I'm no runner. In fact, I hated running even when I used to be in great shape. Nevertheless, earlier this year I decided to take on the challenge of running my first race. It wasn't out of a self-improvement goal to try something different or lose weight. I'd signed up impulsively after reading an email from a colleague. And, since I was making impulsive decisions, I went for the longest distance; 15k. That's a 9-mile-plus race that I now had three months to train for.
A big reason why I decided to sign up for this race was the race itself. I've always avoided open competitions because high performance athletes intimidate me. I'd heard of the Portland Shamrock Run many times before, and I knew this was the best first race anyone could hope for.
The Shamrock is a completely different deal. For one thing, it's more of a community event with serious runners and also families and kids running and walking. And even the more experienced folks participate more for fun than for the display of athletic prowess. Other races may be like this one, or even more welcoming, but I knew the Shamrock was going to be a blast and I didn't have to worry about being a newbie slug.
The event has four categories: 15K, 8K, 5K and a 1K Leprechaun Lap. This year's event had over 32,000 competitors. The 15K, my category, had over 11,000 runners, of which almost 9,000 finished.
I was excited and a bit scared about the approaching race, so I devised a training plan to get me from the couch to 15K in less than 3 months. I was meticulous about which days I would rest, which days I would run long distances, and which days I would run a short distance to keep things going. That plan was a complete disaster. I got sick 2 times in the space of 3 weeks, and then our city was hit with a snow storm that kept me indoors for almost a week. By the end of the training period, I'd only met about 30% of my training goals.
The day of the race arrived and there was no illusion on my part about my limits and how fast I could run. My goals were simple: Finish, don't be last, and don't have a stroke. To my surprise, I did better than that. My time was a personal best, and I felt great after I finished the race.
Did I mention I'm not a runner? Running isn't a comfortable business for me and I need all the distraction I can get from the work of frantically moving my legs to support my body. Music happens to be the best distraction while running. Based on my (limited) experience, you want to choose something exciting and high-paced. So I logically chose tunes from garage-band days.
All in all, signing up for the Shamrock Run was a good impulsive decision. Not only did I prove to myself that I could do it but I also learned to tolerate running. In fact, I started running regularly after the race and I think I'm getting the hang of this. I'm not sure how far I want to take this running thing but I've started planning for next year's Shamrock. This time I'll come better prepared.