In 2008, I looked in the mirror and finally noticed the over 200 pound version of myself I had become. More importantly, I was motivated to do something about it. I started with simple changes to my diet and walking around the neighborhood. As I lost weight, I was inspired to keep cleaning up my eating, walking longer, and incorporating some jogging. After a year or so, I was down to 125 pounds, and was running up to 6 miles a day.
However, I had never done a race. It seemed dumb to spend money to run when I was doing it for free most days. I really didn’t understand the appeal. So for years I just ran for fitness and pleasure. In 2013 I started coaching Girls on the Run. The season ends with a 5k, untimed since the goal of Girls on the Run is to foster self-respect and pride through running. The whole atmosphere of the race was new to me. Pre-race there was music and dancing. The excitement in the air was contagious. Although the race was uncompetitive and I was running to support my girls, I still sensed the drive to push yourself a race gives you. It inspired me to sign up for a competitive 5k.
NoDa 5k 2014 was the race I picked, mainly for the appeal of a free beer since it was located at the NoDa Brewery. I had so much fun running that race, I started signing up for more races. That led me down the rabbit hole and 5ks turned to 10ks, 10ks turned to half marathons, and now I’m training for a full.
Although I rarely run 5ks anymore, I still return to the NoDa 5k yearly. I have run it every year since 2014, except 2020 when it was cancelled. The race always starts at 6 PM, and is typically held in early June. As you can surmise, it is a hot race. This year they moved it to late July, when the heat is even worse. This is never a race I aim to PR due to the race conditions. As expected, race day was steamy with the peak being 90 degrees. To make it more fun, the course is hilly, with constant ups and downs. Thankfully there was cloud coverage and a slight breeze, which helped us from melting into the asphalt.
We lined up at the start, and took off. I pushed myself but never looked at my watch to monitor my pace. I only had a goal to finish in under 30 minutes, but if I missed that goal I wouldn’t be upset. Once I crossed the finish line I checked my Garmin and saw I had finished in 28:14. I grabbed a Powerade popsicle, which tasted magical after a hot run, and met back up with my friends to watch the others in our group cross the finish line. Once everyone had finished, we grabbed our free beer and found some shade to relax in.
Due to Covid safety measures, they no longer had a results tent. You checked the results on your phone. My boyfriend wanted to see if he had made his goal time, so he checked his results, then mine. “Hey, you are second in your age group”, he exclaimed. “That is impossible”, I replied. The NoDa 5k usually has close to 1,000 people, with some very fast runners since the NoDa Brewery hosts a weekly run club. This year, whether due to the pandemic or being moved to July, not even 250 people had shown up. My odds of placing were better, but I still didn’t believe it. It was a bucket list item to place in my age group during a race, but I had never succeeded. “We will see if my name is called during the awards,” I retorted. Sure enough, during the awards ceremony my name was called. 2nd place is the 35-39 age group. I won a NoDa 5k themed medal koozie, which I accepted with a huge smile on my face.
I know for a lot of runners placing is commonplace and unimpressive. For me, this was a life goal I honestly never expected to meet. I had tried in the past to place at various races, with much faster times, and never got close. This race I wasn’t even hoping to win, and I finally did it. I know it is just luck that faster runners didn’t show up, but everyone had the chance to sign up. Out of the 14 people in my age group who did, I was the 2nd fastest. I’m not boosting I had some Olympic pace. Heck, it isn’t even my 5k PR. I did give it my all though, and I won fair and square out of the competition this year. Plus how fitting that I’d achieve my goal at the NoDa 5k, a race I have so much history running. I’ve been using my koozie everyday, a little reminder of how far I’ve come since 2008, and that I shouldn’t give up on my goals. All goals can be reached in time, some just take longer to obtain. The only way to fail is to stop trying. Take Journey’s advice, don’t stop believin’.
July 24, 2021