There used to be a time when I would be able to run a race on a whim. “Hey I’m doing this half marathon Sunday, you should do it too” and then I would sign up and run it. So why was I so on the fence about actually running the Hot Chocolate 15k when I had registered for it months in advance? I hadn’t trained for it. And while it is true that I haven’t “trained” for races in the past, I had been pretty sedentary.
I had tried running a bit in July, getting up to the 5k point. I was feeling good during those weeks and then I started to feel achey and fatigued again. My running stopped. I HAD planned on training for the Hot Chocolate 15k, but that just didn’t happen. December 18th was sneaking up on me. My only “training run” was a 10k I forced myself into the weekend prior. I was able to complete 10k, but it took me quite longer than I had anticipated. One hour and thirty seven minutes to be exact. That’s a pace of 15:36min/mile. At that speed I was on track to run a 15k in 2 hours and 25 minutes – slower than some of my half marathon times.
Part of me felt defeated. I used to be so much better. I was never a FAST runner by any means, but I surely could do better than I was now. And did I really want to run a 15k at that pace? Would I get swept? I never had to worry about that before. I also had to run further than I just did – would I get even slower towards the end? I decided to run the race and see what happened. I wouldn’t know if I could do it unless I tried right?
The day before the race we visited the expo. Since it was at the Tampa Convention Center I was expecting a pretty big one – after all the Gasparilla expo is held there. I was pretty small, but there were some good vendors and the race merchandise was cute. I got myself a cute coffee tumbler that said “Will Run For Chocolate”. There was also a hot cocoa area where they had, what else, hot chocolate and some tasty chocolate treats as well. Ryleigh was a fan of this area. I also absolutely love the hoodie we got with the race entry! It fits well, is comfy, and even has thumbholes. Score!
On race morning we headed back over to the Tampa Convention Center. I remember it being hotter than I would have liked and it felt super humid to me. It had been cooler the weekend prior during my 10k run, so this worried me. I headed to the start. This race had corrals and I was all the way in the back. This didn’t give me much of a buffer between myself and the sweepers. There was an 11:30 pacer at the front of my corral. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them. Then I saw the “sweeper” sign. It intimidated me.
I saw some friendly faces right before the race and was given words of encouragement. I started off the race with my friend Jessica, who was doing run/walk intervals. I figured that would be helpful. I stuck with her for as long as I could but I felt winded quickly. I was getting out of breath quickly and could feel blisters forming on both feet. I hadn’t even made it to the 5k point yet. I felt discouraged. Would I be able to finish?
The pacer groups were all passing me and I thought about quitting several times. My feet were killing me with every step and I didn’t feel like my body had it in me. How was I supposed to run over another 6 miles like this? I wanted to give up. I wanted to cry, but I kept moving. Part of me was telling me I shouldn’t have attempted the race – that I would never be like the runner I was before. The other part was telling me it didn’t matter, not to compare myself, and to keep moving. I would regret quitting. I kept moving.
Another pace group was inching up to me. 14:00min/mile. They were doing intervals that looked do-able. Thirty seconds run/thirty seconds walk. I could do that. I started running with the group. I realized I knew the pacer – Yarisi, and she was doing such a great job keeping everyone motivated. I stuck with the group until right before the 10k mark. I started feeling a little dizzy and I knew I needed to slow down. It didn’t help that the water at the water stops was warm. I’m not sure the race was prepared for Florida temperatures.
The sun was beating down pretty hard at this point and I was running along bayshore where there is no shade. I was hot, thirsty, and tired. I started to get discouraged again but I kept telling myself I only had a 5k left. I could do this. It was a lot of walking mixed in with slow jogging from there. I spotted my husband and daughter alongside the race course cheering me on and luckily grabbed a cooler bottle of water from them. I kept on moving forward.
Somehow I made it to mile 8. The other pace groups started to pass me. I heard people asking how much time they had left. “You have about a minute buffer behind me”. I turned around and saw the lady with the sweeper sign. No. There was no way I came this far, overcoming this mental struggle, blisters, heat, hot water, just to be swept off the course. I tried to pick up the pace. I walked as fast as I could alternating a very slow jog. I WILL finish this race.
I saw the mile 9 marker and was flooded with a ton of emotions. I had to hold back the tears. This was just a 15k but I felt the same wave of emotions I felt at my first marathon – I was going to finish. My feet hurt so badly from the blisters, my muscles were sore, I was hot and dehydrated – but I was going to finish.
I crossed the finish line. I didn’t know how long it took me or what my pace was. My garmin had died and I shut off the GPS on my phone because it was dying too. I was hurting but I was proud of myself for not giving up. I had my medal placed around my neck and truly felt like I earned it. I may not have been fast, but I sure as hell overcame a lot to cross that finish line.
I thought about just stopping there instead of walking to the post race celebration area. They were giving out finisher mugs with hot chocolate and other goodies. I didn’t really feel like having anything hot, but I made my way to my mug anyway. I then met up with Adam and Ryleigh and checked my time. 2:19:16. I had actually finished the race faster than I thought I would and faster than I had done my 10k last weekend with the cooler temps.
I was sore. I could barely walk to the car with the blisters on my feet, but I was proud of myself. If I could finish this I could do anything. This race made me so much stronger mentally and I have now registered for several other races to keep training. I will get better, I will get stronger, and I bet I just might get faster!
Have you ever run a race that made you stronger?