Are you new to racing? Is your body still in shock that you went from couch potato to regular runner? Did you run your first 5K last year and want to take it up a notch to a 10K this year? If so, sign up for a 10K in a moment of temporary insanity. (In my case it was Albuquerque’s Run for the Zoo that took place Sunday, May 4th.) After realizing with dread what you have done, follow these steps to completion.
First, make sure you get sick two weeks prior to the race. Then you will not run for over a week. When you do start up again, you will feel nauseous for the first time while running. You have often felt tired, out-of-breath, and out-of-your-mind but never before nauseous which is a wonderful feeling less than a week before racing.
Have the run right before your race be the worst EVER run in the history of your long, illustrious career (all 18 months of it). Two days before the race, set out to do the total mileage. Before you are half way done, be in such bad shape that you have to stop and walk because your body is telling you that you must or call 911 for the first time ever. Once you stop and walk at that point, it is no big deal to stop and walk again towards the end of your now-shortened run/walk. This kind of pre-race run is spectacular for the mental aspects of your race. You are already mostly defeated and wondering if you should call your registration fee a purchase of goods without pursuing the product.
The night before the race do NOT eat a sensible meal of healthy pasta or other lean energy-producing foods like you originally planned. Instead, realize that you only have 45 minutes from Saturday church ending to the (supposed) beginning of your friends’ fashion show. Pick up your co-attending friend and whip by the nearest McDonald’s drive-through. Wolf down in record time a value meal of bottom-of-the-basket squishy fries (if I’m going to splurge on McD’s, can’t I at least get some good fries?!) and (loosely defined) filet-o-fish sandwich. Think of how Subway’s fresh bread ingredients are also in yoga mats which means the buns you inhaled probably have fiberglass for making aircrafts and will therefore indirectly give you speed tomorrow or more likely indigestion. (YES, I watched Super Size Me and yes, after abstaining for maybe a few weeks post-viewing, I presently still eat McD’s. I do have two children who have sold their souls to the successful marketing of happy meal toys, and I am a bad enough mother to keep their supply steady.)
Wear shoes that are probably too worn out to adequately support your feet. The first signs of this are that you had worrisome shin pain after that most horrific run of your life. Before your 18 month illustrious running career, you were the type to buy whatever pair of $29 sneakers in stock at Marshalls. Worn minimally, they would still be in pristine condition years later. This is your first year of buying legitimate running shoes that you paid an ungodly amount for because the specialty store went to the trouble of having you run on a treadmill to examine your gait and match you with the shoes that are your feet’s God-given destiny. (Props to Heart & Sole for their outstanding customer service.) These expensive shoes in your mind should not be replaced just 7 months later because the math does not compute. According to your old sedentary self’s mentality, these destined shoes should last at least 10 times longer.
Because your worst run in history left you fearful about being the first to crawl across the finish line, you try to pace yourself very slowly in the beginning. Then later you overhear someone next to you say out loud the turtle pace you’ve been collectively running and you realize that is why you were not dying like usual. You try to choose other pacers but none can compete with turtle’s fine physique and you frustratingly get lost in the crowd of 1,000+ runners.
Finally you pass the mile 5 marker. Enthusiastic volunteers and bystanders are cheering you on and encouraging you that you are almost done. However, you start to feel lied to by those friendly folks when that last 1.2 miles expands to the length of the Saharan desert. You feel pain on the ball of your right foot that you later discover to be a fat blister making you wonder if this is what leprosy feels like. When you finally catch sight of the finish line, the first thought that comes to your head in absolute clarity and deep solemnity is ‘I WILL NEVER DO THIS EVER AGAIN IN MY LIFE. EVER.’
Miraculously you cross the finish line. Instead of the glorious burst of speed you imagined it would be, it was more like painfully willing yourself not to pass out before you make it across. Your husband and kids are there to greet your sweaty self, and you think the free popsicle you eat afterwards might be the tastiest gourmet fare you have eaten in all of your culinary adventures. As your breath finally evens and the sweat diminishes from downpour to trickle, you tell yourself that your time may not have been as impressive as you hoped it would be but that can be a goal for next time. NEXT TIME?!?! You realize with even greater understanding that there is truly something sadistic about runners. You remind yourself that like many other ventures requiring pain in the process running teaches you invaluable lessons like perseverance, goal accomplishment, empathy for fellow masochists and training through the difficulty to bring you to a better place than before.