By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
On Sunday, October 4th, 2009, I reached a new milestone in my life. I participated in the CIBC Run for the Cure for breast cancer with huge trepidation and managed to run the whole 5-kilometre course non-stop. It was quite an accomplishment for me and I’m so glad I did it.
If you’re curious to know what it’s like for a first-timer to run 5K — that’s 3.107 miles for those of you on the Imperial system — here’s a rundown of my day.
I’ve learned that distance running is just as much of a mind game as it is a physical challenge. In this post, I’m trying to recall the types of thoughts I was thinking throughout the morning as I got closer and closer to the finish line and beyond.
Breakfast of Champions
I woke up long before 6:00 am and by 7:00, I ate a big breakfast. Eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast is important every day of the week and on Sunday-Runday, mine consisted of a glass of orange juice and a toasted plain bagel topped with unsweetened, smooth peanut butter, honey and a banana. I also drank a cup of green tea instead of my regular coffee. I haven’t had a bagel in a long time and it was a nice change of pace for me. I think it was a good choice because the meal gave me the energy I needed for the run. In this case, carbs are recommended.
Emily, my Team Bosum Captain, suggested I wear a long-sleeve shirt under my event t-shirt because the morning air would probably be chilly. (Thank God it didn’t rain or worse, snow, like it did in Calgary! We had brilliant weather!) When I unfolded this year’s Run for the Cure official t-shirt and saw the word “Hope” splashed across the front for the first time, a tear came to my eye and I had to take a deep breathe.
Everyone knows that having the right shoes makes a big difference when running and I’m so happy that the New Balance cross-trainers I bought 6-weeks ago fit me like a glove and presented no issues for me. What a relief!
Oh and how can I forget the pink tiara and the fuchsia tutu? More on those embellishments later.
Getting to the start line
I left my house at 7:30 to give myself lots of time to get to the University of Victoria and to find a decent parking space. It took me longer to get there than it should have because I completely missed my exit onto MacKenzie. I just drove right past it. And it didn’t occur to me for at least 5 minutes. I guess I was more nervous than I realized. My excuse is, I was listening to Coldplay’s “Now My Feet Won’t Touch the Ground [Prospekt’s March Edition]” on the radio, a song I had never heard before, and thought, wouldn’t that be a fun way to run this race, running so fast and effortlessly like I was running on air. That’s not exactly what happened although one of the photos below gives that illusion.
In spite of my detour, I was the first to arrive from my team. It took awhile for all of the team members to find each other in the crowd. Emily asked if anyone else wanted to wear a tutu. I was going to pass — the pink foam crown was goofy enough for me, but Jeanette, my trainer, insisted.
Local Jazzercise instructors, including Jeanette, lead us through the warm up. I’m so glad they picked the 9-1-1 song — “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston — because that’s one of my faves these days.
There’s Team Bosum right in the front row. And look at all of the people behind us! I heard 4000 of us registered in Victoria! We managed to raise over $500,000 for breast cancer research. Over $5000 of that was raised by Team Bosum and of that, I raised $300 (200% of my initial fundraising goal).
And they’re off
Well sort of. Jeanette, who inspired me to sign up for the run in the first place, made a deal with me and another Team Bosum runner, Peggy. She promised to tag team between us and motivate us throughout the whole 5-K course, which meant she ended up running way more than anyone else did that day. So the three of us had to start together and there was a bit of a delay because they both had to check their bags and use the facilities right before embarking on the run.
I was losing patience. I just wanted to get this thing over with. Jeanette said to me, “You’re panicking; I can feel it.”
I would not have used the word “panic.” But now I know what “Chomping at the bit” means.
And then she said, “I do this every year. Trust me, we’ll fly by everyone anyway. Just follow me. First we’re going to walk for a few minutes to warm up and then we’ll run. And it’s not a race.”
I was surprised by the amount of people who were participating. Jeanette, Peggy and I walked briskly along the grassy median past all of the walkers on the road. Within a few short minutes we starting running. Keep in mind that I trained on a treadmill for the past several months and running outside with people was a totally different experience.
The first challenge was to keep up with Jeanette and Peggy, who is a grandmother by the way, and dodge past all of the people. There were women, men and kids of all ages walking and running at various speeds, shoulder to shoulder, along the campus road. We had to maneuver around dogs too. It was an obstacle course!
We mostly ran along the outside edge of the circuit which also meant we had to occasionally jump over the odd, orange pylon. Later Jeanette said she prefers weaving in and out and forging a path because it distracts her. I think in this case, distraction is a good idea.
Soon enough, Jeanette and Peggy started pulling further and further ahead of me. I just clipped along at my own pace, which was pretty slow. Slowest runner in the west, I think.
I enjoyed meeting other Team Bosum members at various moments along the way. The pink tutus were easy enough to spot and the spontaneous high-fives were a huge boost.
I barely noticed running downhill which apparently can be hard on the knees. Running up hill was a completely different story. It wasn’t a steep hill — it was just long. That’s when I really slowed down. I simply chugged and chugged and plowed my way up. I realized when I finally crested the top, my heart rate escalated too. Jeanette caught up to me at that point and I was breathing heavily. A little too heavily for my liking — somewhere in the 170-plus beats per minute I’m sure and I was having trouble catching my breathe. I told her I was at the top of my zone and she agreed.
And then an interesting thing happened. Jeanette said to pick up the pace. I thought about that afterward and I realized it was a make or break moment. Most times when you think you’ve hit your physical and psychological limit, you slow down and maybe even stop things altogether. The natural tendency is not to increase your effort or over exert yourself. Although counter-intuitive, pushing myself that much harder at that critical moment did the trick and I was able to continue. I applaud Jeanette for reading my situation and for catching that.
And then she felt confident enough to leave me and find Peggy who was out of my sight by that time. I rounded a corner and one of the volunteers yelled, “Less than two kilometres to go.”
I thought I was so much farther along than that. Ironically, that’s when I started to actually add a little stride to my run.
The Home Stretch
Somewhere in the last kilometre, I had a thought. It occurred to me that this whole thing was a given. It was a given that I would finish this run. It was already a fait accompli. A done deal. It was just a matter of a few more minutes. I also remembered hearing someone else say, “Never slow down in the home stretch.” And those thoughts somehow made the last steps so much easier.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my friend Debbie running out to meet me. She and I have been sharing Jeanette’s treadmill for months and she knows the journey I’ve been on better than most. Grabbing my hand, she said “I’ll run in with you.” And then Jeanette came out of the crowd and grabbed my other hand.
Debbie said, “I know you don’t think you can do this, but you can. I want you to sprint to the finish.”
Somehow, I gave it everything I had and ran all the way home. See, our feet aren’t touching the ground!
All in all, I’m guessing it took me about 50 minutes. And remarkably, my body bounced back well afterward. I felt my quads for a couple of days and that’s about it.
In the midst of all of this, photographer Adrian Lam of the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper was on hand at the finish line too. I was tickled to learn that a professional photographer captured this intense moment, one of the greatest victories of my life, for posterity and posted them online for all to see. Check out the gallery photos at: http://www.timescolonist.com/health/Victoria+Cure+raises+more+than/2065682/story.html?tab=PHOT.
My first run and I get in the paper. It doesn’t get any better than that. It was totally unplanned and unexpected. Pure gravy for me. Thanks Adrian.
Thanks also to Team Bosum with a special mention to Debbie, Emily and Peggy for welcoming me aboard. And finally I’d like to thank Jeanette, a very special person indeed. Onward and upward!