By Karen Hendricks
I crossed something off my bucket list last week… it was something I honestly never thought I’d accomplish especially given my age. Not that I’m over the hill, but getting back into RUNNING at the age of 44 while juggling a family and career isn’t something that naturally fits right into an already-packed, super-busy schedule.
However… Last week I ran my first ever 5K. Can I just take a minute to say “I did it!” 🙂
I have always wanted to run a 5K, planned on doing them in my teens when I ran high school track. But when I was 16, I fell down a flight of stairs and cracked one of my kneecaps. Thus ended my running days. Until recently.
I tried to get back into running several times in the 20s but the twinges in my knee came back every time. Then came career, kids, and no spare time to even consider thinking about running. But for the past several years, taking a mixture of pilates, yoga and ballet classes, plus staying active with walking and biking, I honestly feel stronger and healthier now than ever before. So, keeping my fingers crossed, I slowly got back into running over the past year. It felt great to run intervals, interspersed with periods of walking, as I totaled 3-5 miles. Finding the time isn’t as much as a challenge now that my kids are a bit older (in their teens). One of the easiest ways for me to work walking and running into my schedule is to do it while my daughter has soccer practice at a park. But my favorite time of day is first thing in the morning—what a great start to the day. And the kids are certainly capable of getting their own breakfasts if I’m gone for a little while!
So I was feeling good, pretty happy to have “running” back in my life, but a 5K really wasn’t on my radar screen. Like most things in life, it isn’t until something is staring me in the face, that I think it might be a good idea!
My daughter Kelly is extremely athletic and runs a local 5K every year, either winning or placing in her teenage age group. This year she was signed up and ready to run, but about two weeks beforehand, she sprained her foot. A week before the race, it was obvious that her foot wasn’t going to allow her to run as usual. So, in a light bulb kind of moment, I decided I should change her registration to my name (and my age category!) and run the race instead. I’d always wanted to run a 5K, right? No time like the present. Like Nike says, “Just do it.” Did I mention, it was one week before the race?
My family’s reactions varied… my husband was supportive but concerned I was going to hurt myself. My daughter Katie was excited and volunteered to take photos to document my journey over the finish line. My daughter Kelly laughed, but then offered her runner’s insights throughout the week, as she explained how to tackle certain sections and hills on the race course. My son Kyle was pretty flabbergasted about the idea that his Mom might actually be able to run a 5K.
Every other day leading up to the race, I ran three miles and surprisingly, my times weren’t terrible. I wouldn’t embarrass myself too badly. No pain in the knee either. I continued my ballet workouts on alternating days, taking extra time to stretch, although I honestly didn’t have muscle cramps or pains. I rested completely the day before the race.
I figured I couldn’t back out, if I told people publicly about my plans. So the day before the 5K, after I picked up my runner’s packet and bib number, I posted my picture and the following message on Facebook:
I was completely blown away by all the Facebook love that followed… words of encouragement, support and well wishes. It was awesome! The positive power of social media at work.
Then came race day. The forecast was ideal—cool morning temperatures with partly cloudy skies (no bright sunshine). However, upon waking up that morning… rain. Oh joy.
I convinced myself that I would run, rain or shine. But thankfully, about 10-15 minutes before the 8 am start, the rain stopped. What an adrenalin rush, to be part of a crowd of runners, 700 strong, at the starting line. To hear the sound of that many footsteps, along with cheers from the crowd of families and friends lining the course… it was music to my ears.
Several things helped to pull me along as I ran: first, the beautiful course which winds its way across the historic Gettysburg Battlefield; thoughts of my supportive family and friends—especially all those encouraging Facebook messages; but perhaps most of all, it was a drive within myself. Once you’re a mom and have survived those “marathon” days when your children are sick or going through difficult situations, I think there is absolutely nothing else on this earth that you cannot accomplish. There is nothing as challenging, trying and rewarding as being a mom. Running? I got this. Physically and mentally.
While my time didn’t win any awards, I felt as though I had a gold medal around my neck as I crossed the finish line. There were four times on the course when killer hills forced me to walk—I allowed myself no more than 100 steps at a time. I finished as runner #531 out of about 700, and I was 35th in my age group. My final time was 34:22… right in my target zone between 33 and 35 minutes. It meant a lot to have one of my best friends, fellow OTMGR blogger Mary Ann, at the finish line with my family as well!
And now I have a new goal… to keep working and improve upon my time for next year. Yes, I think I’ll be back! And now that I’ve said that publically… I have to do it!
Feel free to share your advice with our community… how do you find time to run or exercise? Have you set a 5K goal? Do you run 5Ks regularly? We’d love to hear from you…