My First 10K

Oak Mountain State Park,
February 23, 2013,
8:30 AM.

I stand at a wooden picnic table beneath a cluster of tall, bare-limbed maple trees. My best friend Anna and I have claimed this table for now, though we have no picnic basket in tow. Instead of plopping down onto the seat, Anna props her left leg upon it and bends into a hamstring stretch. I reluctantly do the same, glancing around self-consciously at my surroundings.

Straight in front of me, I see the edge of the forest. I can hear the soft bubbling of a creek hidden in there somewhere among the trees. To my left, I see Anna taking deep a breath as she moves into a quad stretch. On my right, I find the open-air Dogwood Pavilion where impossibly toned people outfitted in expensive-looking running gear are gathering.

I glance sheepishly down at the pair of fleece pants I bought at Wal-mart for $9, at the wide, flabby thighs beneath them. I've lost so much weight, this is the only pair of pants I currently own that won't fall off when I run. But these hard-bodied strangers around me don't know that. They don't know I've lost fifty pounds. They don't know how far I've come.

I do. And I'm so, so thankful for my progress. But as I watch these obviously seasoned runners checking in at the registration tables, I feel like I haven't come far enough to be here. I've gotten a little too ambitious with this whole fitness thing. Doing a 5K was crazy enough for this couch potato; why would I even attempt a 10K?

This is a mistake.

I go into a calf stretch, but I'm not thinking about my muscles or my breathing or anything I should be thinking about. I'm too busy making a mental list of all the reasons why this race is a terrible idea.

1. I'm not a spontaneous sort of person. I'm cautious. I make plans. But this race was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I read about it online only three days ago, fell under some crazy spell, and clicked “register”.

2. A race on top of a mountain on an early morning in February has the potential to be a freezing cold disaster. And according to The Weather Channel, there is a chance of rain.

3. My race bib number is 119. That number is kind of unlucky for me. One Nineteen was the name of the singing group I used to be in that came to a bitter, fiery end in 2003. The number 119 just doesn't seem like a good sign.

4. Most importantly, I am not ready for a 10K. I am not. Sure, I've lost fifty pounds. I've completed two 5Ks. I've been jogging two to three times a week since August. But for Woodstock and the Spooktacular, I trained purposefully for weeks ahead of time. I've never attempted more than 3.1 miles of interval jogging. I. Am. Not. Ready. For. A. 10K.

I don't feel like stretching any more. I'm probably doing it wrong anyway. These neon-knee-sock-wearing pros would know.

It's time to line up behind the start line. I'm feeling nauseous. I remind Anna to go to the back. All the way to the back. All these people will have to pass us, so it's only polite to go ahead and get behind them.

The race begins. I start the chronograph on my new sportswatch. I confess I do feel sort of legit with it on my wrist. We're moving.

We're running.

We make it to the halfway point, the end of 5K. 37:34 is our time. Two minutes faster than the Spooktacular 5K in October. We feel pretty great about that, but we then realize we have to do another 5K. Right now.

My right hip is starting to hurt like crap. The road is nice and peaceful, edged by trees and creeks and lakes and the like, but the course is all hills. Forever uphill. At least it's not raining.

We go on.

When we get to the five mile mark, we take out our MP3 players and slip in our earbuds. We've already agreed that when we come to the last mile, we're going to each do our own thing and push as hard as we can. Anna is waaay closer to her goal weight than I am, so she can go a lot faster than I can.

As I watch her growing farther and farther ahead of me in the distance, negativity overtakes me. I try not to be jealous. I try not to get angry. I try very hard not to cry, because part of me is saying, “Screw it, I'm done, I'm not ever doing one of these stupid races again, I suck.” The self-destruction begins. Why am I doing this? Why am I in a race? Yes. I've lost fifty pounds. But I'm still fat. I'm still obese. I'm still freaking slow.

I turn my music up as loud as it will go. I start praying. I thank God for giving me the ability, the motivation, the energy to get this far along my journey. I pray, desperately, for Him to somehow give me the strength to run to the finish line. I switch to one of my favorite running songs.

I speed up.

I feel an electric tingle zipping across my scalp, down my back, into my legs. Suddenly, this

I dash across the finish line at 1:17:45. I'm dizzy when I stop, but after a few gulps of Powerade, I feel fine. Better than fine. I feel kind of exhilirated. And hungry. We help ourselves to the afterparty food and beverages, a first for me at a race. I've always been too sick to eat anything immediately following a race. But I chow down on free pizza, bagels, fruit, and trail mix. And it's all fantastic.

Naturally, Anna and I brag on ourselves the entire way home. WE DID A 10K! Us, the same girls who used to get together to make homemade bacon cheese fries and watch TV, just completed a 10K.

That's something from my bucket list. A 10K was one of my goals to accomplish in 2013, and I've already done it. Anna and I both wanted to do an out-of-town race this year, and this one was.

I don't know how long it will take me to move on to the next step in this crazy new active lifestyle, the half-marathon, but I am now confident that I can get there. I've got more 33 more pounds to lose. I can keep training.

It will only get easier.


Lacey said...

Go girl!!!! That is SO awesome, you are SO inspiring! I just started kicking my butt and trying to get back into more activity, its hard with my unpredictable schedule, but you just gave me the reminder that I needed :) Way to go, you must be soooo proud of yourself!

Jenny said...

Thank you so much!!! You've just gotta find some kind of routine that's doable. Maybe a back-up Plan B routine for when your plans change unexpectedly. Keep working hard, and good luck!

Jessica said...

You have lost so much weight but have grown so much as a person. I am so proud of you for getting rid of your negative thoughts and turning to God. You are becoming such a great person and I am so proud of you!

Love ya Jenny June!