No matter how many races you run, there will always be a handful that stick out. Whether it’s the first time you conquer a new distance, a race where you set a PB, or one where you just have a damn good time, some races will always remain fresh in our hearts and in our minds.
On Sunday, I had one of those races.
I had been looking forward to the Toronto Women’s Run 5k at Sunnybrook Park since I signed up last month. This was a late addition to my race calendar, but the Toronto Women’s Run Series will always hold a special place in my heart as I did my very first race ever back with them in 2011.
My goal on Sunday was to run a 5k PB (sub-24 minutes) and see how hard I could push myself in this new distance. I’ve only ever raced 2 other 5ks before, but there is something about the short and quick burn of the 5k that I love. I absolutely hate how I feel when I’m running them, but immediately after crossing the finish line I want to do one again to see if I can go faster! To be honest, I almost gave up a few times during Sunday’s 5k, but I never let my legs stop moving and ended up with a big surprise at the finish line.
The race was pretty small, 762 runners in the 5k, and we were divided into two corrals, sub-30 and over 30 minutes. I tried to line up as close to the front as I could and just let er’ rip as soon as the gun went off. My strategy was “fade from the front” and to just go as fast as I could for as long as I could and slow down towards the end if I needed to. Well, my first kilometre was 4:27 (I’ve never done that before) and it was a bit fast for me. I tried to pull the pace back, but I was already in a world of pain so I thought I might as well keep going as hard as I can to get this thing over with as quickly as I can! That’s the goal, right?
As you can see from my race photos, I was not a happy camper, but as my good friend Christa says “pretty stops when the gun goes off.” Yes, it sure does! I pushed through the remaining 4 kilometres in 4:49, 4:48, 5:03, and 4:59. You can see where I paid for that ambitious 4:27…I have never been so thankful to see a finish line in my life and I grabbed my medal, took some water and headed straight for the finish chute to find an open area to catch my breath. I often get really anxious when I finish a hard run so I just needed to get out of the crowd and into my own space.
After I picked up my post-race treat bag, including a delicious Awake Chocolate Bar, and a tiny sample of Starbucks Iced Coffee (damn, that tasted good), I walked over to the results board to see I had finished sub-25 in 24:41 and that landed me in 5th place in my 30-34 age group. I was feeling pretty stoked about that. Although my time was about 30 seconds off my PB, I was pleased with my race and hungry to train throughout the summer to improve that time in the fall!
As I made my way back to the course to cheer on some of my friends who were still coming in, I realized something…if any of the top 3 women overall were also in my age group, that would bump me up in my standings since you can’t win awards for overall placing and age group placing. No double dipping. I quickly opened my Sportstats app to see that the top two women were in my 30-34 age group. I got really excited and nervous and mentioned to my boyfriend that I might win an age group award! I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I made my way over to the awards stage to listen to the awards ceremony.
Sure enough, when the 30-34 age group category was announced, I came in 3rd out of 104 runners! After I picked up my award and posed for some pictures I immediately texted my friends, family and Coach who all replied with some variation of “Are you serious?” and “You got to be kidding me!” Yes, even I was (and still am) shocked, but what a cool experience it was to win that award! Crossing that finish line is a moment I will never, ever forget and I am so happy that I didn’t give up, even when I really, really wanted to.
After a very disappointing marathon debut and a physical and mental struggle with recovery, this race (and AG award) were everything I needed to get my head back into the game. When I chose my race outfit for the 5k, I wanted to channel my inner Lauren Fleshman with my favourite green Oiselle Flyte Tank because I’ve been a long-time Fan Girl and really love the funny and poignant pieces she writes about why the 5k is freaking awesome. She presents a view that we don’t hear a lot, but one that gives credit and strength to the women (and men) who excel at short distances, and most importantly LOVE to run them.
I can say with all my heart and soul, that I LOVED running that 5k. Did it hurt? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. Did I love it? Absolutely. Do I want to do it again? As soon as possible! I think I’ve found a strength in running I didn’t know I had and a place that I want to keep exploring. Although my initial plan for this year was to build up to another long distance race in the fall, I realize that that’s not what I want to do. Right now I want to focus on getting stronger, getting faster, and seeing how much I can improve my 5k and 10k times over the next 6 months. As Lauren Fleshamn, a master of the distance says:“It’s time for a 5-K Revolution!”
I’m on board.