I ran a race this weekend, a 5k.
I was about to write “just a 5k” and stopped myself.
I first started running almost 10 years ago, when I was going through my divorce. I had met a girl named Kim through another friend of mine, and Kim was part of a running group in Atlanta. She encouraged me to come out and run with them on Saturday mornings, and I said “yes,” because that’s what I did at that point in my life. I said “yes” to things – going to parties, going out with friends, just getting out of the house – because it was smarter than succumbing to my baser instinct (which is essentially to be a hermit – not the best idea when you’re getting divorced and living alone for the first time in your life).
So, I started going to these Saturday runs – which opened my eyes to this whole new world of people out there, who got up super early (sometimes before it was light out), donned all kinds of sleek technical gear, and banged out 8, 10, 15, sometimes even 20 miles before sitting down to breakfast in the morning. I loved it. Well, I wasn’t running 20 miles or anything; Kim and I would run/walk five or six if we were feeling super motivated. But I loved everything about it – the cool air in my lungs, the great conversation with a new friend, the feeling of accomplishment so early in the day, and the egg sandwiches and coffee afterwards, as everyone gathered at the nearest breakfast spot.
Anyway, I had gone to a couple of these Saturday runs when Kim and her roommate had a Super Bowl party at their house and invited me to come. Almost everyone there was part of the running group, and at one point, I was chatting with two guys when one of them asked me if I was training for a race. I wasn’t, though I told them I planned to run a few 5ks that year. The one guy looked at me, a half smirk pulling at the corner of his mouth, and said, “I don’t get out of bed to run a 5k.”
Well alrighty, then. Luckily, I didn’t let this guy’s arrogance deter me. And fortunately, as I kept at running over that first year, I realized he definitely wasn’t representative of the broader running community, which is encouraging, supportive, and inspiring.
A 5k isn’t “just a 5k.” It’s something. It’s getting out there. It’s a chance to see what I can do.
Between 2008 and 2012, I ran five to 10 races each year, everything from 5ks to a full marathon. Then I became pregnant with Isabelle, and since then, I’ve run a grand total of three races – a half marathon, an 8k, and this weekend’s 5k. I ran the half marathon six and a half months after giving birth, and I still remember signing up for it when I was nine months pregnant, looking over my giant belly at my laptop screen and holding my breath as I hit “register now”. It was sheer will and stubbornness that carried me through that training cycle and to the starting line, when Isabelle was just a tiny baby.
So having run a half marathon just months after having a baby, I thought that keeping up with a full race calendar would be possible while being a mother. It hasn’t been that easy. Something always intervenes – illness (mine or one of the kids; sometimes all of us), work stress, weekend plans, competing interests, and more often than not, flat out exhaustion.
And then this year, I finally started running consistently again, built up to running 20 miles a week, felt the best I had in years, and had two big races on my horizon – when an injury took me down.
So no, it hasn’t been easy. It’s been the opposite of easy. I had originally intended to run the half marathon this weekend. Then the injury happened and I set my sights on the 10k. Then life happened, and I downgraded to the 5k.
Just a 5k.
But it wasn’t just a 5k. It was glorious. Sure, I ran the slowest 5k of my life by far (albeit on a very challenging, hilly course), but I felt great. I felt strong and alive and free and truly myself. I felt inspired to keep working, to set goals, to put another race on my calendar.
I felt really happy.
And then after my race, I walked home, and we gathered up the kids and headed back into town so that Isabelle and Zach could do the kids fun run. It’s a mile, and Isabelle ran almost the entire thing last year, at just three and a half years old. So she was really excited this year as we waited at the starting line.
When the race started, Isabelle took off sprinting with Tim. I stayed with Zach, who was overwhelmed by the crowd, the noise, and basically life in general, and distraught that Daddy and Isabelle had gone on without him – despite the fact that he was collapsed in the middle of the road, refusing to run. So I scooped him up, comforted him and kissed his head, as we wandered back to the end of the race’s loop to wait for Isabelle to finish.
When I saw her at the top of the hill, my heart soared. She was grinning ear-to-ear, blond ponytail swinging, holding onto her dad with one hand, and waving wildly at me with the other. I felt such joy, seeing her love running the way that I love running.
After the race, we went over to the Bavarian Inn for the post-race festival. We got bratwursts and a soft pretzel, and my free pint glass and beer, and sat on a grassy hill, looking out over the mountains. The rest of the day was chaotic in the way that parenting a four-year-old and two-year-old typically is. But that moment right there – feeling the satisfying soreness in my legs, savoring how good the brat and beer tasted in my post-race hunger, and marveling at this wonderful place where I live, at the beauty of my children and my marriage and my life – that moment was bliss.
Race Results – Freedom’s Run 5k
174/525 total finishers
7/64 age group