Alright. There isn’t much to it. I got lost after mile 2, ran my 3rd mile with uncertainty, realized I was off-course after 3 ½ miles, then trotted to the finish line, screaming expletives, demanding to speak to the race director.
In reality, I ran a sub-20 5k…I just don’t have the official time to confirm it.
Mile 1 (6:17): Nice and flat, except for one baby hill. Stretched out the legs. Felt confident. Sub-20 was mine.
I wasn’t supposed to go 6:17 in that first mile (the plan was to be around 6:35), so I made a mental note to slow down, just a little bit, after passing the first mile marker.
Mile 2 (6:41): I was running in 2nd place, but got passed by a girl around my age. I reminded myself that this was my race—not a race for placement—so I let her go, but kept her in sight. Third place was still good. And sub-20 was more important.
I kept my wits about me, and slowed my pace down just a little bit, because I remembered how fast I ran that first mile. After about half a mile, I caught back up to the girl who had passed me, and kept a steady distance of about 10 feet between us.
Mile 3: The course was very twisty-turny. Mile 3 SHOULD HAVE included a turn leading back to the start/finish line. But I was running with a pack of people, and we turned in the other direction.
I was hot. I was tired. And I wasn’t thinking straight…so I went with the pack. Obviously. I mean…people don’t get lost during road races, right???????
Whoever was leading the pack in front of us had gone in the wrong direction. And, like herded sheep, we headed back OUT on the course too, instead of heading IN towards the finish line.
I honestly didn’t even think too much about it when we turned in the wrong direction. You see—my sense of direction is H O R R I B L E…so I just kept thinking we were somehow headed towards the finish line through a different route than how we started.
And my running felt really great. I knew I need to pick things up from my 6:40 mile 2, and I definitely felt my legs turn over faster. I reminded myself to save the “balls out” pacing for the last 800. Controlled aggression, as Josh calls it.
My watch ticked to 16 minutes. Still thinking I was on-course (horrible sense of direction, I’m telling you); I started to ramp up the pace even more. Not finishing with a 19-minute 5k was out of the question.
I zoned out and cruised. I felt fast. 18 minutes. 19 minutes. 20 minutes.
…Wait. WHAT THE HELL.
I angrily ripped out my earbuds and screamed, “WHERE THE FUCK IS THE FINISH LINE,” and heard a chorus of 5-8 people around me agree. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. My watch ticked to 21. It was almost too horrible to be true. Did we seriously take a wrong turn???
When our group eventually met up with the rest of the 5k runners, I knew we had been steered off-course. I stopped, and walked. It took .3 seconds to decide that I would NOT be crossing the finish line.
My expletive of choice at that moment was “fuck.” –I yelled fuck to the policemen. I yelled fuck to the backend 5k runners. I yelled fuck to whoever wasn’t running with music. I didn’t care who heard me. I was pissed.
All of the lead women had gotten lost, so the “first place” woman listed in the results finished with a 21. In fact—there are no results listed between 17:37 and 20:44…because we had all gotten lost. Embarrassing if you ask me.
Yes—the leader of the pack after 17:37 went off course; so technically, he should be the person to blame in this situation. But I also blame the race director, and the fact that there was NO ONE on the course, directing people for this crucial turn. The only course markings were a lightly spray-painted arrow on the ground, and [apparently] a small arrow sign staked into the ground.
Fast-forward approximately 30-minutes, after I had:
- Ripped off my race bib in angst
- Thoroughly chewed out the race director
- Had a temper tantrum at the finish line
- Had a temper tantrum on the phone with Josh
- Cried for 15 seconds
- Shook the hand of the girl who passed me, and chatted about the ridiculousness of the race
- Screamed “fuck” some more
- Stomped around the finishing podium, growling at everyone who looked at me
…I found my friends, and calmly muttered, “Well. Maybe I’ll just go run it again.”
Honestly? Thank god for friends who are total enablers. Every single one of them turned to me and said, “ok. You probably should run it again. But go now, so we can leave in 19 minutes.”
So I went. I turned around, slowly jogged to the starting line, slapped on my Garmin, and raced the course again. Alone. I wasn’t 100% certain I’d actually follow through. But after mile 2, I knew I had no choice but to finish, and to finish strong.
Mile 1 – 6:42 (“Ok, you don’t really need to race this again to prove anything. You can stop at any time.”)
Mile 2 – 6:35 (“So sub-20 isn’t going to happen now. Fine. Maybe you can PR. That would be exciting.”)
Mile 3 – 6:29 (“Well, there’s no choice but to finish now. At least you can finish at 3.1 miles exactly and you don’t need to worry about stupid tangents.”)
.1 – :37, 6:10 pace (“Vomit.”)
TOTAL (second) 5k: 20:24 (1-second PR)
I debated running to the race director and shoving the Garmin in his face in triumph; but Gabe stopped me, thankfully.
I was disappointed that I didn’t have that sacred 19-minute 5k in my name. But I tried to look on the bright side: I had just raced two 5ks—within 30-minutes of each other—and PRed in both. I am getting some speed back into my legs after taking most of the month of July off. I am getting faster and stronger; I just need to keep looking at the big picture…
…And also sign up for another 5k in the near future.