by Shamala Kandiah Thompson
A few weeks ago I decided it was about time I did a race. I’d been doing longer runs consistently and felt ready to overcome my usual pre-race nerves. I considered a half-marathon in Central Park but settled on a shorter race – Rocky’s 5K in Rockefeller Preserve.
In the days leading up to the race I felt those butterflies beginning to flutter. I worked on convincing myself that I was well able to cope with an offroad 5K. Easier said than done. No matter how non-competitive a runner claims to be, deep down inside most of us want to run a PR with every race.
It was a fuss-free start. Parking was easy, pick-up went smoothly. Small races have their advantages. There were no rigid corals, long speeches or even a starting gun. Kelly and I had recced the course as part of a longer run the previous week.
Starting on the Pocantico River Trail, the first mile is a long grinding climb. I started conservatively aware that going out to quickly would be my undoing. Kelly had taken off at a faster clip but I slowly reeled her in. It was like having a personal pacemaker! Close to the top of that never-ending climb, where the course joins the 13 Bridges Trail we saw Paul – who for a change was playing photographer – and managed to wave and smile. Just.
At the 1 mile point I felt good so as we descended I decided to speed up. While running downhill quickly on a twisty trail with 180 degree turns is not easy I got down with no mishaps.
Heading to the second mile I found myself doing something I rarely do – overtaking other runners. That gave me a real buzz. Ascending the small hill at the 2 mile mark I heard a race official call out “strong coming up the hill”. Me? Strong? Up a hill? I was definitely having a good day. I spotted Paul with the camera again. This time he got a smile but no wave. I needed the energy for the last mile.
My exhilaration lasted until the last quarter mile. Then my stomach started its signature churn. This time when I spotted Paul he got a grimace. Fortunately the finish line wasn’t far off. Hearing Stathis, Kelly’s husband and her kids cheering helped me get across the line with a smile. Which didn’t quite disappear even when a a 12 year old pipped me across the finish line. (Here’s the video evidence!) Finally I had done a race without thinking “why am I doing this?”
I had hoped to be able to do the 5K race in under 30 minutes. I surprised myself by clocking 25.06 at 8.08/min pace and coming 3rd in my age group. I even got a medal and a Rockefeller Preserve photo. Kelly came in at 26:20, bettering her time of last year in this race in spite of a strained knee.
It was a good enough experience that I just might consider another race before my next decade!