no where in sight. Uh oh. For more than a month I’d assumed the pedometer was accurate. Clearly it was off — by a lot. Apparently I jiggle so much when I run, the pedometer thinks I’m making more progress than I have. Could I make it to the end?
A minivan full of dogs was in front of me when she announced I’d run six kilometers. The driver was going slow because of all the runners in the road. I couldn’t run fast enough to pass him and didn’t want to fall back anymore, so for the next full kilometer I breathed his exhaust. I flipped him the bird as he continued beyond a point where we runners turned around.
The finish line was in sight when she told me I’d run seven kilometers. About halfway between me and the finish line, a little old lady plodded along. I dug deep inside and poured on the speed, determined to finish before her.
As I passed her, I saw my ex waiting for me at the finish line, camera in hand. I kept up the fast pace and threw my arms up in the air in triumph as I crossed the line. I hit stop on my pedometer and was informed I’d run seven and a half kilometers.
Despite running half again as far as I’d been training, my time was just over forty minutes. That means I’d run farther than ever before at my fastest pace ever. Keeping up with the other runners apparently motivated me to run faster than I normally do.
I finished in 249th place. I have no idea how many runners there were. When I checked the leader board, I was somewhere between tenth and fifteenth in my age group. I don’t care — at least I finished, even after being betrayed by my pedometer.
Now I use MapMyRun. The GPS tracks my progress and is far more accurate than the pedometer I once used. My time has improved to around 34 minutes. I haven’t run in a 5K for a couple of years. Maybe it’s time to try again. Spurred by my competition, I might even break 30 minutes.
[Updated from a December 2011 post]