I had started running earlier in 2010 when I was weighing in at over 215lbs (15st. 5lbs). I was so out of shape and overweight. I began running in an effort to regain some sort of self confidence and a healthier lifestyle. I had a long way to go but I was beginning to take pride in being able to cover some short distances while running. My wife, Róisín, and I were able to run at least 3 miles while going on our training runs and so, for some strange reason, decided we would take on our first race. I call them training runs, but we weren’t really training for anything other than our fitness. There was a 5k about 10 miles from our door and we thought we would go and see what it was all about. After all, we felt like we were kind of like runners now.
We arrived, registered and then waited in the car until it was time to go to the start line. This gave us the opportunity to pin on our numbers. Other people were running around doing some sort of exercises and jumping around. We thought they looked a bit weird and didn’t understand what exactly they were up to. We just sat in the car like normal people, after all there were still twenty minutes before the race was to start. We discussed the actions that brought us here and wondered if it was too late to turn around and head for home. The nerves were starting to kick in. It was too late. We made the decision and this was going to happen. Self doubt could go to hell.
Once the crowd started going in the same direction towards the start we figured it was time to get moving so we walked along with the mass of people out the gates and up the hill before stopping at the start line. We arrived, having not the slightest idea of what to expect. Looking around us there were men and women, boys and girls, Some runners were wearing club vests and very few looked like me. I had long cotton shorts and a cotton t-shirt and just normal black trainers, not fancy, colourful running shoes. The weather was decent, chilly but dry, so a good enough day, for Ireland anyway. I knew that I could complete the distance because I had done it before, so that was at least some comfort. Where I would be relative to the field, well, who knew, but I had no great expectations.
After the organisers explained the course, the race instructions and cautions it was time to go. The whistle blew and away we went down the hill to start. Although I had run further than 5k before, I hadn’t trained to run fast. So as the crowd sped down the hill I was dragged along practically out of control. My breathing was awful even before we started up the first hill. The first 1k was incredibly hard. I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard. Every step was excruciating. The next 4k weren’t any better. I got a little slower with each passing kilometre. Especially the fourth kilometre where the course took us up the biggest hill on the route. I was hating this. I was absolutely amazed at how hard this felt and the extent to which I was kicking myself for signing up to do this.
My inner voice was screaming at me, but I managed to ignore him. I kept telling myself that each step was one step closer to the finish line. One step closer to achieving another goal. I was strong enough to complete this. As hard as it was I continued to put one foot in front of the other. There were a number of unpleasant swear words also making their way around my head, but mostly I was determined to make it to the finish without stopping. When I reached the top of the hill at the end of 4k I could see a long stretch of downhill road and I knew I had conquered this. The road took me back down to the final turn where it flattened out and I could see and hear the finish line. There was still a little something left in the tank and I managed to pick up the pace for the final 100 metres or so and I crossed the finish line.
I had completed my first official race. It was brutally hard, sure, but incredibly satisfying. This was the feeling that hooked me in for the future. I now knew running and racing was what I’d been missing in my life. I ran around the 29 minute mark, which I was very happy with, but having no clue how to judge that against anything else at least now I had set a marker down for future races. Roisin was right behind me and the two of us were incredibly proud of ourselves and each other. We were on top of the world.
The other thing that stands out was that after the race they gave out water, bananas and they had buns and sandwiches in the facility for all the runners. What a great way to finish a run. I had no idea that was a thing, but I loved it. It gave all the runners a chance to recover and talk about their run and how they found it and to discuss what they liked and didn’t like about it. It was also where everyone discussed all things running related. Upcoming events, past events, running gear, other runners, clubs, just about everything was reviewed and shared with one another.