see how she ran

The first wave of panic hit me Friday afternoon when I was leaving the school gym with my race packet. Why had I thought it would be fun to run a race? John assured me I’d be fine and I stuffed my fears away.  He was right– what could go wrong? Then close to bedtime I was piling up my race clothes and freaked out again. This time it was my daughters who reassured me I’d be fine, and I went off to bed not feeling too anxious.

I’d been planning to sleep til 6:30, but around 5:30 I went to peek out the window. As the weatherman forecasted, it had snowed in the night, and was still snowing and blowing. Should make for an interesting race. Since there was no more sleep in me, I decided to eat breakfast. No good having the blood flowing to my stomach at 10 AM when I needed it in my legs. I remembered reading that protein is a good idea before a race, so I had an egg and toast along with my coffee.
After getting dressed, I woke kids up, brought the accident-prone dog out to the bathroom, scrubbed the carpet where she’d messed, and set out cocoa and pancakes for the kids’ breakfast. John made hot tea for our big thermos, and I checked to make sure everyone had gloves and coats and hats.

We got out the door just before 8, with everyone and enough gear on hand to stand in a snowstorm for hours.  Roads were snow-covered, but not too icy, and we got downtown to the YMCA a full hour before the race.  Parking was effortless that early.  My daughter and her inlaws (our friends the Blodgetts) got there right after we did, and my sister-in-law and her girls got there soon after that.  We picked up our ‘chips’, the thing you tie to your shoe to be timed during the race, and stood around chatting and watching people arrive.

Watching people settled my nerves– there were over 2000 runners/walkers, many in interesting costumes.  Lots of dogs and kids.  Definitely a family-friendly event, nothing high-powered or scary.

We brought our puppy– she cries if we leave her in the kennel alone– and the kids took turns carrying her around.  For fun we outfitted her in a miniature race number that matched mine, and she (and whoever was holding her) got lots of attention from people passing by.

My sister Rachel got there about 20 minutes before the race was scheduled to start.  She was the one most likely to be my speed, so she and I were planning to run together for at least part of the race.  Ten minutes or so before race time, we peeled off extra layers of clothes and joined the mass beginning to congregate behind the starting line.  We ended up about halfway back in the mob.

After all my wondering about clothing, I ended up in my normal running clothes: capris, long sleeve underarmour shirt, and pink fleece vest with gloves and hat. It was just right. I brought the YakTrax, but by race time the roads were melting and there wasn’t enough snow to warrant them, so I handed them off to John at the last minute.

We started off slow, shuffling in the mob of people, then walking, then finally having enough space to run slowly.  We were behind lots of walkers, so Rachel and I took turns looking for holes and passing single file.  It was nice to have checked out the course beforehand, and made it easier to pace myself.  We weren’t breaking any speed records, with dodging walkers, but it was fun to be in the middle of a big group.  In each race bag, there had been a jingle bell, so if you listened, you could hear quiet little jingles as we ran.

The first mile felt easy and took 13 minutes, just what I was hoping.  I can run a little faster than that, but not for long, so I wanted my first mile to be my slowest. After the first mile, my sister started taking some short walk breaks, but was able to catch back up to me since she runs faster. During all my training I’ve alternated walking and running too, which has worked well.  My longest unbroken run was 1.5 miles, so I expected to walk some during this race.  But the pace here felt so easy to me that I started wondering about the possibility of running the entire 2.5 miles.  At the 1.5 mile mark, my sister fell back a bit. We’d agreed to split up when we needed to.  So I decided to keep my pace steady and see if I could make it to the 2 mile mark.   If needed, I could walk a block then, and finish the last half mile strong.

All this time I was steadily passing walkers, and now and then even a runner, usually an adult with a child in tow.  Little kids would dart past me, run a block or two, then fall back to walk awhile. For a few minutes I did valiant battle with a fit-looking young couple running with a pair of jogging strollers.   But then their three year old begged to get out and run, and they fell back.  Whew.  🙂

Getting close to the two mile mark I was getting pretty tired and the thought of a walk-break was sounding appealing.  But my breathing wasn’t ragged, and my legs still had enough oomph for brief accelerations as I moved around slower racers.  Plus I could see the corner of the dog-leg that marked the last three blocks of the race, which meant that my family was almost in sight.  No way was I going to walk then.

I spotted my family before they spotted me, and waved hugely to get their attention.  They were on the steps of a church waiting for me.  My 16 year old son saw me first (he’s tallest) and alerted everyone.  My hubby snapped a few pictures and they all waved and cheered.  I waved back, grinning.  I felt good, really strong still.  My 6 year old ran a block with me, and I kinda wanted her to finish the race with me, but big sis corralled her in and I went on.  All that was left at that point was two blocks, a turn, and a chute of about 400 feet to the finish line.

At the corner, runners with chips were directed to the left, so they could cross where the chip-reader was, and I went over that way.  Looking forward to the finish, my heart sank for a second.   I was tired, and all of a sudden it looked far away.   But I pulled myself together and plowed forward, trying to lengthen my stride and accelerate just a little at the end.  As I finished, the official clock read 33 minutes and change, but my stopwatch that I’d started when I actually crossed the starting line read 32:14.   That gave me an average speed of 12:53 per mile. Certainly not blindingly fast, and looking back I think I could have pushed myself harder that last half mile.   But four months ago, I couldn’t run the distance between two telephone poles without sucking wind and stopping.  Now I can run two and a half miles and still be smiling at the end.  I was really happy with how I’d done.

