When I ran the Color Run in Kansas City, I ran for twelve minutes. It was an early July morning in Missouri, and it was promising to be very, very hot. They had even moved up the race time to avoid the onslaught of temperature that was going to roll in. Sure enough, by 8:30 that morning, it was already pretty sticky and miserable. I started off the race feeling pretty good, jogging along with my sister, brother-in-law, and trusty pal. I think I stopped after the first Color Zone, insisting that I needed to walk for a little bit. I'd only gotten through about five weeks of the Couch to 5K program, and I wasn't nearly in good enough shape to actually run. Could I have run more than I did? Maybe. I jogged for brief bits here and there, but I walked most of it. It was fine, it was for fun. And I knew I'd have another shot in October when the Color Run came to Des Moines, and I'd have a lot more time to train. I felt like a bit of a failure, but ultimately, I wanted to have fun and get colorful, and I didn't want to push my body further than it could go.
When I got back, I took a few weeks off. Softball was winding down for the summer, and then I went on vacation, and then to a trade show, and then it was August and suddenly it was September and I found my schedule pretty full. I had started a strength-training program that had a cardio component, so I was hoping that simply by getting myself into better shape, I'd be able to carry myself a little further. My boyfriend and I went for a "test run" in late September to gauge where I was in the 5K training... I reached our usual halfway-point marker (we didn't do the full 5K path, but it was pretty close) and was going to stop, but he told me my time and I knew I could go a little further and set a new personal record. My previous PR was 15 minutes, one day this past summer. This day, I made it to 17. I'm not sure if I could have gone further or not, I'd just gotten done with my other workout right before heading out for a run, and I'd accidentally overdone it on my legs, so I was pretty fatigued. But with that in mind, my goal for the Des Moines Color Run was to run for 20 minutes. I thought it was feasible.
There were, well, a few obstacles in my way. My brother-in-law had to work, so he wasn't participating this time. He'd been my run/walk buddy in KC after Calee had kidnapped my sister to the finish line. Secondly, my sister had promised her friend that she'd walk with her - there went my strategy. I figured that she'd be right around my ability level and we could keep pace with each other. Thirdly, Calee was going to walk it with her sister, who had sprained her ankle - there went my failsafe. If anyone could keep me running, it would have been Calee. I had a coworker who was planning to walk/jog it, and a handful of other friends, but, well... in a sea of 30,000 people, it was going to be hard to find everyone.
The other variable was that it was supposed to be a chilly 50 degree cloudy day. I've never run in the cold before - I didn't like the suffocatingly hot temperatures of Kansas City, but at least the heat kept my muscles warm. I remembered running track in high school (let me remind you[link], I was terrible) and how awful the cold days were, how much it made your leg muscles ache.
The obvious choice would have been to just shrug it off and walk with my sister or Calee and just have a fun, laid-back time.
But I'd been working too hard and I'd made too many promises to myself. I was already going to fail on my original goal of running the whole 5K, I would not have forgiven myself if I didn't even try to run as much as I could.
Running meant that I'd have to participate in the race solo. I wouldn't have anyone to walk with once I finally did stop, I wouldn't have anyone to take silly pictures of me running through the Color Zones, and I wouldn't have anyone alongside me to help me keep my pace or to encourage me to keep going.
I was on my own.
I got really depressed about this on Saturday, almost to the point of tears, which I'll go ahead and blame on some early-onset PMS, but I reminded myself that this was supposed to be my race. It was the Color Run - the only thing that ever spurred me on to wanting to run a 5K in the first place - and it was in my city. I could do this. I'd been working on it.
Race day was even chillier than I'd expected. I had made a last-minute purchase at Target of a compression top (I just wanted something with sleeves to wear under my white t-shirt - and that moisture-wicking material was less likely to hold color dust than a cotton shirt), which proved to be absolutely brilliant. I didn't really even notice until later that the tag was all "PERFECT FOR WICKING SWEAT IN COLD WEATHER" which, hey, was exactly what I needed. It was snugger than I expected, but it didn't really matter. It had a light fleece lining which I hoped would be nice and warm. I put a pair of hot pink tights on under my long socks (I had three pairs of socks on), under my shorts, and it was really, really hard to take my sweatpants off to get going... but I didn't wear hot pink tights and colorful socks just to wear a pair of black sweatpants, so off they went!
We stood in the starting line for what felt like forever. Later, I learned that it was because people kept hopping in at the beginning of the line whenever they'd send off a new wave, instead of going all the way to the back of the line like us suckers. (To be fair, after twenty minutes, we got impatient and cut ahead in the line as far as we could before the merch tents blocked us). We were in Wave 15, and I started inching over to the left side as we got closer. My sister asked me where I was going. "To the runners' side," I said. I felt like such a phony. I'm not a runner. Who was I kidding?
