Saturday, October 24, 2009

Everything's Gone Green

As you can tell from the list to your right, there was a time, not so long ago, when I was "running" in 5K races quite regularly, and getting a little better and quicker with each race. But for a few reasons, not the least of which I thought it ridiculous to take part in these runs in my ever-present state of fattiness, struggling to finish faster than the people with strollers or those who were clearly in worse shape than me, I gave up, turning my sights to getting in better shape by making better food choices and eating like a healthy person and getting to the gym at least four times a week - hoping to eventually get back to running outside.

But since the Sun-Times was a sponsor of the annual Notebart Nature Museum "Go Green" 5K and any employee who wanted to take part could run in it without having to pay the $35 entrance fee, I decided 'what the hell' and gave it a shot. I'd been running on the treadmill at the gym more regularly and thought maybe I wouldn't look too ridiculous out there. I told myself my first goal was to run without having to stop and walk the course, and secondly to finish in a reasonably respectable time.

Getting to Lincoln Park after my overnight shift, I found a parking spot on Clark Street, about three-quarters of a mile from the race site along Lake Michigan and thought I may as well pump $1.75 worth of quarters into the Daley 2016 Chicago Olympics Memorial parking pay box, since there was no way I'd run the race then get back to the car within an hour and a half.

The race apparently began a few minutes early and when I got to the starting line, a fella poked his out from a tent (it was raining lightly) asked if I was just starting and said, "You'll get a gun time," and I nodded and said, "That's fine," as if I understood the runner's lingo. But I looked at my super slim (the only time you'll see "I" and "super slim" in the same sentence) Nike running watch and saw it was 5 minutes after the hour, so I thought I'll just keep my time this way.

I lasted about three minutes before it felt as if someone had whacked me across the thighs with a baseball bat. I was relatively alone among runners though, since everyone else got an earlier start than me, and thought to myself that I can't stop now, I have to at least get to within spitting distance of the slow pokes before I stop and walk. Which is what I did. As soon as I caught up to a few walkers, I thought I could stop and start walking. But there was no way I'd walk the rest of the way, so after a couple minutes I started jogging again. I followed this run, walk, run, no way I'm gonna let this other fatty finish in front of me, run, there's the 2-mile mark, I can't breathe, I have to walk now, I can't look at this fat ass in front of me, run, walk routine the rest of the way.

After the first mile I looked at my watch and figured I was running an 11- to 12-minute mile. No way. At the gym, my pace is about 14 minutes a mile. That gave me inspiration to not walk all the way. At times it rained a little harder, the gravel along the lake was a bit muddy at times, but I managed to get myself into the pack and before long, I saw the sign that said "Mile 3" so I decided then that I'd kick it up a bit and not stop until I crossed the finish line.

I ran across the finish line and saw the official time was 48 minutes. I looked at my watch and it was 42 minutes past 9, meaning I had "run" it in 37 minutes. I was thrilled. Thrilled to be a slow runner, since I had hoped merely to finish within about 50 minutes. This was not my fastest 5K time, but then I have not run in a 5K in a year and it's been just about that long since I've run outside at all. UPDATE: According to the "official results" that I got e-mailed to me Monday morning, my chip was apparently working, and my official time was 36:01 -- a minute faster than I thought! Yeay, me. Even better than I thought. Of course, I'm thinking, "Damnit, if only I had run for just a few seconds more before stopping to walk, my time would have been under 36 minutes! Oh well, gives me a goal to shoot for next year!

So what now? Keep on training, keep on working out, don't eat like a pig and maybe next year I'll be in good enough shape so that I will be able to run a 10K, and who knows ... can a half-marathon be that far behind?

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