The Year I Became a “Runner”

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On January 10, 2016, I made the mistake of signing up for the B.A.A. Distance Medley. The Medley, organized by the Boston Athletic Association (the same people behind the famed Boston Marathon!), consists of three races yearly: a 5K in mid-April, a 10K at the end of June, and a half marathon in mid-October.

At this point, the longest race I had ever “run” was a 5K, which I admittedly struggled to get through without stopping to catch my breath. Signing up for the Medley was my new year’s resolution – I had put down more than $200 hoping that the price would finally motivate me to get off my butt and actually train for a race.

January, February, and March were bitterly cold, but I was too cheap to buy a gym membership, so I slogged along in below-freezing temperatures to make sure I was proud of my 5K time. Through trial and (painful) error, I became an expert in dressing just warm enough so that I could still feel my limbs, but not so warm that I soaked sweat through my clothes. My training took me up and down BU’s campus on Commonwealth Avenue, going three or four miles, two or three days a week.

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In classic Trisha fashion, my eyes are closed (and my form is terrible)!

The B.A.A. 5K was on April 16, 2016 – the Saturday before the Marathon. It was unseasonably chilly – hence my strange, multilayered outfit. Thankfully, my winter training and Albuterol inhaler got me used to the cold, dry air, and I pulled my best 5K time ever – 34:03! I also accomplished my goal of not stopping to walk at any point (other than water breaks) – I’m sure the extremely flat course helped that as well.

I chose to run without headphones – something I never did on my training runs – because of my friends’ suggestions. “It’s a short race, you should take it in!” I’m glad I wasn’t listening to anything, because I would have missed my favorite moment of the race: running next to a group of blind runners and their guides.

Guide: “Wow, the Marathon finish line! It’s so close!”
Runner: “Is it really???”
Guide: “Haha, nah I’m just joking, it’s actually pretty far away still.”
Me, thinking: Are they allowed to do that???

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In a weird way, I feel like you can just tell it was unbearably hot when this picture was taken. Maybe it’s the saturation..

The B.A.A. 10K was on June 26, 2016, and the weather was almost completely different from the 5K. At our 8AM start time, the temperature was nearly 80 degrees with the harsh sun beating down at full force. If it were any more humid, I probably would have completely melted away, and if I hadn’t worn sunscreen, I would have left the race ten shades darker!

A few weeks prior, I was on vacation and accidentally sprained my left ankle while jumping into the shallow end of a pool (don’t ask). I then proceeded to go hiking the next day because dammit, I was on vacation and I was going to enjoy it. Upon returning, I went easy on my training (read: didn’t train), hoping that my ankle would heal in time for the race.

I felt it all over. My left ankle was killing me by the end of the race, and after finishing, I wanted to lay down in the fetal position, hugging my ankle and assuring it that I would never punish it like that again. As a result, I overworked my right side, and my right foot in particular was hurting in ways that it had never hurt before. Because of my injury, I did not have a chance to run a full 10K before the race, and I wheezed hard by the end of the race as my lungs struggled to keep up.

I finished the race in 1:15:58, but did not feel good about it. I rushed to find my friends, who were (thankfully) waiting in front of some large fans, but as they rushed over to embrace and congratulate me, I immediately squatted over a nearby tree and sobbed uncontrollably, overcome with all kinds of emotions. Why did I hurt myself? Why didn’t I train harder? What if my ankle never gets better? Why did they choose such a hot day? I could’ve run so much faster if I had tried harder!

My friends, all of them saints, left me alone to cry it out, occasionally coming over to pat me on the back and offer me water or some food. I eventually snapped out of it after a few minutes and when I got up, everyone gathered around me for a huge group hug! We finally posed for pictures and set off for a big celebratory brunch.

0004There were more than 6000 other people running this race – where are all of them??

The B.A.A. Half Marathon was on October 9, 2016. My friends and I kept an eye on the weather report as Hurricane Matthew slowly curled up toward the east coast, hoping that it wouldn’t hit New England head-on. While we didn’t receive the brunt of the storm, it definitely made its presence known with a dreary forecast: temperatures in the mid-60s and a downpour that showed no signs of stopping.

The course itself winded through parts of Boston that I never really had a chance to explore, so, in a very cheesy way, every twist and turn felt like an adventure! I consciously stepped around puddles and cracks in the road and, at one point, was inadvertently splashed by an oncoming car. (It’s OK though – I was already soaked from the rain, so what’s the difference?) At one point, I tied my sweater around my waist, and several miles later, I threw it on the side of the track, as its wet, dangling weight became too much to handle. (Again, it’s OK – I got it at Primark for $12, so it could’ve been worse.) My friends hyped up the last mile of the course, which went through the Franklin Park Zoo, but the rain caused all the animals to hole up in their shelters. I saw a few porcupines and some black swans, but saw far more empty pens. What’s the point of running through a zoo if I don’t get to see a giraffe??

I joked before the race that my goal was to finish in less than three hours, and I just barely met this goal by finishing in 2:52:20. While I felt like I was near the end of the “main” pack in the 5K and the 10K, I felt very obviously out of shape during this race. The two out-and-back portions of the race made it clear that I was near the very end of the pack – I watched large groups of runners speed ahead of me in the opposite direction as I headed in, while other racers walked and wheezed behind me as I headed out. It was my first half marathon, sure, so I expected to be slower than the rest, but I had no idea I would lag so far behind!

Despite this, I was still pleased with my time (it was, after all, less than 3 hours) and gave a slightly-dead-inside grin as I finally accepted my Distance Medley medal. I was soaked with rain, all the burgers were gone (what’s the point, then??), and I found my friends huddled in a corner, shivering, drenched, and draped with space blankets. Oddly enough, I finished so late that pretty much all other runners had cleared out by the time I got to the meeting area. It was too cold and rainy for pictures, so after a freezing trip to the medic, we headed back for a long day of recovery and lazing around.

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I wish I had gotten more professional pictures taken with friends and medals. Ah well!

What did I learn?

I was able to physically push myself further than I had ever before, for sure! Before this year, I could barely run a 5K, but by the end of this weekend, I was able to run more than four times that length. I read up on proper form, finally signed up for a gym membership, and did what I could to make sure I was as prepared as possible for each race.

I definitely have my regrets, however. I was consistently the slowest out of all of my friends in every race, and was one of the slowest people in my gender and age range to finish the Distance Medley. I could have pushed myself harder – not only to finish the races, but to get more competitive times and impress even myself. Injuries (and fear of more injuries) prevented me from training as hard as I wanted.

The biggest lesson that I learned was that I truly need to stick to whatever training plan I need to follow. I didn’t build the weekly “base” of miles that I needed to keep my fitness up week-to-week, which held me back from improving and caused me to tire more quickly than expected, definitely holding my overall times back.

What does the future hold?

These were my first races over 5K, and they definitely won’t be my last! My friends have been tossing around different races to possibly run in the future – from races in NYC to races on the west coast! (I’ve been saying it since I started running – I would love to run a marathon in Las Vegas. Just saying.)

After struggling so much with the B.A.A. races, perhaps I’ve learned my lesson and will learn to train harder for these races in the future! (Perhaps!)

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