As Fair week wraps up, one thing they have on Saturday morning is the Chuck Lesher 5K Classic Run/Walk. This year was the 37th time this annual race has taken place. Ever since my first virtual race some sixteen months ago and my first live race a month later, I’ve been hooked on running.
And hating every sore, painful minute of it.
Last year, because of an injury, I couldn’t participate in the 5K here at the Shippensburg Fair. I kept telling myself, “It’ll be fine. You’ll heal up, and run it next year.” Well…..that didn’t really work either. Past couple months my left foot and ankle have been giving me all kinds of sharp, unnatural pains that I still can’t figure out the cause of. Because of that, I haven’t been running at all the past two months, in an attempt to let the problem sort itself out and save me the cost of a copay at the doctor’s office. So far it’s been working, as I can flex and point my foot more than I could, though there is still plenty of discomfort at times.
Feeling like it was doing a little better, I tried to run on Thursday night when I got an hour of PT at work, just to see where I was at. Wow… It was, in a word, terrible. I haven’t felt this fat and out of shape since my knee surgery back in ’02. That’s when I decided that while I could sign up for the Chuck Lesher 5K, it would be as a walker. I hadn’t preregistered, so I would have to get there early for same day registration. That started at 7:30am.
Now, I don’t do mornings so well anymore. I stay up later than I used to, as the only time I can spend time with my husband during the work week is to stay up after we both get off work (which sounds fine until you hear that we work shift work and I’ve been going to the gym after work, so often I won’t get home til midnight or so). Friday night was no exception. Two hours of overtime, a long drive home, taking dogs out, and just being generally not tired, I was up until well after 2am, with plans to wake up at 6 so I could shower, take my pre-workout supplements and have a light breakfast. I’m sure you can imagine how well I woke up the next morning, once I snoozed my alarm for half an hour. Like a blind drunken zombie with coordination issues.
Even though I was walking the race, nerves hit me hard that morning, which had my stomach all topsy-turvy. It was only my second ever live race. Dylan kept telling me I needed to get going, and at about 7:45 I got out the door. When I got there, I grabbed my armband for my phone, headphones, and my bionic knee then headed up to Gate 7 where the registration table was at. I filled out the slip, paid my $10 and got my race number and chip timer.
They lined us all up on the road about five minutes before the race began. I hung toward the back so I wouldn’t get in the way of all the hyper people who could actually run. I got my play list going, set the GPS on my Fitbit, and hoped that I had done enough calf stretches so I wouldn’t die of shinsplints five minutes out of the gate.
They set off the tone, and the runners took off. Then there were the walkers….off like a herd of turtles trying to stampede through molasses. Right away I set myself toward the beginning of the walking pack. In fact, I only saw one walker ahead of me, and I told myself I needed to catch up so I could pass her.
…Yeah, that didn’t happen. My shinsplints hit like a charging bull moose, and I slowed from my 14-minute mile pace to 16. From the corner of my eye, I could see the orange tank top of the lady behind me sneaking up on me. I refused to let her pass me, so I’d change my posture and pick up the speed-walking technique that my dad showed me years and years ago. My burning shins stayed with me through to the turnaround at the mid-point, then I traded them out for a young walking partner who didn’t know what to do with his empty water cup from the station they had. I offered to carry it for him, and we chatted for a bit until he decided to run a little more.
I never did catch up to the lady in front of me, but I did manage to speed my pace. At one point my tracker said I was going at a 13-minute mile. I crossed the line at 45 minutes 50 seconds, my pace averaging out to 14:41 minutes per mile. I was very pleased with that, especially as I came in second for women walkers. Too bad they only gave an award out for first place overall and first place for age 40+(Masters).
The best part (other than properly kicking my butt at that pace!) was that a gentleman came up to me and thanked me for the pace I set. He said he was behind me the whole way and he’d been trying to catch up. He was awarded the Mens’ Masters for walkers. It was really nice chatting with him for a few minutes, and I was reminded why I enjoy this dreadful running thing so much.
There’s a great feeling of energy and encouragement that hums in the air at these things, a feeling of community and acceptance, from the youngest kids running with their parents to the elderly that are refusing to become stagnant in their golden years. I’m not sure there’s anything that is quite the same as the smiles and cheers from perfect strangers that you have encountered simply because you both came out to run a few miles…for fun. Even though it’s hard and painful (my shins are still sore!), there’s really nothing like hearing the encouragement from others, going through the same thing, as you pass each other on the track.
I hate running (speed walking even more so), but this? This I love. And next year I’ll be back.