I wasn't the fastest. But I wasn't dead last.
I ran the whole way. I finished.
It wasn't easy, but man, did it feel good.
When my friend and colleague Joe Allen-Black and I lined up at the start, we wished each other good luck, queued up our playlists, and just tried to take it all in. In my head, I kept repeating, "Just don't walk, Elizabeth, just don't walk."
When the gun to start the race went off, I wanted to sprint, and my friend and others did, taking off way ahead of me. But I was trying to follow the advice of seasoned runners to "run my own race" and not to start out too fast at the start. So I kept time with my music. I was going to run my own race. Against myself. Against my brain asking me "why are we doing this?" Against my legs telling me "we're not ready for this." Against the self-doubt.
The first mile went by quickly, sheer adrenaline getting me to that sign in the road telling me I'd gone a mile. I passed by my family cheering for me, including my toddler, who was yelling, "Go Mama." His cheer alone made me want to get to mile two.
Mile two is right when the hills became steeper, longer. The course was incredibly undulating. Just when I'd get up and down one hill, another would be around a bend. The second mile felt like it would never end. There were no bystanders cheering in this section of the course through the back roads of town. All I could hear when I turned down my music was the slap, slap, slap of my own feet, and the heavy breathing of everyone around me.
Somewhere around 2.75 miles, people were slowing down and starting to walk. I looked over my shoulder twice to make sure there were people running behind me. "Don't walk, and don't be last," I kept telling myself.
The last 1/2-mile was probably my favorite. Not because it was the easiest -- in fact, there was a very steep, very large hill we had to run up before making our way back in to the center of town. It was my favorite because I started to pass some people I saw take off sprinting from the finish line. They were walking. I was running. I cranked up my music ("No more" by Maxx was the song I wanted to cross the finish line to, if you're curious). I saw my family. I heard people cheering for me. That last 1/2-mile, I let the lead out. When I crossed the finish line, I was tired, but it didn't matter. I was done.
So, here I am. I did it. I ran my first ever 5k.
I didn't die. I didn't embarrass myself.
In fact, I achieved my two goals: Run the whole thing (no walking allowed) and finish. The bonus was I did it in the official time of 36.05 (not dead last).
For being a runner for only eight weeks now, I'm pretty proud of myself.
Next year, I'll be faster. Maybe I'll even catch up to my speedy friend.
Wait. Did I just say "next year?"