But they sent us off, and I started happily jogging along. Watch your pace, I reminded myself. It was my biggest bad habit - I'd start off much too fast and then burn out. I was so excited to just be going that I was going at a pace that I'd never be able to sustain. Slow down, slow down. Find your pace. Steady.
I felt the effects of the cold immediately, and I worried that I'd have to stop sooner than I wanted. I told myself that I at least had to make it to 12 minutes - the length of time I'd run in Kansas City. Anything less and I would have felt like the biggest failure on the planet. I kept checking my watch (I know, I know - it's a bad habit! But I always measure my runs in terms of time, never of distance, so that's how I keep myself accountable). I hit 12 minutes and encouraged myself to at least make it to 15. Or through the first two Color Zones. Orange and blue. Make it to the blue zone! It's your favorite color. I was chugging along and minute 15 turned into minute 16 and I told myself that I at least had to reach 17 minutes - my current record. Oh, hell. Get to 18 and set a new record!
It snowballed. Once I hit 18 minutes, I told myself I could reach my goal of 20 after all. It was only a couple more minutes, and then I could stop. I ran through the Pink zone and I could see the Yellow zone, but it was farther away than I thought. Right around Minute 20, I ran into a friend/former coworker who recognized me by my (gold sequin) fanny pack. I circled back and said hello and even managed to take a picture of us - not stopping, though, let's face it, my running pace at this point was about on par with her walking pace. I said something about having reached my goal, and I think she misheard me and shooed me along, "go meet your goal!" Well, okay. I guess I could try to make it to the Yellow Zone. Everything now was kind of a bonus, and I was curious as to how long I could keep going.
The Confucius quote started playing in my head at that point. I was going very slow, indeed, but I hadn't stopped yet. I hadn't stopped at the water station (though I definitely fell off pace trying to drink water and throw it away, but I was still moving!), I didn't stop for any of the pictures I took (which is why they were all blurry), and I didn't even stop when I found a friend. I was feeling pretty good about that, even though I was almost to the traditional point in my run where I wanted to flop down and cry because it suuuuuuuuuuuucked.
We rounded the corner to the yellow zone, I went about twenty steps out of my way to not shortcut across the median like almost everyone else was doing (cheaters!), and I forced myself ahead. 25 minutes. Man, I was a bad-ass. I couldn't wait to text the BF when I was done and tell him how long I'd made it. 28 minutes. Approaching yellow! I forced myself through the Color Zone.
I wonder if I can make it to 30.
I exited the Yellow Zone and rounded the corner. I was going to have to stop soon, I was barely moving at this point, people were walking faster than I was running. Once I got on the straight part of the road, I slowed down. I thought my legs were going to collapse out from under me as soon as I started walking. It was a sensation I'd never felt before. I kept moving to keep my legs from buckling, and I pulled out my digital camera from the safety of its ziplock baggie to snap evidence of my watch. I'd stopped it as soon as I stopped running.
Thirty-two minutes and two seconds.
I was kind of peeved at my watch, apparently after it switched from 29:59 to 30 minutes, the format also switched, so it kind of looks like 32 seconds, but I know better. I'd just done something I never thought I'd be able to do.
Distance-wise... I'm not really sure. 2 miles, maybe? (Which would be another record all on its own). The Color Run is supposed to be set up so that the color stations are every 1 kilometer apart... sometimes they fudge that a little to make it work with the race route (like they did in KC), so I'm not sure I trust that... but if they did it like they said they did, that means I had just run a 4K. A 4K out of a 5K. ME! The girl who always hated running.
There was a hill going up to the finish line, and I was grateful that I was only walking it. When I reached the very last bit of the course, I jogged it in to the finish line. I had forgotten that it was cold about two miles ago. I was tired and my legs felt like jello, but in my head, I felt fantastic. I had shattered my previous record of 17 minutes and I'd gone way above and beyond my original goal for the day. I may not have run the whole 5K, but dammit, I ran more than I ever thought I could.
Then I rewarded myself on the way home with a Whopper and fries, a decision I came to regret. Oh, fast food. We used to be friends.
On the bright side, I've gotten really good at de-coloring myself. Helpful hint: MAKEUP REMOVER WIPES. I had to use three, but I got all the color (mostly blue) off my face without having to scrub. I was pretty saturated, though I think I was more colorful in KC. I think the paint powder sticks better when you're hot and sweaty and the wind isn't blowing it all away. My t-shirt is prettier this time, though.
Until next year, Color Run. We will meet again. And I will OWN you.
Please save me a pink color packet next time, though. Variety, spice of life, what not. I'd settle for purple, too.