I got out of bed this morning at 4:50 AM. I have spent the past few months focusing on losing weight and gaining fitness. While I have only shed about 20 pounds so far, I have drastically improved my fitness. I’m up to about 15 running miles a week as I keep building. So my muscles, heart, and lungs were ready for today, and my mind was excited about putting them to the test.

Kim left a note for me to see when I got up this morning.

It is important to think carefully about fueling and hydrating on race days. I chose not to eat anything this morning. Since it was only a 3.1-mile race, I even chose not to drink too much. It was about 50° at the start of the race, and I didn’t want a full bladder that might have caused frequent trips to the porta-potties. So I chose to only drink one cup of coffee with sugar.

As I read my Bible this morning, I chose my run verse for today: It is in 1 Corinthians 10:31, and it says: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” I wanted to run this race with gratitude for how He has helped me improve, and by giving Him my best.

The 5K race was supposed to start at 7:15 AM, but I wanted to give myself plenty of time to park and mingle with some runners. So I arrived at 6:23 AM.

Runners are an interesting group of people. They tend to be introverts (although there are plenty of outgoing runners). They tend to be at least reasonably disciplined and goal-driven. And they tend to be easy to engage in conversation (although they don’t want any distractions as they mentally prepare for their race). So I enjoyed conversing with some friends and even spent time talking with the biker who was going to lead the runners in the half-marathon and 10K race.

Because some of the police were a bit late getting to their stations, the half-marathon got started about 30 minutes late. That meant that the 5K race was also about 30 minutes late.

The half-marathon and 5K runners were waiting for the signal to start their race.

As the 5K race runners (all 158 of us) gathered at the start line, I put my Bluetooth earbuds in my ears and fired up some Christian rock music. My heart rate began to elevate as we waited for the race to start.

The official at the front yelled, “go,” and we all started to move forward. Since our race bibs had a chip attached to them, our personal race clock didn’t begin until we crossed the protected electrical cords at the Start line. So we began walking as a group toward the Start line and began running moments before crossing it and beginning our race.

Regarding placement, I like to start my race in the back half of the pack. Why? Because I have discovered that if I start at the front, I will tend to begin my race going much too quickly. Inevitably, my brain rebels and screams for my body to stop the madness. So, I like to start in the back of the pack, where I will be forced to start slowly. Then, I get the satisfaction of passing tons of people as I settle into my race.

However, it was unfortunate that we didn’t start off on a road. We started off on the paved trail around the north side of Lake Howard. The problem with this is that finding your running space takes a while. So many people crowd the trail, some walk, and there’s little room to navigate around runners/walkers. But the further you get from the start line, the more you can focus on your race and less about navigating around people.

The first 1.75 miles were reasonably flat so it was relatively easy. I was surprised I could run a bit quicker than I did on my training runs, but I didn’t feel winded. Of course, the Christian rock music in my ears was keeping me energized.

About 1.5 miles into the race, George Poppenwimer caught up to me, and we ran together for about half a mile. He’s about 20 years older than me, but he has done well in the sport of running. I am grateful that he eventually took off at his own pace and didn’t let me slow him down.

Just before the 2-mile mark, we were introduced to inclines. There were a few moments when I wanted to slow down to a walk, but those thoughts were only fleeting. I refused to give in to them as I relied upon my training.

I didn’t really feel the elevation difference in the first couple of miles. But I did feel it beginning at mile 2!

As you can see in the elevation model above, it was primarily downhill for the last quarter mile. As I visualized how I would run this race over the past couple of weeks, I planned to pick up the pace in the final quarter mile and give it everything I had. Fortunately, I was able to make good on that plan. In fact, when I looked at my data after the race, I realized that I kept getting faster as the race played out. The following are my splits:

Mile 1: 10’17”

Mile 2: 9’50”

Mile 3: 9’46”

Last .11 mile: 8’28”

The following video is of me crossing the finish line. The clock on the left is the 10K and half marathon clock – those runners started about 15 minutes before us. The clock on the right is the 5K clock, but our individual race times were set by the chips attached to the back of our race bibs. So, our race started when we crossed the Start Line and then finished when we crossed the Finish Line, regardless of when the race technically started.

Laptops were set up so runners could punch in our bib numbers to get our time and place compared to other runners. Besides coming in 5th place out of five 50-53-year-old males (a.k.a. last place), I feel good about finishing in the front half of the pack. I came in 74th place out of 263 runners.

Official race results

Overall, I feel good about this race! It’s certainly not where I want to be, but it’s much better than where I was this past summer. And that’s the beauty of running – you are typically only competing against yourself and there are almost always something you can do to improve.

Another race in the books as I work to improve.