I ran the Charlotte Turkey Trot 8K! It was my very first race. So here’s some info for anyone who might be thinking of trying this race next year or trying out some other race for the first time.
Prior to this race, the most I had ever run continuously, without any stops, was 4 miles. I had run as much as 6 miles in a single day, but with a bit of walking interspersed. Last week when I signed up for the race, I felt confident that I would be able to run a full 5 miles without stopping, but over the past few days I developed a nasty cold which gave me good reason to doubt whether I ought to be running at all. After feeling a bit better yesterday, I decided to go for the race despite not being 100% healthy.
Some tips I read about running with a cold (i.e., I’m no doctor, but some other folks said something like…):
- Don’t run if you have a fever.
- If you feel bad below the head (body aches, chills), don’t run. If you only feel bad above the head (congestion, runny nose), with no fever, then you may be ok to run.
- If you’ve been sick, don’t run in a race that will last longer than 1 hour.
Since all of those criteria worked in my favor and since I really really really wanted to run this race, I went for it.
Yesterday, I went to Southpark Mall, in front of Dick’s sporting goods, to pick up my “race packet” which consisted of my race number with a plastic strip on the front (the timing chip that you strap to your shoe), a coupon for the Huntersville half marathon, and my long-sleeved race t-shirt. I read somewhere online that it was bad form to wear your race t-shirt prior to having completed the race (it’s like a badge of honor that you have to earn to wear), but I saw plenty of people wearing the shirt to the race today. I was kind of expecting my “race packet” to be something more. I don’t know what exactly. Maybe something resembling an Oscar Swag Bag? Anyway, it was just the paper number that you pin to the front of your shirt, the timing chip for your shoe, and the t-shirt. It was all you really needed, although a bejeweled bottle of Purell would have been nice too.
I woke up at 6:30 this morning, ate some toast with cream cheese (couldn’t find the peanut butter), drank some coffee and some water, and that was it for me. We arrived over an hour early for the race and ended up waiting in the car until it was almost time for the race to begin. While we waited, Sergio made signs for me on his tablet.
And my personal favorite…
There were 9,100 people signed up for this race, meaning that the roads were completely full of people from the very beginning of the race until the very end. The buzzer went off to start the race and I was so far back (at my appropriate mile pace sign) that it took nearly two minutes to make it to the starting line. That didn’t really matter to me, since, as I said yesterday, my two goals were just to finish and not to walk. I was able to do both those things, even without the help of Sergio’s signs (there were so many people I didn’t see him again until the finish line although he was standing on the sidelines at one point and we missed one another).
The race itself was a lot of fun. There were lots of people in costumes – turkeys, indians, Santa Claus, Superman, a group of guys with matching big curly wigs. The energy was really great and I ran without any music, books, or podcasts, since I had read a tip that it is good to be able to hear the people around you when you’re in a crowded race environment. I was actually glad I didn’t have anything else to distract me, because I enjoyed just taking in the sounds of the crowds and, unlike a solo run, there was really no way to get bored.
I finished the run in 45:21. The fastest runners of this race finished in nearly half that time. It’s almost humbling when you see how many people are so much better at something than you are. I say “almost” because the great thing about running is that it is so individual. The only person you really have to beat is yourself. And all those people behind you.
Sergio was right there at the finish line, waiting to take my picture as I crossed over. That put a huge smile on my face (No need to buy expensive race photos!), but then, soon after I crossed over the line, this happened…
There was a huge pile up of people right after the finish line trying to get their finisher’s medals, water, and oranges. It was chaotic, crowded, hot, and smelly. I felt a little light headed as I stood in this giant crowd of people none of which could go anywhere. I needed to walk it off. I needed to not stop moving, but there was nowhere to go. There was no way out since the area was blocked off completely on both sides. It was actually an even bigger problem for the people who finished after me. Apparently there was so much of a bottleneck that it backed up past the finish line and some folks couldn’t cross the line immediately upon finishing. That would have been really disheartening. This afternoon all participants received an email from the race organizers apologizing for the issue and stating that it was due to having adjusted the finish line this year. They promised the problem wouldn’t happen again.
Early in the days of PawPaw’s Alzheimer’s, he competed in the Olympics at the nursing home. He won a medal for carrying an egg in a spoon, which he gave to MawMaw because, “without her he couldnt’ have done it” and about the nursing home Olympics, he said “Never in my life did I think I’d be involved in something like this.”
I felt kind of like PawPaw today. It’s a truly silly endeavor: running a race, coming in 2013th place, and being totally thrilled anyway. But it’s exciting and rewarding. It’s progress. It makes me feel like I really did something today. I have a feeling this first race won’t be my last.