Six months ago, if you'd have told me that I was going to train for and participate in a 10K race, I would have laughed it off. Today I walked my first 10K race ever. Overall, it was a great experience. Crossing that finish line was exhilarating. Looking back and knowing I did that gives me a huge feeling of accomplishment.
Although it was a great experience, the race was not without its difficulties. I walked my best time ever – an average of 17:00 minutes per mile – and finished the race in 1 hour 44 minutes time. Even so, I was the last person to cross the finish line. I was also the last person to make the halfway point. Several of the runners coming back the other way when I was still trying to reach the midpoint were sweet and encouraged me to keep going. It was still a little demoralizing and a bit lonely to be the last straggler in the race.
Most of the cops and volunteers I passed along the way also called out encouragement. But, in my last mile, the police started to get impatient – presumably because they wanted to release the traffic. One of them said “C'mon, you've got to pick up the pace! Get those arms up!” Now mind you, he had some nerve. He was a big guy who looked like he'd consumed more than his fair share of jelly donuts. Lucky for him, I was too busy trying to breathe and get to the finish line to respond. But even he couldn't diminish the experience. Today, my goal was to finish the 10K race within its time parameters. I did that and I'm very happy. I've had a goofy smile on my face most of the day.
I learned some important lessons during this race. For one, I need to get faster. I don't want to be the last straggler during the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon. Training and learning the proper technique for race walking is the key to that. I decreased my time by nearly three minutes per mile from the 5K I did in February by training in a half-assed sort of way. Imagine how much more I could have decreased my time if I had followed the training schedule diligently and learned how to race walk. Maybe I could get down to a twelve-minute mile. Now that would be something. There is a race walking group in Miami that meets on Tuesday and Thursdays. I think I'll go check them out.
I also need to make sure I get a good night's sleep and give myself more time to park, stretch, etc. before the race. I stayed up too late and got about four hours sleep last night. As a result, I was already tired when I started the race and rushed so I didn't get a chance to hit a restroom right before the start. With all the water I drank before and during the race, it was a little uncomfortable.
I learned a lot about myself during this race too. I learned that I need to rely less on external positive encouragement and more on internal drive, focus and commitment. I learned that I need to push myself harder and more often because I can do more than I think I can. Before today, I had never consistently walked at a 17 minute per mile pace. It wasn't comfortable and I was breathing heavier than normal, but I could do it. I rediscovered that once I set my mind on a goal and dig in, I can achieve it. I think I'll set my mind to some other goals now, like taking off some of this weight, finishing my novels and finding an agent.