From first to Last

With the Chicago Marathon coming up in a few short days, I wanted to take time to reflect on my very first 5k, the Hot Chocolate 5k Chicago on November 3, 2013.

A bit of background before we begin: I always hated running. HATED running. Just absolutely vehemently detested it. I would drag my feet so hard in the mile time tests in grade school, I’d be lucky if I surpassed 12:00/mile. It didn’t help that I was also incredibly overweight as a kid. When I was 18, I lost a bunch of weight, and eventually went from nearly 200 lbs (on my 5’3″ frame! Yikes!) to around 90 lbs (also yikes, but the opposite way!) I can’t recall now how much I weighed when I decided to run my first 5k, but I knew that I wanted to give myself the gift of health for my birthday, and the Hot Chocolate 5k was perfectly timed to be the same week as my birthday.

Looking back, I don’t know how well a Couch to 5k program actually prepared me to run a 5k. I did run the entire race – barely – I clocked in at a sluggish 35 min 17 sec, an average pace of 11:22/mile. Now, I know, I know, that’s quite a bit faster than a lot of C25K-ers, and probably someone’s dream pace, but for me, I knew I could get better. In fact, my most recent, though unofficial, 5k was run at 26:14, an average pace of 8:26/mile, nearly 3 minutes per mile faster than when I started.

To be fair, I didn’t actually know anything about pacing strategies at that time – I was practicing on a treadmill, and I could do my 3 miles in 30 minutes, but clearly I went out too fast on race day and struggled with the finish. In my defense, I did actually have a mysterious illness (what was thought to be mono, but was never confirmed to be mono, although it probably was). I woke up race morning with a sore throat, thinking it was an allergic reaction to my friends’ cat, but I knew something was off when I came home from the race and slept for 18 hours. A 5k should definitely not tire someone out that much – hell, I ran 20 miles a few weeks ago, and I was feeling fine after a brief rest, so clearly my mystery bug got the better of me that day.

I’m glad at that time the Hot Chocolate race series didn’t give out medals for 5k participants (and I still wish they didn’t – I don’t necessarily think a 5k deserves an award now that 5k has pretty much become my warm-up run). If I had gotten a medal, I don’t think I would have felt it was well-deserved. Nevertheless, the other goodies I got from the race weren’t bad – I received a finisher’s mug, which is sitting on a shelf at my parents’ home in the Chicago suburbs collecting dust (it’s a little too big for me to have figured out a proper place to put it), and a racing hoodie with the Hot Chocolate Chicago 15k/5k logo on it. Although I received it nearly 3 years ago now, and even though at one point a key ripped a hole in the pocket, I stitched it back up and I still occasionally wear it today, although not often while running – it’s a little too warm to wear most of the year.

Other than that, and possibly due to the fact that I was out with some crazy illness for the rest of the month, I pretty much stopped running for a long time – with the exception of some weird underwear 1-mile run I did in early 2014 – before finally lacing up my running shoes one more time in January 2015 – to be continued in another post


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