At the end of the chute after the finish, they clipped off my chip and tore the race tag off the bottom of my number.  Then I went past the water station to grab a water bottle and wait for my sister to come through.  In a minute or two she did, then we went looking for my family and for the others who’d finished before we did.  Here are all us gals together, including Natalie on the far right who rocked the race by finishing first of all the women, and Laura who finished 10 minutes ahead of me.  Yehaw!

I spent about 5 minutes feeling hot, then started shivering and needed to find my fleece pants. There was soup and bagels and coffee and chocolate milk.  My sister and I snagged chocolate milk for the kids. We all hung around together for awhile, chatting and listening to the music and watching more runners come in.  Good fun. By that point it was mostly people who’d run the 6.1 mile course- they came in fast and strong.  It was an exhilarating feeling to see them finish and to know I’d run my race and done well in my own way.

The puppy, exhausted, was sleeping in Joshua’s arms. After a bit it started to rain.  I decided I’d kept my family out in the cold for long enough.   We gathered everyone up and headed off for an early lunch of pizza on our way home.  I grinned all the way home, and found myself wondering when I could run another race.


  1. I’m so proud of you! Congratulations!

  2. Very inspiring! Great job!

  3. Congratulations from a fellow couch to 5k grad! I love hearing about your running and I’m so proud of how well you did in the race! Keep it up! 🙂

  4. Way to go!

  5. Way to go!

  6. Races are addictive! Without them, I wouldn’t run.

  7. elizabethk says:

    Smiling, tingly and even a bit teary for your accomplishment! Run – Mary, RUN! 😉
    God Bless and Congratulations!!

  8. Christine D. says:

    It was great fun sharing your day with you! Wanna go for 3.1 mi. at Race for the Cure in May? You’ve only just begun! Way to go!

  9. Yay! So happy for you! We’ll have to run a race together next year. Maybe the See Jane Run “Champagne and Chocolate” one…? 🙂

  10. Congratulations! Don’t you feel like you can accomplish anything now?

  11. Good for you!! You have to be so proud of yourself!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Well told, Mary! Great first race. How are your legs?

  13. GREAT job!!!!!!!!

  14. You looked awesome out there! Very proud of always! Can’t wait to go to the next one.

  15. Oh my goodness! I always get teary eyed at a good race story and have been looking forward to hearing about this one! You did not disappoint! I’m so excited for you and your running adventures!

  16. Wahoo!! Congratulations on your run — you must feel wonderful!

  17. Woot! Congratulations!
    Yer a stronger gal than I am. I don’t even go that far or fast on the treadmill, let alone in the cold.

  18. Congratulations!! Awesome! 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing!! I’ve been reading your posts about the couch potato to 5k and it’s definitely making me consider trying it. I think I’m at around the same place you said you were at when you started.

    Did you do any running on a treadmill? We just got 4 inches of snow, so I’m a bit reluctant to start running outside now.

  19. elizabethrose says:

    Great job, Mary! I’m so proud of you!

    You have inspired me to begin my own journey from couch potato to honest-to-goodness runner. Now that my new baby has arrived I can’t wait to break out the double stroller — even in the Oregon rain!

  20. I am SO proud of you, Mary!

  21. Yeah!!!! YOu did it!!!!!!!!!

  22. Yay Mary!!! Here’s to the first of many good races:

    Isa 40:31 (NIV) But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

  23. Great job, Mary! What an accomplishment…doesn’t it feel good!?

  24. Hooray for a runner! You did it and did it well – isn’t that accomplishment a good feeling?

  25. AWESOME! You go, girl. And what a great example for your kids, to follow, too. Yay you!

  26. Yay Mary! Congratulations! Strong, inside and out.

  27. Two questions for you Mary:

    1) Have you ran before this? (I mean growing up. Can people that have NEVER been able to run LEARN to run?)

    2) This quote: “But four months ago, I couldn’t run the distance between two telephone poles without sucking wind and stopping.” Are you being literal here? Cuz if so, maybe even someone like me could learn to run.

    Look forward to hearing your feedback!!


    • Shelly,
      I ran track (very badly) for one or two seasons in high school before quitting because I had shin splints. That’s it. And yes, most definitely I couldn’t run between 2 telephone poles last fall before stopping and gasping for 5 minutes. If I can do it, you can too! 🙂

      • Did you do something to deter from shin splints this time? I have started walking again and am contemplating this whole “possibly learn to run thing”. It felt good to move again yesterday and have some breakthrough in my prayer time. Thinking my tech-son needs to get me set up with something to listen to while I’m out!! 🙂

        Did you do the “Couch to 5K” plan exactly as I see online or did you do a varied form? I don’t even have to end up a “runner”, but long to feel better again!! 🙂

        • No, actually, I got shinsplints again. 🙂 But I still think it is worth it to be in shape. I started by doing the C25K program, and then modified depending on my ability. I progressed much slower at first– I think I did weeks 2 and 3 about three weeks each, and didn’t really get able to run 3 miles til this spring. But it worked well for me.

  28. Thanks, Mary!!! I’m all about revised versions. 🙂 Just got back and am sopping wet. And it feels good. 😉