It has been a week since I ran my very first 10-mile race. Like many people, I have always hated the idea of long distance running. I go to the gym and workout pretty regularly, but when it comes to running, I have been procrastinating my entire life. Yeah, that’s pathetic and sad I know. Somehow the boredom of this COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to spend more time outdoors during the winter months led me to finally give it a try.
So I ended up signing up for the Cherry Blossom 10-mile run. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a four-week celebration filled with art, a parade, and cultural events to commemorate the gift of Cherry Blossom trees from Japan to Washington, DC. The race attracts more than 15,000 runners every year. It is so popular that there is a lottery to get into it.
My husband has run multiple marathons so he was happy when I told him I was interested in running this race. We only had 10 weeks until the race, so while looking for some reassurance I asked him if that was sufficient time to train. He said yes. We just needed to commit to the weekly running schedule. I even invited a few friends to sign up too and after a few days we were notified that we had been selected!
I was feeling confident. After all, I had run 5 kilometers (5K) a few years ago and it was not that bad. A 5K equals 3.1 miles so all I needed to do (I thought) was to run twice that distance. "That's doable" I said to myself. But very suddenly, I was filled with anxiety. Something didn’t sound right. My brain had tricked me into believing the race was a 10K but it was actually 10 miles!!! I panicked a little.
In my previous article I wrote about how wrong units of measurement can be a recipe for disaster. I learned that the hard way in my early years of graduate school when I once messed up the ratio of nutrients in a broth culture and ended up killing the bacteria for one of my experiments.
But I didn’t want to kill myself while running! I am happy to report that messing up with kilometer and mile units didn’t get me into too much trouble. I had time to train and correct my course. And last Sunday I was able to complete the race and felt great afterwards.
I plan to make running a way of life and keep it up from now on. I encourage you to give it a try if you can. I have been doing a lot of reading about the science behind running and hope to share what I have learned with you later on. This was my very first long distance run and I want to focus now on getting faster.
If you choose to sign up for a race for the first time, here is a piece of advice that helped me and that I have applied throughout my professional career as well. Don’t look around and compare yourself to others. Keep your own pace. Define what success means to you. For me success has been all about determination and consistency. Focus on the task at hand and don’t give up. You will get to the finish line.
Cover Photo: Spring cherry blossoms frame the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial in the early morning in Washington, DC. Credit: OGphoto (Getty Images)
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