From the Back of the Pack

amberI started running in May 2013. For years I have tried to become a runner, but never got past the first week. I decided to sign up for a 5K race. This way, I invested money in running. I also posted to my friends on Facebook that in 8 weeks I would be running a race, so I felt more accountable to hit the asphalt.

Eight weeks after I started, I found myself on the starting line for my first 5K. It was July and about 100 degrees in the shade. I had one goal for the race: to not finish last. I knew I was slow, so I started far back in the pack. And at the end of the race, when I crossed the finish line in just over 38 minutes, there was still a group of people behind me, struggling with their own time and the humidity that took over that weekend.
These are the things I leaned running my first 5K:

• People will cheer for you, no matter how slow you are. And you have the most people to cheer for you if you do finish last, because all those who finished before you are rooting for you to cross the finish line.
• Listen to your body. I could not run all the way because I was not accustomed to running in that heat. I took many walk breaks. Although I wanted to run the entire distance, I accepted the fact that the weather and the need for more training called for me to take breaks.
• Talk to strangers. My husband was there to cheer me on, but I wanted to meet other runners, and the only way to do that was to come out of my comfort zone and talk to people around me. I did, at the starting line, in line for the porta-potties, and hanging out in the parking lot.
• Water that is splashed on you by volunteers is much more refreshing than that which you drink, especially if it’s 100 degrees.amber2
• It’s nicer to run in the shade than the sun. Maybe that will change as I start running in the winter.
• Know the race route. I checked online for the route and knew which way to go. After I finished, I learned some people went the wrong way. It was the inaugural race for this event and there was a last minute course change, so many people weren’t sure where they were going. The leaders of the pack ended up running about 5 miles instead of 3.1.
• Have loved ones at the finish line. There is nothing better than seeing your own pep squad cheering for you when you feel like you have nothing left to give and fear you might not make it. For me, it was the difference between crossing the finish line strong and dragging myself to the end.
• Be proud to wear your race t-shirt. You earned it, not just on race day, but on all the runs in preparation for the big event.
• And the biggest lesson I learned was don’t be afraid to try something new. Running my first race was a gamble for me. I don’t like to put myself in situations that are uncomfortable or unknown. To sign up for and run a race for the first time was scary, but well worth the price of admission. I pushed my own limits and learned I am capable of much more than previously thought.

That is what running has become to me. I find myself pushing my limits far beyond what I thought I could do. Every day that I go out and run, I have to look inside myself to find that push to get out the door and the push to keep going when my body wants to quit. Remembering the cheering crowds at my first race and the feeling of accomplishment I felt crossing the finish line has kept me going on those long, cold, lonely runs that inevitably happen while training.

 

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Amber Hadigan currently lives in Hyde Park, NY with her husband John and her two cats, Sobe and Scrappy. Originally from Wisconsin, she has lived in many different states. Now settled, she spends her time working, freelance writing, and writing and performing folk music. A runner as a child, she began running again in May 2013 and has rediscovered the peace and joy running gives her.

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