Three Years Running

The first year I walked/trotted the IOA Corporate 5K, I was about ten pounds heavier than I am right now. It was a struggle to finish. I made the mistake of taking off running in an attempt to sneak in with the runner’s group instead of waiting another 20 minutes for the walkers to get started. That was a terrible idea, and it threw me off for the rest of the race. I finished though, and I wasn’t dead last. Those were my only two goals.

Last year, I was about 30 pounds heavier than I am right now. It was a long and miserable race. The temperature was higher than it had been the year before, and the humidity was a lot to bear. It was especially difficult for me at that weight. I had a tough time breathing the entire time. In fact, I was pooped by the time I walked from the parking garage to the starting line. I finished that race as well, but just barely. I had forgotten my ankle brace and my left foot was so swollen, I could barely walk on it at the end. If there hadn’t been people stopping (yes, they had to stop in order to keep pace with me) along the course to offer encouragement, I think I would have sat on the curb and called for my husband to pick me up.

You are probably wondering why I bother to participate in the race if it’s so difficult for me. I’ll share a little something with you that I haven’t really shared with anyone before: I am not a finisher. Sure, I can get something started with no problem. Name any project; I can get it off the ground with relative ease. But I fail miserably at follow-through. I’m ashamed to admit how many things I have started in my life but never followed through to completion. My weight loss was always one of those projects. I spent hours researching all the right foods to eat and all the right workouts to do. I made lists on top of lists of how to get myself started, what kind of schedule to follow, and what kinds of results I could expect, but I never lasted longer than a week on any given plan. So when the opportunity came up to participate in a 5K, I was determined to finish something for once in my life. I haven’t accomplished much that I feel I can be proud of but dammit, I was going to be proud of myself for crossing that finish line. And I did, twice.

I wanted this year to be different from the first two experiences. I hadn’t bothered to do any training the first two times around, and it was painfully obvious when senior citizens were running laps around me. This year, I wanted to do more than finish. I wanted more than not coming in dead last. I wanted to feel good about this race. I wanted to enjoy it from start to finish. I wanted to truly experience the race instead of being distracted by my fatigue and breathlessness.

I am going to start out by saying that Zumba, Turbo Jam, and kettlebell workouts are not exactly the same as training for a race. While the workouts did help me increase my endurance, they didn’t fully prepare me for pounding the pavement for five kilometers. But they did help me drop 32 pounds, which resulted in a much more comfortable experience this time around.

I remembered to put my ankle brace on this year, which helped out dramatically. It fit surprisingly well into my sneakers, which may mean that my feet are not as fat as they used to be. Now if they could just get a few sizes smaller, that would be awesome. Anyway, after standing around for about an hour waiting for the race to start, I couldn’t stop thinking that I should have trimmed my toenails the day before. The more I thought about it, the longer my toenails seemed to grow. I kept imagining that they would eventually pop out of my shoes like talons at some point.

I wish I had captured more awesome pictures of people in costume, but I had my phone stuck inside a band that I wore around my arm. That was a dumb decision, because I’d be willing to bet you all would have enjoyed seeing the group of guys in tutus and tiaras, or the guy in orange long johns with orange drawers over them. Depending on the weather, I might get fancy for the Fight for Air race coming up next month. Costume ideas are welcome.

I didn’t take off from the starting line at a sprint. It really was more of a snail’s pace. I was in the middle of the pack of walkers, so we started out moving really slowly for the first ten minutes. Once we got out onto the wider city streets, we were able to pick up some speed. I know that I was not spectacular by any means, but I kicked my own behind from the years before. I maintained about a 15 minute mile for the most part, but ran faster when I encountered pockets of space between groups of people. There were no little old ladies passing me by this year! And I happened to reach the finish line in time to get bottled water and snacks. That has NEVER happened before. I used my Polar FT4 watch with the intention of tracking my own time, but I wanted to make sure every calorie burned (all 947 of them) was accounted for, so I didn’t stop the timer on the watch as soon as I crossed the finish line. I still ended up walking around for another 20 minutes or so trying to find a good place for my husband to pick me up. Since downtown Orlando is full of one way streets and many of them were blocked off for the race, that was a challenge in itself. And I am really proud that I was even able to continue walking after the race was over without any difficulty. I certainly can’t say that about last year’s race.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the IOA Corporate 5K. Firework displays greeted us as we completed our 5 kilometer journey through downtown Orlando and high fives were handed out by random strangers. Pharell’s “Happy” blasted through speakers as I crossed over the finish line. I truly could not think of a more appropriate song for that moment.

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