As I look around the great, wide internet, I can’t help but notice how many people blog their running. As a new (and newly obsessed) runner, I thought I’d write my own little race report, though I’m a bit late in coming to it.
My first ever race was the Longboat Roadrunners’ Toronto Island 5k, which happened September 7th. I had heard a few people recommend the course—flat, scenic, and very friendly, which sounded just right for a first-timer.
The race started at 11 but if you’ve struggled to get to the Island, you know you need to get your butt in gear a lot earlier. As I wasn’t sure how I’d feel afterwards, I figured I’d take the subway rather than bike. It was only when I woke up that I remembered that the subway doesn’t open til 9 on Sunday. Stupid archaic TTC.
I made it to the 9 o’clock ferry with minutes to spare and met up with my dear old pal Leslie in the ferry line. Leslie is too humble to talk about her running, but she is freakin fantastic. She ran a marathon in Phoenix last year and is training for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon next month. She is fast, and disciplined, and totally zen about it all. She was the perfect friend to have when I was so jittery.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day, sunny and warm, and we got to the race area by 9:45 and checked our bags, looked at all the merch (oops, I bought gear) and then sat in the grass. We stretched, Leslie did a warm-up jog….and then there was still plenty of time.
And then, suddenly, it was time to part ways. My shorter run started 15 minutes before Leslie’s, so I said farewell and headed to the start line, suddenly thinking, “oh my God…am I going to run a race? I can’t do that! I hate running!”
And then I was at the start line. I had looked at the times from last year and they ranged from under 15 minutes to over an hour, so I figured I should start towards the middle. I didn’t have a particular goal in mind, but finishing in 30 minutes seemed like a nice idea.
I couldn’t really hear the announcements right before the gun went off, and I was suddenly stressing about the logistics of starting RunKeeper and my music at the right moment without bothering or slowing anyone else. How do people do that?! Why hadn’t I practiced that!?
Welp, that turned out to be a non-issue. When the gun went off, everyone around me did the same thing—and we were only walk/shuffling anyway until we were well past the start line. And then all of a sudden the trail opened up and I could just…run. And run I did! Yes, I was consistently passed by groups of small children and yes, the ragweed situation on the Island is outrageous and terrible- But I was running!
I felt great through the first two kilometres, okay on kilometre three, and pretty crappy as I got towards four. We came out of a wooded clearing and on to a boardwalk next to Lake Ontario, and it was hot and running on wood felt weird and suddenly my legs felt tired…but it couldn’t be that much longer, could it? If I got to four, then five must be close, mustn’t it? I was starting to fade when I came upon a really awesome lady cheering wildly for everyone—and then suddenly there was the finish line, with lots of people cheering, and a big clock which told me I’d gone almost two minutes faster than I’d thought possible.
I was handed a medal almost immediately after crossing the finish line, and I walked around breathing hard and drinking a little paper cup of some orange sports drink and just being totally, totally amazed at what had happened. A race! I ran a race! And they gave me a medal!
As I sat down to stretch, I overheard two women yelping nearby about exactly what I was feeling: “We did it! We ran a 5k! We did it!” they kept saying. It was delightful.
Leslie had told me she thought she’d be about 50 minutes running her 10k, so I headed back to the finish line to watch for her and cheer on the rest of the runners, now a mixture of slower 5kers and then suddenly, like lightening, the first of the 10kers. What I hadn’t even considered was that there would be some genuine, professional runners there. Seeing the first elite men and women (including Lanni Marchant and Josephat Ongeri) barreling into the home stretch—the same stupid bit of grass I’d just been running on!—was a thrill. They looked so. damn. powerful.
Leslie came in quite fast too, and we walked around a little and then took full advantage of the barbecue included in registration (but we both got veggie burgers…DineSafe would not have approved of that set up!).
As we were getting ready to go, Leslie said she wanted to check her stats. Stats? I hadn’t thought that such a thing would be so readily available, but there were already papers taped to the wall listing everyone’s time and place. Leslie came second out of 90 in her division at 45:59! Much to my surprise, (and I’ve checked three times since to be sure), I came sixth in my division at 27:54! I couldn’t believe it. I had had so few expectations, had only wanted to finish, and I’d run pretty fast.
We caught the ferry back and parted ways. Halfway through my bike ride back I faded big time (it’s all uphill coming from the lake!), but I came home to find that Jonathan had been working on my old bike all afternoon and that perked me up greatly.
All in all, it was an absolutely marvellous first race experience. I can’t imagine participating in another event that’s as well organized, cheerful, and pain-free.