Friday, January 27, 2017

The Torchlight Experience

In my previous post, I wrote about my very first 5K. You can check that out here.

I had absolutely no plans for running another race after the Fit2Fight 5K. However, on July 1st, I received an email from Virtuwell. They were hosting a "Summer of Run" and were giving away entries to various races across the Twin Cities throughout the summer. I had submitted an entry to win a bib for the Minneapolis Torchlight 5K, never actually expecting to win. So, when I opened my email and I read, "Congratulations, you were randomly selected as a winner in the Summer of Run Torchlight 5k giveaway," I was completely shocked. Sure, I could've not run the race, but I kind of figured that I had ZERO legitimate excuses given that I won my entry.

I hadn't run at all since the 5K at the end of May. It was already July and the race was 19 days away. I wasn't terribly concerned with training, because I knew that I was capable of running the distance, and since I wasn't planning to continue running, I wasn't trying to improve upon my time at all. Between July 7th and July 18th, I went on a total of five runs and the combined distance for those runs was only 9.7 miles. Not exactly impressive numbers, are they?

The Torchlight 5K is a part of the Minneapolis Aquatennial celebration. The Aquatennial is a four-day long celebration that starts on Wednesday. The events for the first day include the Torchlight 5K and the Torchlight Parade. The 5K runs along part of the parade route, so as participants run the race, they are passing all of the parade spectators that are already lined up.

My husband dropped me off close to the starting line of the race, and then he drove to the finish line to meet me. As I walked to the starting line, I became more aware of how big the race really was. It was so much different than the little 5K I had run in May. The Torchlight had over 5,000 racers and volunteers! I was absolutely astonished at the size of the event. The lines for the port-a-potties were really long, so I knew I had to get in line right away. I also had to find my pace group.

The weather for that day was not exactly favorable for running. There were record-breaking high temperatures forecasted for the entire week. On the day of the race, the daily high temperature was 93º with 94% humidity and a heat index of over 110º. By race time the temperature was roughly 88º so the heat index was lower, but it was still a very steamy race!

Some races make runners line up according to their pace, and for the Torchlight it was especially important because the Lightrail train crossed the race course. There was a lot of communication between race coordinators to help ensure that racers wouldn't be stopped by the train, though the event was chip-timed and there was supposedly a time mat at the train crossing to help any runners that did get stuck.

After I lined up with the 11:00/mile runners, I tried to stretch and relax, but I found it nearly impossible. I was so busy trying to take everything in! It was incredible to see all the different people. Some were clearly very serious runners, and some were probably just there for the after party. Regardless, the atmosphere was energizing.
Before the race started at 7:30 PM, the national anthem was played. This was not something I expected and it was kind of neat. Then, one by one, pace groups were ushered across the start line after waiting for the okay from the race coordinators down the route by the train tracks. My group didn't start the race until about 7:45.

As I ran down Hennepin Avenue, I could not stop smiling. Spectators were cheering and shouting encouraging words as I ran past. It was invigorating to be running down the middle of the street and taking in the sights of a city that I don't usually hang out in. I knew I was running slowly, but as I said, I wasn't trying to break any records. It wasn't until I reached a bridge that had an uphill that I gave in to my urge to walk. Given the high heat index, I pretty much assumed I wasn't going to run the entire race, which ended up working out because I was so busy trying to enjoy the beauty of the course.

In the end, I finished with an official time of 38:53. That put me in 2,550th place out of 3,501. I finished in 238th out of 341 for my age group. While I wasn't overly impressed with my performance, I was happy that I participated because of the experience.

Do you remember how, after my first 5K, I joked with my husband about doing five 5K's before my 35th birthday? Well, now I had done two 5k's and the idea of doing five didn't seem so intimidating. While I wasn't ready to go out and start searching for races to run, I kept the idea of doing five races in the back of my mind. The Torchlight was an experience that made me begin to understand why people pay to run races. I had experienced the runner's high, and I was starting to warm up to the idea of running regularly.

As it turned out, I would end up having the opportunity to run another race only a few days after the Torchlight. But of course, I didn't know that, yet.

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