I’m not really sure where to start. The conclusion of this race has shown me that I may need to revise my view of myself, and changing perspectives is notoriously difficult. I have put a considerable amount of effort into defining and embracing my status as post-collegiate, middle-of-the-pack, average at best, some might call it “slow” runner. “Don’t expect an age group award, Megan.” “It doesn’t matter that you’re in the ‘great middle,’ Megan.” “Stop trying to think in terms of how fast you used to be able to run, Megan.” This was a necessary process in order for me to be able to find enjoyment in non-competitive running and train for a marathon without hurting myself. I needed to distance myself from the person who was told repeatedly that running anything slower than 8:00 pace was JOGGING. Ptooey. Jogging. I don’t know that anyone wants to be called a “jogger.” I certainly didn’t, particularly not when I was covering distances of up to 20 miles at a time.
It’s been 7 years (good grief, SEVEN? I’m old!) since college, which is plenty long enough to adapt to my revised definition of “Megan the Runner.” At the start of 2012, it seemed that things were continuing as they were. I PR’d at the Topeka to Auburn half marathon, but I was out of contention for an age group award. No surprise there. I got a trophy at the Love2Run 4-miler, BUT it was a team race, so that doesn’t really count. Then, I bettered my 4-mile PCPR at the Trolley Run AND ran some seriously negative splits, even breaking into the 6:00-minute range at one point. As hard as it is to admit, I was starting to feel like I was on the verge of…something. Let’s not call it a comeback, OK? That seems a bit premature.
This brings us to the Mother’s Day 5k. On Sunday morning, I was wandering through the 3,000 other women preparing to start the race, looking for my goal pace on one of those signs designed to keep walkers towards the back of the pack, out of trampling range. 12:00, 11:00, 10:00…no, no, no. 9:00? “Not anymore!” I thought to myself with a smile. 8:00…ah, here we are: 7:00 mile pace.
Wait a second…here we are AT THE FRONT OF THE LINE. That can’t be right. Is that right? Quick mental calculation: is 7:00 miles reasonable? Well, I averaged 7:00 at Trolley Run, and that’s a mile farther than today’s race. As odd as it seems, I’m allowed to line up AT the starting line.
I spent the next several minutes before the race glancing around nervously, fearing that those around me had ID’d me as a poser, and a road race bouncer would presently appear by my side to lead me back to a more appropriate starting position. It didn’t happen. First, because there are no road race bouncers, and second because it would appear that my competitors didn’t view me as a has-been, out-of-her-element jogger.
We waited at the starting line for what seemed like an eternity, but finally the race announcer shouted “GO!” and Gayle of Gayle’s Harley Davidson took off on her motorcycle. Girl power, I tell you. Oh — in case you haven’t figured it out, this is another of those “women only” races. Apparently because this one didn’t have the word “diva” in the title, there were significantly fewer tutus and running skirts. There was, however, a daisy mascot and a couple of walkers dressed as goddesses. Togas, laurel wreaths in their hair, gold sandals…the whole nine yards.
A front pack quickly separated, and I tried to hang on to the second group. I’d estimate that I was somewhere near 20th place. Before the first mile was over, I’d even managed to move up a few spots. I was in disbelief that (1) I was currently in front of nearly 3,000 other people, (2) that I was moving up, and (3) that I felt within myself.
Just before the first mile split, I saw fellow BHS alumni and KC-area running celeb Ricky Hacker. He told me I was looking good, and I grinned and told him I was “reeling her in.” The “her” in this case is a runner named Kara, who Ricky had been warming up with when we chatted before the race. I really was reeling her in, and competitive Megan was thrilled by that fact.
Mile 1 was a 6:53, which was right where I needed to be. Not too fast, not too slow. Quite respectable. Mile 2 cut through the center of Corporate Woods, where the roads were lined with spectators. I was mostly attempting to maintain speed at this point. I wasn’t entirely sure where the course was going, but if we left the confines of the corporate park we were bound to run into some hills. 6:50s were going to be difficult if there will hills. I passed two younger girls and told them “good job.” They thanked me. Runners certainly are a polite breed.
Then, I spotted my two FAVORITE spectators — LilRunr in his jogging stroller, marveling at the crazy amount of activity all around him, and Scott behind him, taking pictures. I loved seeing them, and I waved and tried to get LilRunr’s attention. It didn’t work, and on I went.
Mile 2 concluded with a bizarre series of switchbacks in a parking lot. Ew. Very ew. My second mile split was 7:03. Whoops. I blame the parking lot.
The last mile was filled with me reminding myself that it was the last mile. “Hang in there, it’s the last mile.” “Suck it up, it’s the last mile.” “DON’T SLOW DOWN, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE! It’s the last mile.” My efforts were necessary because it seemed like the last mile was FULL of disheartening turns away from where I knew the finish line was. At the last of these, when I thought we were going to cross a bridge and turn LEFT to head to the finish (and that I still had a chance to hit 21:30), we turned RIGHT and headed away once more, I spotted something truly motivational. Something that inspired me to keep my foot on the gas and make gosh darn sure I at least broke 22:00…
Yes, the 60+ gentleman that I used to cross paths with when I was training for the half marathon…he who wears a speedo and only a speedo to run. Mr. Speedo Man was walking the dedication walk (that is, running on the trail beside the 5k course), and for some reason this was the motivation I needed to find the energy for one last surge. I passed another runner (who, it turns out, was in my age group) and FINALLY made the final turn to conclude this 5k.
I felt like I was flying, the crowd was cheering me on, and then…whooooosh! The girl I had passed 200m before passed me like I was standing still in the last 2 blocks. Ah, nuts. Some things just never change. A blazing final kick is just not in my running toolkit.
My official finishing time was 21:45. I was 13th overall and 2nd in my age group. Wooooowee. We decided to wait around for awards, which proceeded to be a loooong wait with a bored toddler (he kept signing “all done” and “bye-bye” at us as if we were failing to take the hint that he was READY to GO!) and then an even LOOOOONGER wait because they started the awards with the 85+ age group and worked their way down. Sigh. (Sidenote: This reminds me of elementary school, when we’d always do things in alphabetical order. Sometimes, the teachers would say that we’d be going in REVERSE alphabetical order, and then act like they were giving us some special prize. You know who NEVER gets to be in the front? Someone whose last name starts with N…or is in the 25-29 age group. Ok, enough whining.)
Eventually, I was called to the podium, where I got my picture taken with the daisy mascot. (LilRunr didn’t trust her and refused to favor her with a smile. I can’t say I blame him. Adults in costume are generally suspicious to me, too.) As we were leaving, I realized that in addition to the glass paperweight thinger that represented my new status as an “age group contender,” I had also received a $50 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate. Suh-weet. That is the closest I’ve ever gotten to winning money in a race!
And now, for some photos: