Two years ago I ran a 20:58 at a local 5k race. Right then and there I made it my goal to break 20. Before every subsequent race my dad gave me a quick pep talk. Repeatedly he asked, “You going to break 20 tomorrow, Kass?” To which I always replied, “I’m sure as hell going to try.” He jokingly rebutted, “Don’t try. Just do it!!!” These conversations always left me smiling. Dad always made it sound so easy. Don’t try, Kass. Just go and do it. 🙂
Well, it may have taken 2 years, but I finally did it Dad. I finally broke 20!
The Starting Line
I arrived at the starting line to the Run to the Rock 5k nearly an hour early. I sat on the ground in silence and carefully observed other runners retrieve their bib at registration. People congregated in small groups chattering among themselves as they were excited to get in a morning jog together. This race was their social outlet, and a wonderful opportunity for to merge healthiness and friendship.
For a split second I envied the social butterflies. A small part of me wanted to just go out for a relaxing morning jog. Another part of me wished a friend could have been present to help pace me to my goal. I shook my head- no- and thought to myself, “Breaking 20 isn’t just going to happen to you Kass. It’s not going to be handed to you by a pacer. A friend won’t make it easier. You have to do this on your own. You have to know that you can do this on your own. But first you have to BELIEVE.”
I toed the line with a unique array of talented athletes: a quiet blonde chick who had legs for days, an inked up Ironman triathlete who was ‘shooting for a sub-17:20,’ and an unassuming collegiate trackster who had young legs on her side. But this time I wasn’t sizing up the competition at the starting line or the least concerned when I got chicked by Miss Legs for Days approximately .05 miles in to the race. Today wasn’t about the external competition; rather it was about facing my racing demons, digging deeper into the hurt and learning to believe in myself.
The first mile of a 5k is always the easiest. My legs are fresh. My breath is steady. I feel confident, focused and unstoppable. My goal feels within reach.
The foghorn blew and I was off at a breakneck pace of 5:30 min/with the other front runners for a grand total of 20 seconds. Feeling that pace was far too speedy I sunk back into my comfortably uncomfortable pace around 6:30s. I reminded myself, “Sub-20. Sub-20. Sub-20!!!! This is happening today! You are in control. You are fitter and faster than in May. This has to happen today!! Let go of Miss Legs. This is your race. Just go!! Fight. Fight. This is my fight song…”
Strange things begin to happen within the psyche during a road race. If you’re not careful your mind will begin to turn on you. What once were positive, focused thoughts at the starting line will change their tune to bargaining and desperation. You fight the good fight, dig deeper within and find something- anything around you to help pull you onward.
I was in the thick of second mile when my thoughts started to turn on me. 1.7 miles in !! That’s it?!? 1.4 left….CRAAAAAP!! Hold on- FIGHT Kass FIGHT!! The pace is slipping, I think I’m dying. I’m dead. Lifeless-heavy-arms, want-to-vom-on-the-side-of-the-road, bye-bye-cruel-world dead. Desperate for any help I could get I eyed the strong runner in front of me, Mr. Blue Shirt. Just hold on to the guy in the blue shirt in front of you. Hold on to Mr. Blue Shirt. Match his pace and don’t let go. Left foot, right foot, repeat.
I loved him. I hated him. Heck, I didn’t even know him. But Mr. Blue Shirt served his purpose during Saturday’s 5k- he gave me a rabbit to chase when I needed it most. He gave me the opportunity to block out the negative, stay in the present and focus on moving forward.
I swear Mr. Blue Shirt isn’t even breathing. I am panting like a bulldog on a hot day, yet Mr. Blue Shirts lips aren’t even moving. YOU can try to drop me Mr. Blue Shirt. I know I sound like a Walking Dead walker but this is just to throw you off my scent. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll stay right here in your back pocket thank you very much.
Mile 3 of a 5k always is a countdown. Four laps around the track left. Three laps. Two laps. One. Fight. Push. Push harder.
By mile 3 I figured my sub20 was out of reach, but then again… you never know, right? Hope has a magic way of keeping you alive and pushing you forward, so I pressed onwards. I spent mile three with thoughts focused on the finish as I imagined seeing the finish line. Utterly exhausted I reminded myself, “You can stop when you get to the finish. Suck it up and get to the finish. A sub20 will NOT be handed to you. If you want it you have to TAKE IT!””
As I rounded the bend on Water Street the finish line was in sight!! Just as I squinted my eyes to read the clock a voice from the crowd screamed, “RUN FASTER!!! MOVE FASTER!! NO, RUN FASTER!!” Your average spectator doesn’t mildly harass 🙂 a runner like that. Not only was my husband was somewhere in the crowd, but he could see that my sub-20 was within reach. The clock revealed a 19:45, so I picked it up as fast as my legs could take me.
I crossed the finish line as the third woman with an official time of 19:58, a mere 2 seconds under 20 minutes. It might only be by 2 seconds, but those 2 seconds mean a hell of a lot to me. I could have quit. I could have let up during mile 2 and let my goal slip between my fingers again. I could have easily gave up two seconds. But not today.
Today I chose to lean into the hurt.
Today I chose to fight.
Today I chose to believe in myself.
Today I chased 19 and after 2 long years- I finally caught her! 🙂
Attempted quick post-race pic with my little.
I spent the rest of the day post race baking a chocolate cake with my favorite little lady! Happy Birthday Lillian!
Love my little!