Thursday, July 3, 2014

Racing on July 4th: A Growing Tradition. And Facing 5k Fears.

As so many in our country get ready to celebrate our nation's independence, I can almost smell the food grilling on BBQs, the smoke from fireworks and the sounds of joy that come from holiday parades. People everywhere are stocking up on sparklers and ingredients for their favorite patriotic dessert. And many of us (including our family) are setting out running shoes and running clothes in preparation for a July 4th Race. What a fun way to start a day of celebration!  

 I've spent the last few years kicking off Independence Day with some kind of race.  It's becoming a tradition of sorts.  In 2011 and 2012 it was The Foot Traffic Flat Marathon in Portland, Oregon.  Such great memories with this race. My race in 2011 was purely for fun after a disappointing June Newport Marathon.  On a whim, my husband decided to run it with me.  It was the first time I ran a marathon with him and it was his first ever.  We rocked it with a 3:24 and big smiles all the way to the finish line! Racing a marathon with my best friend on a day we celebrate freedom and independence goes down as perhaps my favorite race.  

Last July 4th brought a different kind of race and one that has become a most special memory.  Instead of racing with my husband, I was honored to run with my daughter.  My oldest daughter, then eight years old, raced her very first 5k.  Without a doubt, this is my favorite 5k memory.  No pressure.  None of the fear that I had been associating with racing the 5k from years of high school and college cross country. It was just a time to soak up every second of running next to my little girl who was finding so much joy in racing.  We ran side by side for most of the way, waving at people on their front porches, giving high-fives, and talking about the strategy of pacing so she could finish strong.  In the last stretch, I encouraged her to go and give it her all.  It was so exciting to see her kick in it and finish with a smile.  She was so proud of herself and I was one proud mama.  

Tomorrow will bring another Independence Day where our family takes part in racing.  This year my middle daughter might even give her first 5k a try. My oldest daughter will race for the first time by herself and my husband will run with our younger daughter to make sure she gets through the race. 

That leaves me.  Well,  I could run with my daughter again.  Or, I could muster up the courage to just race the darn thing myself.  Funny how I just ran a marathon less than two weeks ago and if you asked me to race a half marathon tomorrow for fun, I'd say yes but yet racing a 5k (even for fun) sounds dreadful.   In fact, I avoid racing this distance as if it is the plague.  Truly racing a 5k hurts in a way that makes a marathon look heavenly. And let's be honest, even when we race something for "fun", many of of still push ourselves.  That's part of the fun. But do Fun and 5k even go in the same sentence?  Not so sure.  Especially when you're not in 5k race shape!  Such a different beast of a race distance.  Don't get me wrong, a 5k is 3.1 miles whereas a marathon is 26.2 miles.  Clearly, you need more endurance to cover the distance of a marathon and when I claim to my nonrunner friends just how much harder the 5k is for me than the marathon, they look utterly confused.   It takes a different kind of training, work, and mental game to be your best in the 5k.  

To race the 5k or not...that is the question.  It's long overdue.

My last 5k was in 2011.  I wasn't training specifically for a 5k but it did end up being my personal best. It was a strong and surprisingly not so hard race.  I was in a great place mentally and ready to make things happen.  But here's the kicker:  I ran a 20:01.  20:01???  This close to breaking 20 minutes?  I think I would have  preferred a 20:10 or 20:30 even but a 20:01.  I'd tried for years to break that tricky 20 minute barrier and I'd heard from many of my running friends that once you break 20 minutes, it feels so much easier to do it again and again. But race after race, year after year, I fell in the 20's.  Even when my workouts would show that I should be able to easily run in the 19's, when it came time to dig deep and put myself in that sort of pain, I wimped out.  

I haven't raced a 5k since.  

It's been three years now.  

Yes, I think it might be time to race another 5k. Why?  For myself.  Not for the purpose of a PR.  I'm far from 5k racing shape.  It just seems like a good time to face a fear.  As we near the end of this adventure we've had in North Carolina and get ready to move to Bend, Oregon, it seems right to go out with a bang other than the fireworks tomorrow night.  Maybe just going out there without a watch or a goal and giving what I have even if it means being much slower than I'd like to be is just the perfect ending to this very full of adventure year we've had.  It also seems like a great step towards my goal of putting myself out there more, opening doors for opportunity, and taking chances on things even when I don't feel like I'm entirely ready or that everything is Perfect.

I'm actually excited to race. And even more excited to see my daughters race. I know that by racing my own race, no matter how I race it, I'll be experiencing a freedom that only comes when we are willing to truly accept and give of ourselves just as we are...where we are...right now.  It's a good feeling to be able to do that.  How fitting for Independence Day.  

In just a few years the whole family will be racing together on the 4th!

Do you race on July 4th?  
Do you run with your kids?  For inspirational stories on sharing the love of running with your kids, you're always sure to find something on Tia's blog:  Arkansas Runner Mom.  Every year her daughter tries to run her age in miles.  This is year she ran 10 miles! 


  1. You guys are so cute :) Good luck tomorrow - I hope your 5k is actually fun!

  2. Love hearing/reading about such active families! If we had children, I know we'd be doing the same on the fourth or any other race.

    BTW, 5K's are hard. And they hurt. I'd opt for a marathon or even longer over a 5K any day!

  3. Hope it went well! I know what you mean. 5Ks are INTENSE. I ran one with my 10 year-old son on the 4th, and it was high drama even BEFORE the race. He got worn out during our warm-up mile, then he tripped and fell and bloodied up his knee and elbow about 10 minutes before the start. There may or may not have been tears and a refusal to run the race followed by me ordering him to suck it up, get out there, and get it done. And you know what? He did! And we were both pretty darn proud of it. He forgot about his wounds and can't wait to run another one.

  4. I also too dislike 5k's and the only time I run them is when they are part of a long run :) I think my body is like a crock pot, and it takes time for my muscles to warm-up before I can push myself. It's the reason why I prefer half-marathons over 5k's and 10k's.