Yesterday on Armed Forces Day Preston and I ran our 2nd 5k of 2013 – the Semper Fi 5K. This was a fitting way for us to honor the men and women who serve in the military, especially since Preston is an Army veteran himself. During his five years of active duty, he spent 14 months in Iraq. The stories he retells are both honorable and horrific at the same time. And knowing what can happen to our service men who encounter IEDs on a regular basis, I’m thankful that Preston returned from Iraq in one piece and with all four limbs in tact.
After having completed the Jaguar 5K three weeks ago, Preston and I had both been looking to the flatter course that this race follows. Also much different from the Jaguar 5K, the Semper Fi 5K course is an up and back course, with only one turn at the water station just before the halfway point. After completing our first 2013 5K three weeks ago, we were both eager to finish this race with improved 5K times. Preston succeeded at this mission, while I sadly did not.
When we first arrived at Anacostia Park, I was excited for the race, eager for it to start, and hopeful for a good finish time. Since the course is completely flat, my goal had been to run the entire race, only stopping for a quick water break at the water station.
With so many walkers and wounded veterans participating in the race, Preston and I opted to start pretty close to the front of the start line. As the 8:00 start time approached, we were both hopeful that we’d meet our race goals for the day.
The race horn sounded, and we were both off. Preston took off ahead of me, and as I crossed the start line, I had a knot in my stomach and a bad feeling about this race. Something was telling me that despite my high hopes for this race, I wasn’t going to meet all of the race goals that I had set for myself, the two main ones being to run the entire race and to have a faster finish time than I had at the Jaguar 5K, which was 32:24. Although I struggled a bit during the first half of the race, I pushed myself to continue running to the water station, just before the halfway point of the course. Since running is just as much mental as it is physical, I kept telling myself to just keep running. And by the time I made it to the water station, at about the 14:40 point, I thought I had this race in the bag. I thought I had set myself up for success.
Sadly, I was wrong.
As I started to run just past the water station, my ankle pain kicked in. Although I had taken ibuprofen prior to the start of the race, it either hadn’t kicked in or it wasn’t working. Then, I started to get very tired, almost to the point that I felt like I would pass out. For the second half of the race, I focused on utilizing Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run method, running for about three to four minutes and then walking for one. This method, along with seeing wounded veterans who were missing anywhere between one and three of their limbs, was what got me to the finish line.
Seeing these veterans was more encouraging than anybody’s words could have been. If they were able to serve our country, survive IED explosions, and today are able to manage without the presence of both arms and both legs, then I would be able to get myself to the finish line. One veteran, who had lost both legs, was jogging with prosthetics and his toddler in a carrier on his back. Another veteran, who had lost both legs and his right arm, was walking with his parents at his side. Seeing these two men, along with many other injured veterans, reminded me that although I was tired and dealing with ankle pain that my suffering was nowhere close to what they deal with on a daily basis.
After what felt like forever, I saw Preston waiting along the sidelines just past the 3 mile mark. I shouted out to him, “I’m trying,” and he responded with, “You can do it.” At this point I knew I was far from my initial goals for this race, and all I wanted to do was get myself across the finish line.
My official race time was 33:29 (a pace of 10:47). Although slightly slower than my Jaguar 5K pace, I’m still proud of the fact that I did finish. Post race I shared my disappointment with our friend Tanya, who reminded me that participating and finishing are the most important parts of racing. After having been disappointed with myself for the better part of the morning, her words lifted my spirits. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m just starting my running journey and that I can’t let obstacles or hearing the top race times during awards ceremonies get me down. Any race that I run is all a part of my journey, and although I won’t meet every goal at every race, I still have to be proud of the fact that I am pushing myself forward in the unfamiliar world of running.
The purpose of this race was to raise funds and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund, an organization that works to provide financial assistance to wounded and critically ill members of the Marine Corps and the other branches of the military. Because Semper Fi isn’t one of the charities available to run for on the Charity Miles app, I elected to also complete yesterday’s race miles for the Wounded Warrior Project, another organization that works to provide financial assistance and promote programs that benefit our military’s wounded servicemen and women.
I learned two important lessons from yesterday’s race. First, not every race time will be better than the previous. Each race I will face a different course, a different set of obstacles and circumstances, and will be running under various weather conditions. Yesterday it was humid and drizzling. I’m thinking this also contributed to my lack of energy during the race. Second, it is imperative that I eat a filling breakfast before each run. Because I was worried that we would be late, I finished my breakfast in the car on the way to the race. Its entirely possible that I was tired and felt very low in energy as a result of my food not having fully digested prior to the start of the race. Big lessons learned for next time.