The day before this year's Panther 5K was a Walk-a-thon for my daughter's school. I wasn't planning on running any of it (Hello? WALK-a-thon?), but I ended up running and walking almost four miles. I really hoped I wasn't going to regret it.
I woke up on Saturday morning feeling pretty good. The weather this year was perfect. There was a light breeze and plenty of sunshine and the temperature was right around 55º at race time. Before the race, I actually got to the point where I regretted my long pants and wished I had worn capris. Oh, well.
My neighbor/running buddy and I ran together. We started off pretty fast, and after we had ran about three-quarters of a mile, we decided we were going to do 3:00/00:45 run/walk intervals. We kept up a pretty great pace doing that—just under 10:00/mile. We seemed to be really far out in front of everyone or really far behind. We weren't entirely sure. We passed a cyclist riding in the opposite direction who said we were the first women she had seen. Now, we KNEW we weren't the first women, because we knew there were people in front of us. However, we were unsure of how many people were in front of us, so the comment from the cyclist was really exciting!
It wasn't too long after we passed the cyclist that my buddy started having trouble breathing. It wasn't a lung issue, though. She must have had some sort of subluxation in her spine because it was causing her excruciating pain. I tried my best to motivate her and keep encouraging her to push hard, but she probably wanted to punch me in the face.
We skipped a run interval and started walking a little as my buddy tried to breathe through her back pain. Then, at around 2.5 miles, we saw a couple of women in front of us. A couple of women that, as I recall, we had "leap-frogged" with a few times over the course of the race. I told her that I really wanted to beat those women. She said, "Go for it."
It's hard to leave a running buddy behind, especially when they are hurting. I felt really selfish taking off without her. Then, at about 2.75 miles, I heard the announcer call out the first place female time as the runner crossed the finish line—27:00. I honestly couldn't even fathom that it was possible that the first female runner had just crossed the finish line. I quickly started trying to figure out how many women were between me and the finish. I knew there weren't many.
I started getting pretty fatigued, and I wanted to slow down. I had taken off too fast with too much race left. Then, I reached the point in the course that came back onto the track at the high school. There were roughly 250 meters between me and the finish. I dug deep and found a little more speed.
|Holding my 3rd place medal in front of the finish line.
I don't remember for sure, but I think I saw at least one of my kids at track side holding out their hand for a high-five and saying, "Go, Mom!" I crossed the finish line at 30:33. That's only eighteen seconds slower than last year, so I was and am pretty happy with that. Perhaps the more astonishing thing was that right after I crossed the finish, a third place female medal was placed around my neck. My first age group placing!
I looked up the times from the race last year and I learned that NONE of the placing times this year would have placed last year. This year was apparently a much slower race. I have to wonder if it had something to do with the fact that the race was on TC Marathon weekend. Maybe all of the fast runners were participating in a bigger race the next day so they opted to not participate in the Panther 5K this year. Whatever the case, I'm grateful for the opportunity to finish with a medal.
In case you're wondering, my buddy finished fourth or fifth for females. There may have only been one runner who finished between us. That runner placed, too, I think, because she was in the senior age group. But I'm not positive about anything that happened after I finished the race. I was on cloud nine, and I was trying to locate my family.
Overall, I'm incredibly happy with how the race went. The Panther 5K served as a training run for my 10K that I was scheduled to race a couple of weeks later. While I don't expect to be able to place in my age group ever again, it was a very nice surprise. I'm already looking forward to next year. I hope that some year my kids will want to run the race with me, but I don't blame them for wanting to stay and play on the inflatables. I guess we shall see what next year brings.