On November 8, 2015, I participated in my first real 5k. I’ve done a couple of virtual 5k races before but never one that was an actual in-person event. I actually signed up for this event a few months ago with the intentions of running the whole distance as a marker of my progress. If you’re wondering, it’s the Run Like a Diva Half Marathon & 5k here in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
I wasn’t sure that I’d make it. I was doing this by myself which I knew going into it. Since I was by myself, I knew I only had myself to count on. I’m not always my own best cheerleader so that left me little comfort. The rain here has made it really difficult for me to get out and run every day like I’d been doing. Then there’s that loneliness that sets in that keeps me from getting out – and the Puerto Rican heat of course. But, there I go making excuses.
On Friday, I knew I wanted to get my race packet. I’d paid the fee so even if I didn’t run, I wanted the shirt and the tutu–lol. So, I headed to the Fitness Boutique at the host hotel and I got my race gear. That process really made me feel great. I’m a quitter, I’ll admit it. I’ve not been the best at following through. That’s why this blog is called Monica Does It. I want to show that I can do things and that I’m not a quitter anymore. Everything that I follow through on is a victory for me. Even just picking up that race packet was a big step. I took the first step to facing my fear of this event. So with my packet and tutu in hand, I headed home and decided that I was going to, for sure, race in this 5k.
Here’s how my day went.
I set my alarm to wake me up at 4:30 so that I could get a bit of breakfast in. I actually woke up to the sounds of rain at 4:00 am. First freak out moment. I get sick when I’m out in the rain here. It happens every single time. I made the decisions right then that I’d run in the rain if I had to. I got a few minutes more of rest then I had a protein shake and a teeny bit of coffee. I haven’t been sleeping well and 4:30 am is early for anybody so that coffee came in super handy. I got dressed and left my house around 5:00 am because the roads were going to be closing at 5:30 am. There was a parking lot that offered free parking for all of the participants – or so they said. I get close to the race site and traffic is at a standstill. It was horrible. It took me half an hour to get a distance that should’ve taken me a single minute. Then, I get to the entrance of the parking lot only to see a sign that says – NO PARKING.
My heart dropped.
After convincing myself that I would do this race despite having not trained nearly enough or gotten enough sleep or the rain or even having anyone there with me, I was met with no place to park. Of all things to go wrong I couldn’t believe it was down to no parking. I had a mini freak out and may have had a bit of a meltdown. People were turning around and leaving or parking at the tiny McDonald’s lot which filled up faster than you would believe. I actually thought that this was the end of the race. The problem was that my wave started at 6:26 and I still hadn’t parked. I needed time to walk to the start so I couldn’t spend so much time looking for a parking spot. It had already taken me so long to get there and I just felt defeated.
But then, I saw another lot. My tears turned into joy and I was filled. Granted, this lot wasn’t free but I think I would have paid anything to be able to park. I knew then that all I had to do was show up and I’d be good to go. I was going to do it! I headed up a hill and through a park and all the while it was raining. I was afraid of slipping (because I’m super clumsy) and it took me an extra-long time to get there. But I made it. I made it and saw the sea of pink and knew that all I had to do was commit to finishing. I even saw someone all the way from my hometown. She was in a different wave, but it was nice to see a familiar face. I watched the half-marathoners take off and then the first two waves of the 5k. My turn was up and I got right in the mix.
I knew 2 things going into this:
- I wanted to NOT come in last.
- I wanted to RUN THROUGH THE FINISH LINE.
The gun fired and we were off. Now, I signed up for the slowest wave. I am not a runner, but I want to be – sort of. I knew that my time wasn’t going to be great, but I wanted to complete this and do a good job for me. I started off with a light jog because so many people in this wave were merely walkers. I’ve never competed or been in any type of race so I didn’t even know a good spot to start in. I was somewhere near the middle and quickly realized that I needed an outside spot. I jogged my way to a spot where I could pick up my pace and get on with my race. I knew there were hills in Old San Juan, but I wasn’t quite sure what they’d be like. Let me just tell you – they were killer. That was the toughest part for me. Despite the rain and humidity, the hills had me. I mixed jogging with walking and kept a nice pace throughout the course. It was hard. I started feeling really sick, but I just kept thinking about that medal at the end. I started rethinking my goal of running through the finish line. I felt BAD.
I was mad at myself for not getting out and running leading up to this. I was mad at myself for not being able to sleep and not being in better shape. Then I thought about the fact that I was actually doing this. The only way out was to finish. And that’s exactly what I did. As I got closer to the finish line, I could hear music blasting. I could see the ocean again and I knew I was almost there. I saw the crowds of people who weren’t there for me and I started to run. I ran through the finish line and I had done it. I did what I said I’d do. I finished that race and with the best pace I’ve ever had. Those 3.1 miles are less than what some people do in a single day, but they mean the world to me.