Total time: 38:50 minutes
Total distance: 3.19 miles
I had done everything I could to ensure a successful race day. I had taken off the days leading up to the event; I got plenty of rest, I ate as well as I could, and I took it easy all day. I felt my nerves starting to set in as I got dressed and ready to meet up with my coworkers/friends to drive down to the race.
Despite everything, I was still a bit anxious. Yes, I had run this distance before - but only a couple times, and never on cue. I had never set out to run a 5K, it always just sort of happened. If I was having a good day, I would keep going. If I was having a bad day, it would be a shorter run. I'd never set off with a specific distance to run. I was hoping that today would be one of the "good" days, but really? There's no way for me to know ahead of time.
The race was a lot smaller than I was expecting for a themed 5K; perhaps it was because it was the weekend preceding the 4th of July, perhaps it was because of the city art festival that was going on that day, perhaps it was because there were other 5Ks going on elsewhere in the metro area that day - who really knows, but I was expecting a bigger crowd. Instead, it was closer to 200 people, and I kind of got the impression that things weren't as polished as they could be. Sure, it's a newer event, but... I don't know. Something felt missing. There really wasn't anything specifically "80s" about it, save for the cover band playing at the end. It could have been called the Neon Run and it would have looked the same. I was under the mistaken impression that there would be 80s music playing along the route; this was not the case. It was just a bunch of people dressed up running through a park - we even got chewed out by some jerk on a bike for being in his way (hi, you don't own this path, and clearly we were having some sort of event - no need to be so rude or force the runners off the path to make your way through!). Even so, it was probably just what I needed - no huge crush of people, no pressure, just... goofy people in goofy attire, traipsing down a trail at whatever pace they felt like going. In other words: I had chosen wisely for my first attempt at an "official" 5K. (Because a 5K with a starting line and a finish line is much more official than randomly running through a park, obviously.)
I was feeling pretty good when we started. This didn't last long. Once I finally got around all the people who were walking and/or had been running and suddenly started walking (or, had been walking and suddenly started running), I tried really hard to find my groove. I had my phone in an armband and Runkeeper open so I could monitor my distance - I know a lot of people think looking at your watch or monitoring your progress is a bad idea because of the mental blocks it might cause; for me, it's actually a motivator to keep going. I tried to tell myself repeatedly that I was simply out for a run, on a different path - it was a perfect night for running, which made it even more frustrating that I was struggling.
The fact that I had expected some sort of music along the route meant that I had left my own music behind - and I know a lot of people run without it, but I'm not used to it, and I think that also contributed to my struggle.
But I kept going. I trudged along, willing my feet to keep moving, not wanting to let myself down. I finally got to Mile 2 and this is when it got hard. I was ready to be done, my head was in the wrong place, my legs felt heavy, it was all wrong. But I kept going. Mile 2.5 and I flat-out told myself that I had come to far to quit, and I was going to finish the damn thing. I didn't care how slow I went, and I made a conscious effort to keep slowing myself down - it would take me longer, sure, but I'd rather it take a long time than to not finish.
Finally, the finish line (or, more accurately, the ladies handing out bottles of water and a sandwich board that said "FINISH" on it) was in sight, and I picked my pace up the best I could for that last bit. I ran through and tried to stop my various devices with varying degrees of success (my hands were too sweaty and I slipped while trying to stop my watch; I bumped a button on my phone, causing Runkeeper to add another 45 seconds to my time - at least my UP band caught the actual stop time). The BF was waiting for me at the end and I vaguely recall hugging him before I moved off to the side to catch my breath.
So: I did it. It wasn't my finest run, but I finished what I set out to do, and that was the main objective, so I'm calling it a win. I clocked myself at 38:50 which is my new "official" 5K time to maybe someday try to beat. I think it will be a while before I'm competing with myself, though - I'm still very much in the "just try to finish" stage.