My first 5K race. Whee!

For those of you keeping track of my running adventures so far: I’ve gotten up to 5K, I’ve recovered from a broken toe, and I’m all set to run my first 5K race ever. But first, a brief digression on race gear.

To run, basically all you really need are two functioning legs. Back in the day, some runners from Kenya and Ethiopia ran in their bare feet. But that’s not really practical for us North Americans. So you need shoes. And, because running naked is illegal, attention-drawing, and probably painful, you need clothes.

When you go into a running clothing store, there’s all kinds of clothes and shoes available. But you really only need the following things:

  • Shoes that provide support so that your feet don’t get sore, and that allow you to run properly so that your knees won’t get sore.
  • Clothes that don’t chafe, so that running doesn’t become painful.
  • Clothes that don’t make you feel too warm or too cold.

I was spoiled: I started running at the end of May, when all you need (besides shoes) are shorts and a T-shirt, or maybe a long sleeved shirt if it was a bit cool in the morning. But, as the weather got colder in the fall, I needed to buy more stuff. Now, as of April 2018, I have:

  • T-shirts (you can get these at races as part of your admission fee)
  • Running shorts
  • Long pants
  • A long-sleeved shirt (I actually have two now, for an extra layer)
  • A lighter jacket, suitable for running in temperatures down to 0C
  • A heavier jacket, suitable for running in temperatures colder than that
  • Heavier socks
  • A neck guard
  • A toque and gloves (these I already had)

I also had the following accessories:

  • A hand-held water bottle that I could sip water from while moving
  • Portable Bluetooth running headphones that allow me to listen to my favourite tunes while moving
  • A watch that tells me how fast I am going and the distance that I have covered (more on that later)

But this was all accumulated with the benefit of experience. At the time of my first race in November, I had never run in 0C weather. I was about to.

The event that we signed up for was the Angus Glen 5K, located on the Angus Glen golf course in Markham. The Angus Glen course is quite a nice layout, and it’s a very good course – they’ve held the Canadian Open there. For an extra few dollars, you could rent a locker for the day, which my wife and I each did – so we got to change our clothes using the same lockers that various professional golfers had used. Boy howdy!

Race day involves a routine. You show up and get what is known as a “race bib”. Contrary to what you might think, this is not a convenient cloth that traps any liquids you might spit up while running. It’s actually just a fancy term for a piece of paper with your competitor number on it. In the 21st century, this piece of paper contains modern technology: it contains a special computer chip that detects when you cross the start line or the finish line. So you don’t need someone with a stopwatch to calculate how fast you went – the computer can do it for you. In fact, it can do it quickly – your posted time can appear just minutes after you have finished. Hurray for the modern world!

Of course, this being my first running race, I was nervous. What if I caught a cold the day of the race? What if my legs hurt? Did I eat enough? Is my race gear warm enough? Will I be able to run successfully when surrounded by a bunch of other runners? Can I actually do this? My wife had to endure a steady litany of worries during the week of the race, and especially the day of the race – fortunately, she’s used to me doing this, and thankfully married me anyway.

So we got out to the starting line. This requires standing around for a few minutes while the race organizers and at least one federal, provincial, or municipal politician say a few platitudes. Then, it’s off we go!

The first question that occurred to me: would I be competing with my wife? She’s a very experienced runner, and is in good shape, so presumably she would be faster than me. But we were originally thinking of running together, at least at the start of the race – what will actually happen? Will I strain myself trying to keep up with her? Is there an actual possibility that I might be as fast as she is? Fortunately, the problem resolved itself rather quickly: a few hundred metres after the start, she disappeared off into the distance, never to be seen again for the duration of the race. With that issue disposed of, I could settle down to running my own race.

The goal here, I was told, was not to go too fast at the beginning. Race adrenalin can kick in at the start, and make you think that you are invincible and about to set a personal record, until it wears off and you suddenly discover that you’re worn out. So I wanted to make sure that I set a reasonable pace. This is where my watch came in: it kept track of exactly how far I had gone and how long it had taken me to do it. So I didn’t go too fast. In fact, I went a bit slow. But after that, everything went smoothly. I ran at more or less the pace I wanted to go, and settled into a rhythm that was actually almost comfortable. I realized that I was now actually one of those eccentric people who voluntarily does this sort of thing: in short, I was a runner. Yay, accomplishment.

Next up: winter is coming, and so is the dreaded treadmill.

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