By now, Team WestEnders has a couple of 5K races under their collective belt, the last one having been logged in Maryland, just before we moved. We've found that it's a good distance for us, as we can all do it fairly easily, without straining ourselves too much or having to, you know, "train" beyond our usual running routines, or anything crazy like that. Given the total fitness culture in our newly-adopted hometown, it was really only a matter of time until we entered our first North Carolina race. So, that would be: "about 2-1/2 months" if you're counting...
One day while meandering along the winding road just outside our neighborhood, I noticed a small sign near the sidewalk. Because the speed limit is 35 (due to all the--you guessed it--runners and walkers and cyclists that use the designated bike lane), I had time to actually read it. It advertised an upcoming race, happening just a few blocks up the street in the nearby town. And the name of the event? The Not So Normal 5K. Hey! WE'RE "not so normal"--sign us right the heck up!
When I went online to register, what I gathered was that the name derived from the course itself, which was actually set to be 2.95 miles, rather than the standard 3.1. The organizers explained that the goal was to make it a very "friendly" route, meaning a relatively flat, simple-to-follow loop. Furthermore, because they wanted you to focus on having fun, rather than competing, it would be an untimed run. Hold on, let me get this straight--no pressure, short and smooth, starting about a mile from my house so we don't have to get up at 0-dark-are-you-kidding-me-about-exercising-at-this-hour-thirty? Well...yeah, baby!
The only bummer was that, since we had to wait to find out Riley's soccer schedule (he has a game the same day...but later in the afternoon...he's young, he'll be fiiiiinnnne, right?) I missed the deadline for the guaranteed Swag Bag. (Pouting...) Fortunately, I overcame my deep disappointment related to that loss...and also my natural abhorrence for A) getting up early and B) working out shortly after I pry my eyes open. At this point we kind of have it down to a science: roll out of bed, throw on race-day clothes, drink juice and eat either a banana or a granola bar, pin dorky bib to shirt, lace up shoes...drive to starting line. When we got there, we realized something very, very lucky: it was a cool, cloudy...absolutely ideal...63* at race time. (Yeah, I was almost...cold...but that's just me...)
When the...Emcee Guy?...yelled "Go", Riley and I took a few strides together, in solidarity. Then...he accelerated to his comfortable rate and took off, leaving me in the (metaphorical) dust. A few seconds later, Derek trotted up behind me and asked where Riley was. I pointed into the distance, whereupon Derek gave a half-wave and sprinted off to catch his brother. Aaannnd, mere moments after that, Husband chugged by, patting me kindly on the shoulder as he moved off with the faster pack. Sigh. (So actually, when I say we do these things "together", it's in the...spirit of the thing...I guess...)
But my family abandoning me was only the beginning of the story. In the previous 5Ks we've done--not that I'm trying to "beat" anyone, don't get me wrong--I've always felt kind of pleased about my performance because I move past a few people here and there along the way. This time? Not. So. Much. During the run, as I maintained my regular, 9-1/2-ish minute mile pace--I was passed by...small children...grey-haired grandfatherly men...a dad pushing a jogging stroller (that was embarrassing)...and (the final blow) a woman in a TUTU. (Nope, NOT making that up...and can I just say how jealous I was? Next year I'm totally doing this thing rocking a tiara...) Oh yeah, and the woman who I politely informed that her shoe was untied? She stopped, fixed it...and cruised by me again a couple of minutes later. Good grief! I'm in pretty decent shape and all, but clearly I'm not the kind of road-running maniac that frequents this crazy town! (Yeah, about that "training"...ugh...)
At least I wasn't in the very back of the crowd, and I wrapped up in about 28-minutes, which is fine for me. My loving spouse and sons, having crashed the endline at 23, 24, and 25 minutes (teenager, 11-year old, Husband, ) were standing along the sidewalk to cheer for me as I puffed the last few steps. As I slowed to a stop, I heard Emcee Guy shouting to the people just behind me, "Run faster, you're being chased by a gorilla!" (He was not kidding...but don't ask me how the man in the furry ape suit ran 3 miles, because I just don't have a good answer for ya...) We were then treated to the usual water and oranges for our efforts...popsicles for the kids...and reaaalllly good coffee from one of the local cafes--yum. But the bonus? There were extra race tees for those who hadn't scored the tote-full-o'-free-stuff beforehand. That's right: workout over with before breakfast, 10,000 steps counted for the day, already...and a new running shirt? My not so normal race experience is now...complete!