I Ran the Dumbest Race of my Life and Picked up a Medal: True Story

Have I ever mentioned how I hate 5ks?  Though I’ve been a runner for 10 years, I’ve only run one 5k in my life.  The distance is just ugly to me.  I’m not a fast runner, I hate speedwork, and I run for peace and desire to reach that perfect long-distance nirvana only found past Mile 4.  I’d rather eat glass than sprint for 3.1 miles.

The one time I did run a 5k, it was the Escalade race through the streets of Old Town in Geneva…typical Old Europe…hilly, windy cobblestone streets.  Ankle breakers.  I actually enjoyed the feeling of cutting loose, and my time was respectable (24-25 minutes if I remember right), but I didn’t have any strong desire to run another one.  It’s just not my strength.  I am a tenacious monkey, but not a speedy one.

As part of my half marathon training, good ol’ Hal Higdon suggested running a 5k last weekend, and luckily enough, there was one downtown that fit the bill:  The 4th Rivalry Run, pitting Missouri supporters against Kansas pukes.

If you aren’t familiar with the area, Kansas City, Missouri is right on the border of Kansas, with the University of Missouri and that pathetic excuse for a school known as the University of Kansas both within a short distance.  These two schools hate each other with a passion dating back to the Civil War.  Though the race is billed as state vs. state, it’s mostly MU vs. KU.

As a proud MU grad, I was glad to participate, though again, I hate 5ks.

I’ve run exactly two speedwork sessions in the past eighteen months, both coming within the last three weeks.  In fact, I cut last week’s session short, running only 3 repeats instead of 6, because I’ve been having a lot of plantar fasciitis and hip flexor trouble (in opposing legs, which makes for high comedy as I gimp down the street the first half-mile of runs favoring one leg until my hip flexor loosens up, followed by a herky-jerky stride for the remaining distance because that f’er in my opposite foot hurts), and I think that speedwork causes me to lose form and hit the ground hard, exacerbating any injury issues.  I kind of look like a flailing chicken when I do intervals.  It’s hot stuff.

Anyhoo, I showed up ready to do my best and loving the fact that it was a gorgeous morning.  I spent a significant amount of time running up and down the side street to get my leg and foot loose, and I noticed that of the crowd of 650 or so, there were only about 30-40 people warming up.  Is this typical?  How do these people expect to start off running fast?  I assumed that it must not be a popular race with dedicated runners.  There was a lot of standing around going on.  I decided to make sure I was toward the front of the corral.

Those of us who had been running warmups let out a collective groan just before the starting time, when they announced a 15-minute delay.  Really?  Now we all had to wait a few minutes before running additional warmup laps.  More energy expended…and I could smell bacon, which was very distracting.


 I took a moment to review my “whatever you do, don’t…” goals for the race…

Don’t die.  This was a big one.

Don’t start off too fast.  My speedwork sessions (all two of them) have been at an estimated 8:00/mile 5k pace.  I hoped to run the first mile around 8:00-8:15, saving a bit of energy for the big hill between Miles 1-2, and then to see how I felt for the last 1.1 miles…if I ran the second mile around 8:30 and felt good, then maybe I could run the last around an 8:00 and finish around the 24:45 mark.  I decided that I would be quite happy with anything under 25 but not shoot myself if I ended up closer to 25:30.  I wanted a fairly steady race.

Don’t get caught up in other runners.  I was racing against myself and no one else, and this race wasn’t even my goal, just part of my overall training program.  No need to be miserable.

Don’t run stupid…kind of summing up everything.

Right.  I lined up toward the front and set my music.  I’d debated against even having music and didn’t really want it but decided to play it to drown out the sound of my breathing.

And we were off…and I was running to that new Katy Perry “Roar” song that I just downloaded.  I decided to buy it and listen to it on my runs before I hear it 10,000 times on the radio and begin to despise it.

