Everyone needs little victories. Race morning, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to run the 5K being just three days out from my stomach virus. The week before had been one of my slowest times in the 5K and I didn’t want a repeat performance. On the drive to the Shipshewana Mayfest 5K, I started psyching myself out replaying in my mind that I just wasn’t up to it, until something clicked and I paused my record of self doubt. What was I trying to prove and who was I running this race for?
This has been a question on my mind lately since I signed up for my first marathon and have been logging training miles each week. Since beginning my running journey just three years ago, I have run many races and even added the expertise of a running coach with Jake Gillette. In the beginning, every race was exciting because I was running faster each race while slashing personal records and running progressively longer distances. It was pure competitive fun in daily training and racing with Derek. But when it comes to race day, no one can run the race for you. When the discomfort and distractions set in, you have to dig deep inside yourself for motivation and focus to push through to your goal.
One of the main reasons that I compete is that every day is a chance to better myself and achieve little victories. No one is forcing me to run when it’s windy or I am facing hills. It’s my decision to give it my best and run hard during a 5K race. Each challenge is just one small hurdle awaiting the next, much larger hurdle ahead.
So as we got closer to our destination on race day, I decided that this 5K was something that I could do. My whole mindset changed and I told myself that if it was a flop that I still would be happy with myself if I gave it my all. During the warm up run, Derek and I talked about our goals for the race ahead. While my current PR is a 25:01, it hasn’t been broken since July 2016 at the Runners on Parade 5K in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Coming off a 26:13 the week before, I was a little rusty in the racing scene and I knew that I had the potential to run better. I decided to pace for an 8:15 in the first two miles and then run whatever I had left for the last mile. I kept warm in the minutes leading up to the start by running strides as I’ve seen many expert runners do to stay loose.
The gun shot the start and I jolted with surprise running out with the pack. Derek turned to look at me and say “What are you doing? This is a 6:50 pace!” I was so caught up in atmosphere that I thought he must be running an 8:00 min pace with me. I backed off to a steady 8:15 feeling slower than molasses. That did not feel at all like a 6:50 pace! As I settled in, I decided to pick out my competition and focused on catching up to two Amish girls running together. They must have been starting out steady because I easily caught up to them and my watch beeped an 8:03 at mile 1. I knew that I would need to keep my pace so I wouldn’t crash later.
The course was flat with very few turns from the old train station in downtown Shipshewana past the Wana Feed Grocery and through a residential neighborhood to a turn-around at a Goshen Physicians office. The roads were completely blocked by police cars and I could look ahead to the upcoming set of blinking lights for my next turn since there were no buildings or trees in view out in the country. I worked to catch up with the next group of high school girls up ahead. I was able to pass them at the halfway point and started feeling confident to pick up the pace. One of girls in the pack broke away and caught up to me as we neared mile 2 at an 8:10 pace.
We were neck and neck for the next 1/2 mile as we retraced our steps and I started to feel the heaviness in my legs. I made it my goal right there to not lose her and even to beat her to the finish. As we approached the finish line, she kicked it in and I struggled to stay with her. I saw Derek out of the corner of my eye as he yelled, “There’s someone right behind you!” I started sprinting to the line, pushing ahead of the woman in my passing lane as I chased after my rival finishing 8 seconds behind her and just 1 second in front of the woman going for a pass. My final time clocked at 25:15 min, an 8:09 overall average pace, that was just 14 seconds slower than my current personal record.
My body seemed to sigh with relief as I caught my breath knowing that I had given it all I had on that given day. Running truly requires centering myself on the present moment to have success. There is no advantage in worrying about what will happen or what I have done in the past. I know that I can run better and will set my sights on achieving even more this year.
The race directors awarded the top 2 runners of each division (Ages 13-25, 26-59, and 60+). I was shocked to place 2nd in my age group of 26-59 years and win a $20.00 coin at the Davis Mercantile Shops where we celebrated with Jo Jo’s Pretzels and exchanged the rest of my winnings for cash. The Shipshewana Mayfest 5K was no magical event, but a simple reset button for me to get my race legs back. While this race wasn’t my best, I had won a small victory to get my psyche out of a slump and back into an athlete’s mentality.