Race Recap: Father’s Day 5K

24 Jun

I missed my Dad’s first 5K because I was off running in Middlebury, VT while he was running in Barrington, NH. Our races were a day apart so I got updates from my Mom while I was hiking and exploring.

The best part of the 5K wasn’t the 5K at all, but that my Dad kept running afterwards.  I always feel like a first race can make it or break it for so many people – which is why I always try to run my friends’ first half marathons with them.  Make it fun, make it doable, remind them to hydrate and breathe and maybe they’ll be willing to do it again.  So for someone to finish a race and immediately plan their next one is exciting to me.

Which is how I found myself at Margaritas in Dover preparing to run a flat 5K with my parents. I had spent the day before biking, running errands, generally keeping myself quite busy and on my feet before sitting on the train for an hour and a half. I’m pretty sure the only times I thought about the race were packing my bag or when I would force myself to drink extra water.

I’m not a 5K fan. Mostly because I am not a fast runner.  And because my legs don’t loosen up for 3-4 miles and my mind doesn’t kick in until mile 4 which is kind of a waste if your race ends before you’re actually into it. My only competitive hope is long races where mental energy is more important than physical speed and I can easily get into a cruising pace and start knocking off other runners. I have been known to run a 5K at the same pace I run a half marathon – which says a lot more about how slow my 5K sprinting is, than how fast my half marathon pace is.

Still, a NH race is always a nice change in scenery after Boston.  We arrived early to get our same-day registration (unusual) and there was no line (unusual) and no rows of portapotties (unusual) and you could pay by check or cash (unusual) and there was no bag check because everyone had to drive to get to the race.

My parents did their active stretching and I did some hip openers and then someone sang the National Anthem and the race began.  I could see the front and the back of the race at the same time – such a novelty for a city runner.

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At the start

The course…was not flat. Not terribly hilly and I’ve definitely fallen in love with hills over the past few weeks so I didn’t mind them and enjoyed passing people on the uphill but for those running a first or second race, it had some challenges.  It’s not unusual for me to run a race knowing no one will be waiting for me at the finish line.  And it’s not unusual for me to know other runners along the course. But it was fun knowing that my occasional spectators were actually participants this year and in a bizarre role reversal, I felt a little bit like the proud parent (they are running!) and the anxious parent (I hope they don’t start out too fast and have to walk!).

Thanks to some loud Imagine Dragons music, I cruised thru the race, seeing the race leaders just before I reached the turn around, which helped me realize I wasn’t terribly far back in the pack.  My splits afterwards show that I was running pretty consistently (something I struggle with) and slowly getting faster, which is my modus operandi: 7:52, 7:50, 7:44 and 6:02 at the end, when I kicked it up a notch.

I finished sick to my stomach, wanting to throw up. A good sign that I emptied the tank, left it all on the course and finished strong.  I didn’t really care about my time. I knew it wasn’t a PR but I knew it was a solid performance that I could choose to be proud of, especially after the long bike ride the day before. I literally finished, turned my music and race tracking off, grabbed a bottle of water and headed back out to find my parents.

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Not sure why they appear to be running with small children…

I didn’t have to go far before I could see them in the distance, coming down one hill and about to tackle the last climb of the run. They looked great! My Dad was a few feet ahead but my Mom wasn’t far behind. I couldn’t really say they were running together as both had their music to listen to and apparently my Dad never saw me taking pics and cheering for him but I know my Mom did. Strong form, good posture, not even close to walking and far from being the last runner (every new runner’s personal fear).  I grabbed some pictures and then sprinted to the finish line so I could see them cross.  I was so proud!

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My parents have always been my heroes, for many reasons. But to see them tackle something new was incredibly powerful.  Sure, I have run marathons and ultramarathons and I’ve been very excited when my friends finish their first race.  But for someone in his 60s to tackle something new – to decide he’s going to buck the trend and start running at an age when most runners are becoming walkers and most walkers are becoming more sedentary is cool. I can only hope I am as adventurous and willing to try new things at their age someday.

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I came in second in my age group it turns out. Gotta love a NH race – where I can finish in the top 20%! Despite a discrepancy with the course (my GPS and MapMyRun both say the course was 3.24-3.25 miles long which makes my 25:00 finish a 7:43 pace) and the official record which has my 25:00 finish at a 8:03 pace, I’m happy. I was even more happy for my Mom who finished in the top third of her age group! Not bad for her first race!

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Even though our next race together, in less than a month, will not be “together” as I will be tackling my favorite distance, the half marathon, while they run the 5K, I’m excited to see them at the finish, proud of their accomplishment and already planning their next training run.  Determination and endurance can come at any age. Never say never. Just put one foot in front of the other, alternate, do this as quickly as you feel comfortable, and see what happens!

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