Are you thinking of walking, jogging, or running your very first 5k? In this guest post, my mom shares her advice and the story of her first 5k. Here’s her experience…
This past fall, I walked in my first 5k. What I had hoped would be a test of how far I had come, was an test of grit thanks to a fall and knee injury earlier in the week. Cane in hand, I was determined to compete, even if it was just to finish.
The South Foster RI race (Dr. Rachel’s note – Fall Foliage 5k) was held on a wonderful partly cloudy day in the countryside. My daughter and I arrived about an hour and a half early to check in and get our race bibs. Volunteers were on hand to direct parking and the way registration desk. There was a bit of a line as the race allowed same day registration, but it went quickly. A map of the race was posted, but being directionally challenged, it was of little help to me. Number, safety pins. and a race shirt were handed out to each registrant. I learned the shirt was not to be worn during the race (only dullards do that) but the number was to be affixed with all 4 pins to my front. Next stop was the bathrooms and another line which got only longer the nearer to the start of the race. The time went by very quickly and we had only a bit of extra time to warm up and stretch before the start.
The start area was for both the 5k and 10k, walkers and runner alike. Runners moved to the front and walkers to the rear where we arranged ourselves with the swiftest in front. Cane left in the car (a bit of vanity took over) I was at the very back of the walkers and on the right side of the pack, the slow lane. I need not have worried about the course directions, volunteers were at each turn directing participants and signs and mile markers were posted as well. A water station, on the right, had cups with cool water and a bit beyond, a trash can. I appreciated that several volunteers from the sidelines asked if I need help, but generally left me to limp along. I also had a couple runners pass, asking as well, not breaking their stride. Glad I was far to the right as several large groups ran by.
The countryside was just beautiful with grazing horses and sheep, an old dog watching from the end of a driveway. I wished I’d brought my phone to take pictures. The track was “New England flat”, some on pavement and some on dirt road. The end was up a hill and through a roped chute where volunteers awaited to take a tear off from the bib to record time. I had read in a runners’ magazine to enter a race because “you won’t be last”. The only reason I was not last, dead last, was my daughter let me go first. No one cheered any less or made me feel bad, quite the opposite. I had done it, gritted teeth, limp, and all.
Burgers and hot dogs awaited finishers and picnic tables were scattered about. We ate with a couple of runners who told us about another beautiful race course we should put on our list. Runners, walkers, kids, all mingled and talked about their time or the course, enjoying the occasion.
No one even mentioned my less than stellar performance.
I have entered another race and will take what I learned from this one:
1. Arrive early, the bigger the race, the more time needed.
2. Check your shirt before you leave the registration desk and don’t be afraid to ask for a different size. You might not be able to exchange it, but it never hurts to ask.
3. Find the bathrooms early, the closer to the start, the longer the line.
4. Line up at the start according to your ability, and be honest with yourself, slower people to the back. If you are slower, stay to the right of the pack.
5. Take advantage of the beverages along the route.
6. Don’t assume the limping or stopped participant needs help; ask, but respect the reply.
7. Finishing the race is a great goal, sometimes the time is not that important. One person’s personal best may be different than yours.
8. All finishers need to hear the cheer.
9. It’s ok to be last or next to last, there are no lasting effects from this.
I know with certainty that I will have a new personal best, that I will finish, and I will meet some pretty neat people.
See you there!