As I was training for one of the 5k races I ran over the last few months, someone asked me if I loved running. I paused for a moment and said “Not really, but I do love crossing the finish line.” It was at that moment when I realized how much crossing the finish line really does mean to me. Yes, I’ve written about the races I ran in 2012 and 2013 and the feeling of accomplishment I had when I finished those races, but this year it was different. I didn’t just do one race this year, I did five. I set personal records in 3 out of the 5. But I still don’t think that alone was what it was all about for me this year.
My depression has consumed me for much of this year. I’ve become much more aware of it than I used to be. I’ve realized just how much of my daily life is dictated by my mood. I’ve realized that it’s a vicious cycle that I haven’t been able to break. How does running 3.1 miles have anything to do with that? It’s actually simple when you think about it. When ever I cross that finish line, I’ve accomplished something that cannot be taken away from me. And the feeling of victory I have when I cross that line is not something I’ve often experienced.
In 2012 I ran my first 5k and completed it in 29 minutes and 45 seconds. I was VERY proud of that accomplishment and what that entire day meant to me. In 2013 I ran the same race in 32 minutes and 12 seconds. I didn’t do as well, but I still finished and still felt accomplished. My racing was limited to just that one race in each year due to the work schedule I had at the time. My schedule wasn’t the same this year, so I was able to do more races and I ran five of them this year.
The first one I did was the same race I had done in 2012 and 2013, it was my town’s annual 5k race. I did not slow down to walk until a bit after the first mile, which I crossed at about 8 minutes and 40 seconds. I knew I was on a good pace, but a little past that first mile I started getting a pain in my right side, so I had to slow down a little bit. I kept going and changed it up from a run to a walk when needed. This race ends at the racetrack at the town’s high school. When I turned the corner of the track and saw that I was just over 29 minutes, I gave it all I had left and crossed the finish line at 29 minutes and 24.5 seconds. I had beaten my best time by 20 seconds. My only real goal for that race was to be under 30 minutes again, since I didn’t feel too confident going into it. My goal was met.
The next race I did was a few weeks later. The path for this race was not too hilly, but had a lot of incline in it. The incline worried me and I felt that crossing the finish line at about 30 minutes and 15 seconds would be good for me. But, I also knew that as long as I finished the race, I should feel proud. Despite the having slight difficulty breaking out of the pack at the beginning of the race due to so many young kids grouped up in front of me, my first mile was 8 minutes and 20 seconds. I didn’t expect that. And once again, shortly after that first mile, the slight pain in my side started and I had to slow it down a bit. When I made that final left turn and saw the finish line, I saw that the clock had JUST crossed 29 minutes, so again I gave it all I had left and crossed the finish line at 29 minutes and 14.4 seconds. One minute better than my goal and 10.1 seconds better than my previous best time! I was quite satisfied with myself.
My third race of the year was a bit more challenging for me. It was raining a lot during the race and I had never run in conditions like that before. Due to the weather, I didn’t put any pressure on myself to set a personal record, I just wanted a time that I felt was respectable. When I got the one mile marker at just 8 minutes I started to reconsider that personal record thing. I knew it was now attainable. Somewhere around the 2 miles point there was a stretch of a block or two that was unpaved and the ground was ripped up. I did not feel comfortable running in that, so I walked that portion. That worked out somewhat in my favor because my glasses were completely fogged up and my side was hurting. Once I wiped off my glasses and got past that area, I picked up the pace. A minute or so later, I noticed my left shoelace had come untied. I stepped onto a sidewalk and fixed that and then ran a bit. Once the finish line came into view, I saw that it was again just past 29 minutes. I had a chance to set a personal record again, but I crossed the finish line at 29 minutes and 18.4 seconds. I missed my record by FOUR seconds. Yeah, it bothered me a little bit since I got my confidence up early in the race, but I was still incredibly proud of my accomplishment given the conditions I was not used to.
The 2nd, 4th, and 5th races that I ran this year were part of a series of a “Triple Crown” that three towns sponsored. And before the 4th race, I saw various posts online that said because it was a “fast and flat” race that many people set personal records on it. Well, this time I actually set forth to do so. I had 3 goals for the race. The first was to be under 29 minutes, the second was to at least set a new record, and the third was just to finish. My feelings of accomplishment would be good if I did any of those. Much like my 2nd race of the year, I had a hard time getting out of the pack at the beginning. This time, not only did I have a lot of children in my way, but I had dogs as well. Yes, there were dogs in this race. I got to the 1st mile marked at about 8 minutes and 45 seconds, so I didn’t think I was on pace for a personal record, but I still had some energy so I kept running for a little bit longer than I normally do past that mile. I noticed that I crossed the 2nd mile marker at about 19 minutes, so I had picked up some time. I also felt the last 1.1 miles were good for me. And this time, I made a right turn to the finish line and again, it had just crossed over to 29 minutes, so I put every last bit of energy I had into it and crossed the finish line at 29 minutes and 12.9 seconds. I didn’t finish in under 29 minutes, but I did set a new personal record. Again, I was quite happy with myself.
The third portion of the Triple Crown and the final race that I intended to run in 2014 was on a very chilly morning. It was only about 35 degrees out and I was concerned about my lungs and their ability to handle the cold air. I was appropriately dressed for the race, but it was still a concern for me. My three goals for the last race were in effect here too. My first mile issue of not being able to break away happened again and I crossed the first mile at 9 minutes. I figured that a sub-29 minute race was now impossible, but a personal record was not. When I crossed the 2nd mile marker at about 19 minutes and 30 seconds, I started to again think about that 29 minute thing, especially since I knew I had already gotten past the one big incline this path had. However, the last 1.1 miles was rough for me. I wasn’t able to keep up the pace and ended up crossing the finish line at 29 minutes and 40.4 seconds. It was my slowest finish of the year, but I was not in the least bit upset.
Out of 61 males to complete all 3 portions of the Triple Crown, I finished in 47th place. I am very proud of that. The people that won those races finished them in times that I can’t begin to comprehend. But I’m sure they’ve been doing this a lot a longer than I have. And I’m also not ever concerned about “winning” a race. To me, crossing the finish line IS winning.
I finished five races this year, all under 30 minutes. In 3 of the 5 I set personal records. My consistency is pretty damn good. There’s only 28 seconds separating my fastest and slowest finishes. And each and every time I crossed that finish line, regardless of the time, I had accomplished something. I finished something. And each and every time, it meant something.
I am generally lethargic, unmotivated, and not disciplined enough to get things done. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “just doing it” for me. But, these races have shown me that it is possible to accomplish something. I do put forth time and effort into training for them, but very often I feel that I won’t be able to do get it done. It’s my nature to doubt myself. It’s also my nurturing to doubt myself. But, maybe I can use these races as a catalyst to better things for me. Because on five separate occasions this year I was able to start something and just under 30 minutes later, I was able to finish it. And while the high I feel from crossing those finish lines does eventually go away, the accomplishments live forever, and that’s something that not even my depression can take away from me.