I remember my first race. I was so scared. I didn’t know where to stand. I didn’t know what to expect. Was I going to come in dead last? Was I going to make myself look like a dork? (Hint: I always look like a dork).
My heart was beating fast and my palms were sweaty as I walked to the starting line just a few blocks from my home. I stood on the sidewalk with Dan and Cameron until I knew I couldn’t wait any longer to join the massive throng of people in the lineup that seemed to spread across multiple city blocks. I stood near the curb anxiously, only a step away from the safety of the spectators, awaiting the starting gun.
I understand why people feel like races aren’t for them. You see pictures of starting lines and they seem filled with elite runners standing right at the front. They are tall and sinewy with long legs and short shorts. You feel like you couldn’t even pull off those shorts, let alone run anywhere near those gazelle-like humans.
What those photographs fail to show are the people lining up behind the elite runners. Those people who look like you and I do. Those people who run slowly, or might even walk. Those people participate in races too.
This is one of the reasons why I love the Sole Sisters Women’s Race. This race is a 5km untimed race for women only, boasting a chocolate station, a hug station, and firefighters handing out medals at the end. Little girls in pink shirts stand at start line while women in all shapes and sizes, decked out in purple, fill in behind them. This race is ideal for first-timers, and many women wore a sticker claiming this was their first race – but not their last. There is no time clock to beat, no reason to be first, just a finish line to work towards. There are women running and walking and hugging. There are words of support and people to commiserate with. With the exception of crowding at water stations and the medal hand-out, which is to be expected with so many new racers (hint: take one, keep moving), it was everything that I love races to be: an encouraging community where everyone is working towards accomplishing something wonderful.
This year, for my second year participating in the Sole Sisters 5K, I teamed up with Team in Training and did their new Moms in Training program. This was such a perfect race for this initiative because Team in Training provided a safe way for Moms to train to run their (perhaps first) 5k. While I didn’t attend any of the training sessions (Sunday mornings are personally dedicated to church, not running group), it was encouraging to know that I was doing this alongside other women.
It was nice to run a 5km race after having trained and run a half marathon. It was almost comforting to know that my long runs could actually be short (relatively speaking) and that I would not need to stress about my ability to finish the race. I could be chill about the entire process, which allowed me to really get back to what I love about running. And I continued that chill feeling right to the starting line, as I stood in my TNT race shirt, my purple sparkly headband, and my purple tutu. The slow, cramped pace of the crowd of walkers/runners didn’t bother me and I let myself slow down to talk when I ran into old friends. I stayed calm at backed up water-stations and even hugged a guy I didn’t know to embrace the whole experience. I knew I was no where near trained enough for a PR but understood that this wouldn’t be the race for it anyway.
Everyone needs a race where they are safe to be a newbie. Every runner needs a race where they can enjoy the journey.
Race Stats (ish)
Race: Sole Sisters Women’s Race
Date: June 7, 2014
Distance: 5 km
Time: 36 minutes, 30 seconds, according to unscientific RunKeeper
Personal Best: 30 minutes, 34 second (August 2011)
Pace: 7 minutes, 18 seconds per km
I’m in the middle of one last fundraising initiative for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada through Team in Training. It is an incredible online auction, with items available at much below retail cost. But hurry because the auction ends on June 11th right before midnight. (Pictures below will not link to the auction. Click here to find the auction to bid).
(Just to keep everything clear, nothing from this post has been sponsored or provided to me. I am grateful to all the small business owners, bloggers, and beautiful human beings who have donated to the auction)