The lyrics were awesome and upbeat, the sun was shining on a glorious morning, and we were running fast.  It felt great…we headed toward the hill, and as we settled in I knew I was running under an 8:00 mile.

But it felt so good, and I was comfortable.  I felt like it was a little too fast to sustain for the whole race, but I knew I would be slowing down soon for the hill, so decided to go with it.  It’s such a short race…how bad could it get, even if I’d overshot my initial goal pace by a little?  

And then my Runtastic app told me that I’d run the first half mile at a 6:40 clip.



It was the Geneva half marathon all over again, where I ran a few sub 7:00 miles at the start and then suffered torture the last few miles, the likes of which I never wanted to experience again, even if I PR’ed with a 1:52.

How could I be so stupid and off on my sense of pace?  Damn you Katy Perry and your cheesy-ass lyrics!  Curse you young female runners for running just slow enough that I could keep up but just fast enough that I couldn’t hang!  Now I was going to hurt, and hurt bad.  I honestly wouldn’t have guessed that my feet could even run a 6:40, coordination wise.

I was aggravated that I had no sense of my own pace.  I tried to slow down to what felt like an 8:00 pace, and I did, finishing the first mile in 7:19.  I tried to be positive–I really did.  I told myself that I had banked a little time and should be happy about it, and the pain that I was soon going to feel wouldn’t last long, since it was a 5k.

Mile 2 was a ginormous suckfest, and that hill was killer.  We climbed 100 feet in less than half a mile, and I spent most of that time castigating myself.  I think the phrase “you dumbass” circled in my mind at least 30 times during that short 4-minute period, along with other thoughts that I won’t repeat here in case my kids read this.

I finished the second mile with an 8:13 split, so things were still okay, I told myself.  Right the ship, I said.  One mile left, I said.  Don’t fall apart now, I said.  Bacon at the finish line, I said.

I fell apart.  I tried to speed back up to salvage my time and make the most of that stupid 7:19 first mile.  Then the full-on agony hit, and I had to slow back down.  What was really frustrating was that I couldn’t seem to bring myself to slow down beyond a certain speed, even though I could have run much slower.  I still don’t understand it.

At about the 2.4 mile mark, I did something that I’ve NEVER done in a race, and maybe have only done five times ever in my life on a run, period.

I stopped to walk.  I stopped to walk when I could have just slowed down but kept running.




It was a complete mental breakdown, not just a physical one, and knowing that made me want to scream.  I have never run so stupid or collapsed mentally like that.  It was a completely foreign feeling to this runner, and if it happens again some bystander is likely to die.

I crossed that finish line and had to resist the urge to climb up the side pole, tear down that finish banner and wipe it off the face of this earth.  I went to sit on the curb and steam.  After drinking a bottle of water and deciding not to go completely apeshit, I checked my splits and saw that I’d still managed an 8:38 pace for the final mile.  How was that possible with stopping to walk five times?  How fast was I running between those walking breaks?  Who was I, and where was my sense of self?  Who was cooking all that infernal bacon and where could I get a slab?

Tough questions and few answers.  I ended up with a 25:48 time.  I was so pissed.

I saw the first sheet of results go up and decided to go see how bad I stacked up against the other runners.  I wanted to see a bunch of women ahead of me in my division to punish myself (Stupid Women Ages 40-44 Who Ran the Race with Pillow Marks on Both Sides of Their Face.)

I finished 2nd in my division.  I got a medal.

Seriously?  I’ll take the medal, because Lord knows I’ll never get another one in my life, but we all know that a 25:48 is not typically a medal-worthy time.  I’m not bagging on it, but it’s the truth and I know it.  I’ve only run 2 5ks, and it’s not even my best time.  I had to laugh.  It was so funny that I took a break from hating myself and decided to enjoy the next few minutes until the ceremony.

I took a picture with KC Wolf…


And I proudly walked up for my medal…the only one I’ll ever likely get, and one that will remind me of my dumbest race ever!




Happy (smart) running!