Until last week, the only other 5K I'd ever run was my very first race back in June, which I finished in 36:48. My training since that race had included zero speed work, but I wondered if all the miles I'd logged could still add up to a faster 5K pace.
I needed to test the theory, so when buddies Nikki and Andrew said they were coming into town to run a night-time 5K on Tybee Island, I signed up too. The allure of running with buddies was so strong that Lee even signed up for his first 5K. The four of us are on a virtual "Street Team" with the RunKeeper app during our training runs - it was time to get the Street Team together for real.
After a week of sunlit runs and warm weather, I showed up on Tybee in a running skirt and short sleeves. As soon as I opened the car door I knew I'd made a mistake. Clouds obscured the sun and a wicked wind was blowing from the ocean. Freezing, I was even more grateful for friends as we huddled together, doing sporadic jumping jacks for warmth while we waited for the race to begin.
We all had our own goals - mine was just to beat my previous 5K time. Finally, the race was underway and the four of us spread out, but it was encouraging to know they were there, that I had friends in the sea of racers.
The first two miles went by ok - I didn't have pre-set intervals but allowed myself a few walking strides now and then to catch my breath. I'm so used to running conservatively, afraid that in those first miles of a half-marathon I might push too hard and ruin the rest of the run. But when I began the third and final mile of the 5K, I thought, "What's the worst that will happen if you run really hard right now? You won't die. You won't be unable to finish. One mile is all that's left!"
So I dug in. I'd programmed a running playlist that I estimated would have me crossing the finish line during the last song. But suddenly, I didn't want to hear the last song. I was on the second-to-last song and I could see that chute up ahead. I pushed harder.
I finished the race in 33:02, the fastest I've ever run 3.1 miles. I know it's not lightening fast and I'll never win any awards for it, but it was a great time for me. And now that I have a new baseline 5K time, I have new goals to try to beat in my next races. I'd love to run a sub-30 minute 5K, and that goal doesn't seem undoable anymore.
Best of all was sharing that finish line with great friends, with breathless hugs and huge smiles all around. Lee had a great race - I don't know that I converted him into a racing fan, but he ran well and I was grateful to share the experience with him.
After the race, we ducked into a local pizza place to escape the wind and the cold, and warmed up with a celebratory beer. Cheers to my street team - I'd run with them any day!