Well, I completed my first 5K – yay!!! Happy Dance! I’m thrilled to have done it, but there are some important details that I’d like to share with you so you learn from my experience! I would not recommend this to others for their first race.
First of all, I had been training on roads and flat dirt trails. This race involved a great deal of running in the grass as well as slight inclines on trails surrounding the grassy area, not to mention a huge hill known for sledding. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal…so it was grass instead of dirt…so what, right?! Well, I found out pretty quickly that running in grass is much different and more difficult. I found out that slight inclines that look like nothing are much more challenging to run on than they might appear. I was struggling many times throughout the race. I was lapped more than once by YOUNG guys who made me feel like I was an old woman who was practically standing still. Luckily, my friend that got me started running was there by my side the whole time to keep me going.
The race was filled with high school students who already knew the course because this is a common route for the cross country team. I was not on the cross country team of course and therefore had NO CLUE what route to follow. Yes, there was a map. The map showed really significant markers such as trees and bushes. I was not a girl scout. I can’t tell one tree from another, and I can’t estimate distance from a sketch! I assumed the course would be marked with proper turns and mile markers. Not so much. SO…after we came out of the woods, we didn’t know where to go. What do you do when there are no signs directing traffic? You follow the person in front of you! So, we followed the person in front of us but then realized there were people going in two different directions. At this point it was too late to do anything about it so we just joined back up with the pack and were shortly running through the finish “area.” At this point, we realized we goofed somewhere. We had totally missed the huge sledding hill!!! So, my first 5K wasn’t really a 5K because I had missed a whole section of the course!! I was so annoyed and frustrated! If only the course would have been marked… ** SIGH!! ** Instead of 3.1 miles, we ran more like 2.4 miles.
The finish line was a hot mess too. We were basically corralled into an aisle between two strings. We had to stop abruptly and take off a portion of our bib for them to record our times. It was a little anti-climatic because we didn’t get to really cross a finish line like I was expecting. There wasn’t even a sign that said ‘FINISH” or anything. I had friends and family there supporting me for my big debut, and it was a big flop.
In spite of all the challenges, this race did what I wanted it to do…it kept me motivated. It forced me to keep training on days when I didn’t feel like training. It gave me a concrete goal to strive for, and it taught me what to look for in future events!
My best advice is to learn more about the race before you sign up. I didn’t know about active.com or ohiochallengeseries.com before this race. I would have preferred a road race (instead of grass) that didn’t require you to pass over the same area multiple times. I would preferred a course with better directional markings and a real finish line. I totally understand that not every race can be like that, but I wish my FIRST one could have been more in line with my expectations. Talk to other runners or do more online research than I did so you know what you expect on race day. 🙂