My First Finish Line . . .

A fellow Start2Finish program participant and I sprint it out (by our standards)
while taunting each other at the Finish Line (the ONLY fun thing about running).
Well . . . with just four and a half weeks remaining until the Prairie Fire Marathon and a few days less than that left in the formal Start 2 Finish training program through GoRun Wichita - I figured it was high time to at least TRY a race. Why?

I had been told (and, for the record, it is VERY true) that race "conditions" are very, very different than a regular run. Some differences I found:

  1. (For me) Daylight alone was a little odd. I rarely start a run while the sun is in the sky. Just having broad day light (and quickly rising (totally AVERAGE, I'd like to point out) early-September temperatures) looming above me made the experience feel different.
  2. There are a LOT of people milling about. Not just runners (there were nearly 1,000) but staff, volunteers, sponsors, vendors, cops, motorcyclists (for NO apparent reason), family, friends, supporters, etc. 
  3. It is super chaotic. This may only matter to people with my anxieties but all those people and a lack of clearly defined timing and expectations makes for odd idle time. You are not totally sure when to start stretching or where to do it. There is a band playing over "here" and a radio station broadcasting live with speakers blaring over "there" and there are people yelling and screaming and laughing and hanging out. You are not totally sure how long you have for a warm up run (I had just done eight miles 20 minutes earlier so I felt loose) or where to do it. You are not totally sure where on your shirt to put your "bib" or how to put it on (Okay, this was a confusion unique to me but it got me wound up) and there are people there to socialize with (something I don't factor in to running).
  4. Once you get lined up there will be a very odd version of the National Anthem played that is longer than needed. I don't mind the anthem but why the guitar/rock version and why not make sure everyone is quiet and ready?
  5. Once they start the race (luckily this one was organized - as I'm told is the standard - in groups based on speed and intended activity (walk or run)) there are several minutes (for us slow pokes) where you just sort of stand there - this feels odd.
  6. "Moving" is a misnomer in the very early going. At least for this race there were people in front who were holding hands - essentially blocking the path. There are stroller pushers to your left - a curb with cones and rope to your right. A woman talking very loudly with her kid directly behind you. Patience is no virtue here - you're being timed. Just say "excuse me" and push through. It took me .4 miles to get clear of the pack. 
  7. Pacing is SUPER HARD when you're not used to running with people. Look over your left shoulder - an 11:00 miler. To the right? 8:00 miler. And the woman pushing the stroller? Who knows. Thankfully I had my (borrowed) Garmin to help me out but I still fluctuated wildly (everything from 17:20 at the mid-point (I walked for a bite) to a robust 8:15 at the very end) in pace. NOT good for me to think about going from a 3ish miler to a 13.1 miler. I have to be consistent.
  8. Finding a "pace car" is huge. I got lucky. I quickly spotted a guy I have seen at my GoRun Wichita group runs. I knew (from seeing him) he ran at about my pace (he does a walk/run hybrid that sort of plagued my initial hopes but - overall - he was close to my speed). I never let him out of my sight (including when he was behind me). 
  9. Volunteers MEAN well. But the clapping, the cheering, the outstretched hands for high fives, and the coaching is wicked unwelcome for this curmudgeon (I know 99% of the world will appreciate them). SIDEBAR - If you utter a profanity on the race course, you may be "warned" by a volunteer . . . super awkward moment.
  10. Also - using profanities on a race course is apparently discouraged (what sort of "sport" is this?).
  11. The course markers are your best friend. Distance, turning, etc. The only non-human factor on the course and escape from the clutter and confusion accordingly. 
  12. Crossing the finish line really does feel amazing. Maybe my first indication that there is "accomplishment" in what I am doing and that there will be moments where crossing an arbitrary line in the proverbial sand can actually make you feel better, stronger, and more accomplished. 
I need to get a few more races under my belt in the next few weeks. I am getting more and more physically ready (I finished at about a 13:30 pace, for the record - exactly what I wanted) but I'm getting more and more worried about my mental focus and preparation. There will be a lot more people running in, spectating, supporting, and making noise on the morning of the half.