Five Race Memories

Happy Friday! It's time for the Friday Five, a linkup hosted by Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Mar at Mar On The Run, and Cynthia at You Signed Up For What. This week's theme is Race Memories.

I love races--that is, the idea of races. And race recaps are pretty much my favorite thing on blogs. But I'm not much of a racer. Races generally make me feel anxiety, nervousness, dread, doubt, pressure, and a touch of excitement. But I've enjoyed every race I've done except for one, my first half-marathon attempt, which was awful in every way. I'm working on mental training to get past my anxiety at races. Part of that is to focus on all the good memories I've had of races, so this topic is a great way to do that.

1. My first race, the 2011 Run Around the Square 5K. I went from wanting to puke from nerves at the start line to feeling exuberant crossing the finish line. The course starts in the Regent Square neighborhood in Pittsburgh, goes on the trail in one of the city parks, and ends in a fast downhill finish to a big grassy area in the park. There was beer and champagne at mile 1 (I was too scared of not finishing to have some), cheering for most of the course, and beer, tons of snacks, and a big party at the end. My sister ran it with me (it was her first 5K too), and my husband, niece, and nephew were there to cheer us on.  It was so much fun! And I didn't finish last, as I'd feared!
At the start of my first 5K, smiling and pretending I don't feel like puking.
2. My second race, the 2012 Bay to Breakers 12K in San Francisco. When my friend who lives in San Francisco invited me to do this race with her, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. People dressed in costumes? Naked people? I'm in! But having been to San Francisco many times, I know how hilly it is, and I was terrified of the one giant hill in the course. I studied that elevation map like crazy and had a goal of running the entire hill and not walking. I could devote a whole post to this race, but let's just say it was as crazy as promised. Two memories really stand out. The first was of the hill. When we started up, a runner said, "Everyone not from San Francisco? Welcome!" Going up the hill, runners dressed like salmon were running down since they did the course backward. I kept to my goal and ran up without walking, though very slowly. I kept my head down so I couldn't see how far I had to go. When I got to the top, I was so proud of myself and stopped to take a picture of everyone running up. Only when I put my camera away and started running again did I realize I wasn't at the top and there was still a lot more hill to climb. Ha! The second standout memory was of the course itself and the finish line. The course starts in the downtown part of the city and winds through neighborhoods and Golden Gate Park before finishing at the ocean. I loved the different parts of the course. I remember being very tired and eager for the race to be over and then coming to the last downhill and seeing the gorgeous ocean, then rounding the corner and seeing the finish line. Awesome!

Running up the big hill
People dressed like salmon running the course backwards
The pic I took at the top of the hill...that turned out not to be the top.
Can't talk about Bay to Breakers without a naked runner pic!

3. My fourth race, the 2013 Buffalo Creek Half Marathon. My confidence was completely shattered after my first failed half marathon attempt. I had been so sure I could do that first one but got so nauseated that I had to walk from mile 11. So I approached this race as a nice run on a pretty trail on a cool autumn day to help take the pressure off. I did well in the whole race, but my doubt started to come back late in the race when I felt very fatigued. But then I saw the marker for mile 13, turned the corner, and there was the finish line! It was glorious! I remember a runner saying, "The finish line is right there! Go for it!" I surged with any remaining energy I had left and crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face. It was an awesome feeling.
2013 Buffalo Creek Half Marathon--a gorgeous autumn trail race

4. My fifth race, the five-mile 2013 Pittsburgh Turkey Trot. This race looms large in my memory because it was COLD. I think it was 18 degrees at the start, and while that may not sound too bad, it was bitter cold. To get warm, I took off like a bat out of hell from the start line and managed to keep a good pace because I just wanted to get warm. I finished in a really awesome time that I hadn't trained for and probably had nothing to do with my speed and everything to do with how cold it was. I was delighted with my finish time and loved doing the race. I think I'll do it every year.

Warmed up after the frigid Turkey Trot and smiling

5. My sixth race, the 2014 Just a Short Run 5K. This was my first race where I'd trained for a time goal, and I'd trained outside all through the frigid winter and polar vortex. I put in a lot of hard work. When I did a practice run of the course a few weeks before the race, I was upset and dismayed to discover a long, steep hill I didn't know about. I felt sure I wouldn't be able to meet my time goal, and I considered just not even trying. But I showed up and gave a kick-ass effort. I remember reaching the top of the hill and thinking, "Was that it?" It had felt like Mount Everest on training runs, but during the race I had no trouble keeping a fast pace to the top. I missed my time goal by just 7 seconds, but I was proud of myself for getting that close and giving it my best effort.
Getting ready for the Just a Short Run 5K

Races may fill me with anxiety, but I always learn something from them. From these races, I've learned that I can train hard and put in a lot of work but may not meet my goals. If I don't, the training still helps me become a better runner. Or, like for the Turkey Trot, I can just have a really good day. However I do in races, the important thing is just to keep running, to keep setting goals and trying to improve, and to keep loving running.

Can't wait to read everyone else's race memories! Check out the linkup!

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