I thought I would write a bit of a re-cap of my first 5k - which might be useful for anyone who is considering running one for the first time...
Well, I was lucky in that the race was in my hometown - so there was no need to stress about travel arrangements, or worry about having to get up early etc. I did sort some things out in advance, as per advice I'd seen on other forums. I decided about a week ago what I was going to wear and planned to stick with it, regardless of the weather (in the end, the t-shirt and leggings combo was fine). I went to pick up my number from the centre the day before so I had it all ready and I double-checked the start time of the race and where I was meant to be so I had a plan of how long it would take me to get there. All of these things meant that I was not stressed in the morning and the anxieties I felt were ones that had no real grounds.
In terms of physical preparation - I did my last run (W9R1) on the Thursday - but I went on a long walk on the Friday - so it wasn't like I was completely sedentary prior to the run - I think next time I might consider leaving just one day's gap before the race so I feel more in the zone. I ate as normal - just made sure I drank lots of water the day before and no alcohol. I had some pasta for supper, but nothing excessive portion-wise, and I had my usual muesli and yogurt breakfast about two-and-a-half hours before the race started. In the morning I drank some water but I probably didn't drink enough considering how much warmer it is here. I had a fear of needing to use one of the race portaloos on my way around - in retrospect, more water and being less fearful of the portaloos would be a good thing!
The race itself: we lined up with everyone else and I did some gentle stretching. I was worried about not getting my "brisk walk" in directly before the start - but I think the bit of stretching helped. I got increasingly nervous - I'm hoping that next time I won't feel so on edge beforehand! When the start signal went off everyone moved at once and for a while it was difficult enough to find space to comfortably run without jostling - it thinned out fairly quickly, however. Looking back, I think I made my first big error in the first five minutes of the race - it is easy to get carried along with the pace of the crowd and I definitely ran too quickly initially. I had hoped to speed up as I went around, as it was I was bottoming out by the last 1km. Weirdly I got a slight stitch twice during the race - something that had never happened to me before - probably nerves. I ran it off, but it was disconcerting. There was a point where the race swung past an area I run in regularly - but instead of this being motivating I found I got demoralised because I was so familiar with how long it usually took me to run the stretch - perhaps an instance where running a familiar course might play against you. I felt a bit dehydrated as I went along - it was much warmer than I had bargained for - and my throat kept getting gunged up meaning I had to spit a few times (disgusting and something I never do!). More water the next time! By the way - there were lots of disgusting things happening around me - people fell, vomited - this is not a pretty sport. By the last 1.5km I was struggling - but didn't give into the temptation to walk, but just slowed the pace slightly. With 1km to go I saw some friends who had come out to cheer me and that gave me the boost I needed for the final stretch. I can't pretend that I made the last few 100 metres easily - it required real effort and it was very difficult to try to quell the voices in my head saying "you're not going to be able to finish this". It was as much a mental battle as a physical one.
Crossing the finish line was a moment of exhaustion rather than elation - but about half an hour later I was delighted with myself, my medal, the atmosphere of the day, the achievement. I think I learned some important lessons about the difference of running a race vs running on your own.
Tonight I'm supposed to be running W9R3 - my graduation run. But, weirdly considering the weekend's achievement - I'm quite demotivated. That race was my goal for so long and I feel a bit like the end of the programme and the achievement of the goal has deflated my motivation completely. I hope I will go out this evening and have a good run and feel like I want to continue. My long-term goal is to run a 10k in September - and I know I will have to keep up my current performance as well as building on it to achieve that. But it's hard to feel in the mood for it, especially now that the runs are getting longer. Sorry to end the (overly long) post on a down note - but this is how I feel! Hopefully this will be wiped by a cheery graduation post later!