One thing that I love about this race is it has become a family affair. We first learned about The Gathering Place when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 because my husband's boss is on the board of directors. His company decided to form a team and we joined in and over the last 3 years, our team has grown, so much that next year I am going to form my own team. =) Besides my husband's co-workers, our team consists of me and my husband, our sons, both my sisters, my oldest brother-in-law, my one nephew and his girlfriend, and another nephew and his family. This year, a friend of mine, several people from my work and some of their family members, as well as a couple of my sister's co-workers joined our team. The icing on the cake was my mom joined us for the first time this year and did the 1 mile walk. A special race indeed.
I woke up at 6 am for some reason even though we didn't have to leave until 7:30. I don't know why I was so nervous but I was. I had everything set out before I went to bed Saturday so I was glad I didn't have to rush around looking for anything last minute. I don’t like to eat a lot before a race so I had a cup of coffee and a banana and had plenty of time before the race in case something didn't agree with me. It was the perfect temperature at my house and sunshine and blue skies were going to make for a perfect race. Papa D was definitely shining down on me. When we got to the event location however (the staging area is at a local mall's parking lot about 30 minutes from my house), it was definitely much warmer. Since we live so close to the lake, it's usually cooler at our house. I wish we could have taken that cooler weather with us. By the time the race started shortly after 9 am, it was definitely a lot warmer than it was when we first arrived.
The one thing they don't do at this race which would be nice taking into account how big the event is is having a delayed start for those walking the 5K nor do they ask the walkers during the opening ceremonies and those people with dogs and strollers to line up towards the back after the runners. There were over 4,000 people in attendance between the 5K and 1 Mile walk and the majority of people participating the 5K usually walk it. Knowing this, I wanted to get as close to the start as I could. I still need to learn proper placement (how close to get to the front of the line, do you stand on the outside or in the middle, etc.) but I picked a spot on the right towards the outside around what looked the perfect spot if there even is one. The downfall with being so close to the start, as you know, is starting the race too fast and expelling the energy you need for the race. Even though I selected my playlist carefully and specifically chose a slower song to start out with, I still started off faster than I should have. At about a half mile into it, I was seriously wondering how I would finish the race.
The race starts and ends in the mall parking lot and the course runs through some very nice neighborhoods. You have to cross over one main road at the beginning and at the end and they close that section as well as the side streets along the course so you don't have to worry about cars, just the people running the race with no racing "etiquette" as I call it. You know those people, the ones who just dead stop in front of you or cut you off for no apparent reason. I feel like such a "race snob" when I say that and maybe it's just the way it goes or perhaps the types of races that I run but I just don't understand how rude some people can be. I guess I always try to be a very conscientious runner and look around me before I move and but it never ceases to amaze me how many people don't do that. There was one lady running near me for a while who would speed up past me and then move over right in front of me, like too close in front of me. One time I muttered a bad word under my breath as she did it. I was finally able to lose her after awhile.
The course was more "hilly" than I am used to running. I don't know if you would actually consider it "hilly" but considering the usual routes I run are flat and the fact it was hot, there wasn't a lot of shade, and I didn't have a lot of energy in me, those "hills" seemed like mountains. LOL Doesn't help either that I was at not one but two graduation parties on Saturday so that, along all these factors was making for a tough race. My running program announces every half mile and I swear it seemed like an eternity between each one. Going back to my music selection, I chose very specific, faster paced songs for the rest of the race thinking that would help my game. It didn't help as much as I thought I would and there was a couple of times I almost thought of walking and taking a break. Then I thought about all the reasons I was running this race and I decided to keep going. There was only one water stop and I don't usually get water during a 5K but this was my warmest 5K to date so I couldn't WAIT for the water stop. It was tough trying to navigate all the people, mainly kids, who stood in front of the table rather than getting their drinks and moving out of the way. I almost didn’t get a water because it was such a cluster but luckily there were a couple more tables just past where the cluster was taking place so I grabbed a quick sip and kept moving. I was worried if I walked too much enjoying the refreshment, I wouldn’t start running again so I wet my whistle, tossed my cup into the garbage can, and picked up the pace again. Lots of people were sitting in their yards cheers the runners on so that was neat and provided some motivation. There was also a little girl that had a free lemonade stand for the runners and I had to chuckle because a dad and son stopped, got a drink, and the son poured the lemonade over his head to cool off. I am not sure they realized it was lemonade or just another water stop. I hope bees didn't follow that boy the rest of the race.
