What I Learned From My First 10K Race

Once you hit your thirties, a lot of things start to change. In addition to preferring music being played at a reasonable volume and ditching red solo cups for red wine in mason jars, you start thinking that running a marathon is the best idea ever. Maybe it’s because you start considering our health and wellness more than ever (facing our mortality and all that); maybe it’s because running provides a positive escape from deadlines and/or diaper changing. Or maybe it’s because you just need a new challenge to tackle.

When I decided to sign up for my first-ever 10K running clinic at my local Running Room, it was a little bit from columns A, B and C. I didn’t know that I was a good runner, or even a fast one, I just knew that I loved running, and learning more about the sport seemed like something I ought to do now that I’m in my early-ish thirties.

After ten weeks of training, I finished my first 10K race this past weekend, and since coming down from that “runners high,” I’ve come to realize some valuable lessons learned throughout my experience.

YOUR GOALS ARE JUST THAT – YOUR GOALS

I started with a 10K race, and I knew I wanted to finish under an hour. Upon signing up, I was told countless times by fellow runners that most people who’ve never raced before usually start with a 5K. Cool. I’m an avid exerciser, so I knew my body could handle the challenge, and that’s what I wanted: a challenge. For a split second, I almost reconsidered my decision, but then I thought, “Hold up. Which race is really more aligned with my goals and level of confidence?” What works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. Your goals will be different because they’re your goals, and that’s totally okay. Listen to your mind and body, and do you.

SETBACKS ARE OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF

My training was fraught with a number of setbacks. I pulled a quad muscle, and I was out for a week. Then I came down with the flu, which left me bedridden and physically weak for two weeks. Here’s the disclaimer: I hate, hate, HATE setbacks. I have zero patience with myself, and I hate not doing something well. And rest?! Pfft. My Type-A/Capricorn personality doesn’t DO rest.

After being bedridden for the first few days, I cried for pretty much a whole afternoon because I felt useless and frustrated and, admittedly, stupidly sorry for myself. But then – thankfully – an “aha” moment snapped me out of my pity party. I realized that, in a desperate bid to overcompensate (my competitive nature’s default), I had been overtraining and the flu was really my body’s way of telling me to slow down, rest, and trust in myself. (By the way, I’m fully aware that my Oprah moment was probably a fever dream, but I’ll take what I can get.)

So when I finally returned to running, I told myself to calm the eff down. I made a promise to myself that I would be more relaxed, more patient, and gentler with myself. And it worked. I no longer felt the need to lead the pack. If other runners passed me, I was actually at peace with it (trust me: that’s huuuuge for me). I listened to my body – and not my ego – and to my surprise, running actually became even more enjoyable for me because I wasn’t rushing the process. I was honouring where I was at in my journey, and I felt really good about it.

But then, just when I thought I was back to my “fighting shape,” I ate pavement while out on an 8K night run a few days before the race. I badly bruised both knees, I was limping, and everything hurt. I could have easily freaked out, but I knew how far I had come, and I wasn’t going to let this setback defeat me. Even if I had to hobble across the finish line, I was going to race. Fortunately, my knees miraculously healed (RICE and crystals work, people!) and I was able to finish standing upright.

If it weren’t for my setbacks, I wouldn’t have discovered how resilient and “zen” I could be about achieving a goal. Sometimes our disappointments end up being our biggest strengths.

IT’S NOT HOW STRONG YOU START, BUT HOW STRONG YOU FINISH

I always think I need to get it right, get it perfect, know it ALL, right from the beginning. Whether it’s a new writing project, cooking a new recipe or trying a new hobby, like running, I want it all to be ready-made, picture-perfection from the get-go. So when I encountered my setbacks and started to doubt whether I would make my goal time, I immediately felt like a big fat failure.

But making my way through those hurdles made me realize that everything is just about starting. Maybe slowly and uncertainly at first, but still starting. Maybe there are other people ahead of you. Maybe there are people who are better than you. And, yeah, maybe you’ll make mistakes along the way. You know what? That’s okay. Because you’re learning things about yourself, and eventually you’ll feel more confident about what you bring to the race/table/boardroom.

And then guess what? The thing you’ve been longing to complete? You’ll actually fucking finish it. And there is no better feeling than finishing what you started. When I finally crossed the finish line, making my goal time (!!!), all that truly mattered from my training journey was that single moment. As leadership guru Robin Sharma says: “Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.”

A STRONG SUPPORT SYSTEM IS NECESSARY SHIT

I’m usually a lone wolf, but I wouldn’t have gotten through my training, and ultimately the race, without my kickass squad. From my running coaches to my friend FJ who pushed me during our night runs (and also lent me his Garmin watch to help me train), to my other friends who supported and advised me to take Epsom salt baths while I was struggling, to finally my mom, who waited in the bitter windy cold for me at the finish line, I had one heck of a support system.

Although running is mostly an individual’s sport, it can also be a difficult one on many different levels, and that’s why I’m so grateful that I welcomed their help (something that isn’t easy for me to do). Had I decided to fly solo for the whole process, I might have given up or wouldn’t have performed as well as I did. Takeaway? Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

REWARD YOURSELF

After the number of Facebook likes, Instagram hearts and messages of “Congratulations” following my race, I kinda felt like, “Chill, guys. It’s only a race. It’s not like I did anything super IMPORTANT or anything.” But then, I thought: Yeah, actually, I did. I had a personal goal and I followed through with it.

We should never categorize our victories as “big” or “small.” Your achievements – whatever they might be – are yours and yours alone, and that’s what makes them awesome and worth celebrating. That’s why I treated myself to a massage the day after my race.

Next on the agenda? Tackling another race in the springtime. Because now I’m suffering from another running-related ailment: addiction.

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