Probably around mile 2, I really starting to feel overwhelmed and debated whether I should start walking. It was hot, I was tired, and the shady spots were few and far between. Seemingly out of nowhere, a woman wearing butterfly wings ran past me. The butterfly is the "mascot" of the The Gathering Place and I started to think about what the butterfly represents and what this race meant to me and for the rest of the race, I focused on the butterfly wing-wearing runner rather than how I was feeling. It was just the boost I needed. Before knew it, it was mile 3 and I could see all the people standing cheering on the runners. I was tired and hot but kicked it into high gear….and passed the butterfly lady in the process.
At the last two races I've run in memory/honor of someone who meant something special to me, I've crossed the finish line and have immediately broken into tears as my emotions get the best of me. This year, I didn't have time for that. I was too worried about how I was going to navigate crossing the timing mat. Rather than running through the finish line and moving out of the way, people were stopping so I ran as fast as I could and luckily found a hole to run through the mayhem. I didn’t see the exact time on the clock but it was 26 something so I knew I beat least year's time. I was happy. My brother-in-law finished before me and was waiting with a bottle of water several yards after the finish line and I was having a hard time breathing from running so fast so he walked with me and once my breathing was back to normal, I headed up to final stretch so I could see my family members and cheer them on.
We all met up after the race and waited to hear the race results. This is the only race I've done that doesn't have your stats posted immediately so it was several hours before I knew what my official numbers. I knew I wouldn't place but they announce the overall winners and the top 3 in each AG and my brother-in-law, who is an avid runner and has run several races, including the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon a couple of times, wanted to see if he placed (he got 4th in his AG). We left the race and decided to go get a bite to eat.
According to Runkeeper, I finished in 26:42.That was a good time, I beat last year's race time, but I didn't PR and I was ok with that because I at least met my goal. Since I was toward the front of the pack at the starting line, I figured it was pretty close to being accurate. On the way home from having our post-race lunch with the family and visiting the cemetery to say "hi" to my dad and brother, I noticed on Twitter that the results were posted. Holy moly, had I not been in a moving vehicle, I would have been doing a happy dance. Not only did I beat last year's time, I beat my PR by 5 seconds and placed it the top 10 out of 146 in my AG, neither of which did I think would happen, especially because of how was feeling during the race. Official time for this year's race is 26:29.4. Overall I was 293 (of close to if not more than 1,800 runners/walkers in the 5K). Yep, I cried….tears of not only sadness, but of joy. I guess I can say I had a butterfly or perhaps an angel or two helping me along the way.
On a side note, I designed custom race shirts and my friend and everyone in my family chose to wear them at the race. When were standing around waiting for them to announce the winners, one of the corporate sponsors, Elk and Elk, saw us standing together and took a picture of us and put it on their Twitter feed. I thought that was kinda cool.
So that is my RR. It was an amazing day and one I will never forget. Thank you for taking the time to read this if you were able to make it all the way through without falling asleep. LOL. The race was a pretty big deal to me and it's hard to sum the experience up in just a few sentences. I can't wait for next year's race and can't wait to see what a difference a year might make. I just hope and pray we are done adding angels to heaven for while.
The Gathering Place is still accepting donations through June 30. I am only $297 away from reaching my fundraising goal and I'd love if you'd help me reach it. Visit my personal race page Just Keep Swimming...and Running for more information.