Reflections on my FIRST EVER 5K (a non-sporty perspective)

I have always been a person who loved the fine arts, music, and theatre, but I have never been one to be very confident in my athletic abilities. Perhaps my insecurity with sports and my thoughts on me being a “nonsporty” person is related to my scars from being picked last for the team in high school P.E., or maybe it relates to actually being nervous and a bit fearful of balls after I was hit with a softball when I played in third grade, if my memory serves me correctly. Regardless, today was a milestone for me. While some would never even note this as being significant, I really do: today I started and finished my first ever 5K. Yes, I was a walker. I felt like I masqueraded as a runner, though, as the 5K I walked seemed to have a larger number of runners than walkers, and the process of it seemed very similar to me. Here are some reflections from my FIRST EVER 5K.

*Please note that I am saying “today” in a loose connotation, because I started this blog before mid-night, but it will not be posted until technically the next day. Thus, “today” refers to Saturday October 13.

I woke up at 4:30 am. I am not a morning person. I couldn’t sleep, and was tossing and turning till at least 6:30 am. At least I got to bed early, in excited anticipation for the 5K. My sporty outfit was even ready, and the planner that I am had organized my tote bag full of things that I wondered if I would need: things like hand sanitizer (always a good idea; especially with port-a-potties and flu season), my sporty wrist band with my license and health insurance card, tic-tacs, a camera, hair tie, and other items.

I got up, wondering how much breakfast to eat, and I enjoyed my blueberry Greek yogurt that I am a huge fan of as late, plus a small muffin and a cappuccino. I was concerned about my energy level, especially with the lack of sleep, and so I actually made a cocoa, too. Probably not a good idea if I was a runner, but as a walker, I felt fine with that choice.

I got ready, pondering about being up that early on a Saturday morning. The sky looked ominously cloudy, and with 30-50% chance of rain/storms around the time of the 5K. I wondered how you walk/run a 5K in pouring rain, and if the 5K would be called off if there were thunderstorms? (Author’s Note: Amazingly, the rain held off until after the 5K was over and the medal ceremony was completed.)

I met up with my friend Melissa. She is awesome, and she is the friend who convinced me to walk the 5K, rather than the 1 mile option that was a new option this year. I want to back up and say that my church actually put on the 5K, and it was our 4th annual 5K. I had never been in any capacity (runner, walker, volunteer, or observer), because of logistics and other reasons, but mainly due to being out-of-town for friend weddings or having family in town every year on the date of the 5K. I have never been to a 5K or done a 5K, so it was totally new experience for me. I am pretty sure that I am the first family member to have ever done a 5K (run or walk) out of my Mom, Dad, sister, and brother. However, in my extended family, my cousin, Bob, used to run cross-country, and I believe that his sister, Amy, ran a mini-marathon recently.

Melissa and I picked up her friend, Stephen, from her church, who was running the 5K, and we were off to Crystal Lake Park, the pretty park where the 5K was held. I was glad that we got one of the last 2 spots in the parking lot by the pavilion where we were to go. While we had registered ahead, we still needed to check in and get our race numbers. I was excited to get my number, and the race t-shirt was one of my new favorite colors, a pretty electric blue. We got a gift bag with various items. I am a gift person, so that was fun for me. I especially liked the blue “Reezig Reebok” bracelet. Reebok was a race sponsor for this 5K for the first time. I think that is really great.

It was neat to see all the people teaming around in race clothes, and all the volunteers from my church. There was a good turn-out, in spite of the fact that I think word hasn’t fully gotten out in my community about the 5K yet. I had hoped that some of my co-workers would run or walk the 5K (a good number of people where I work are runners or walk 5K’s regularly), but with the 5K having church-ties and being a fundraiser for a local pregnancy resource center, I figured that may be an issue for some people, which I understand. I noticed it was nice to see a diversity of ages with the runners and walkers. I believe that the 1 mile fun run/walk even had a 5-year-old walk in it, and I enjoyed seeing older people run or walk, as well. Also, I was surprised and happy to see my friend, Amy, who was visiting from out-of-state.

We had an opening ceremony, and a prayer actually, then we sang the National Anthem. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I thought that was nice. I imagine that since my church hosted the 5K, it was different from other ones.

Finally the 5K was underway. We were off! The fall leaves were pretty, adding to a picturesque background for our race. My competitive nature came out, and I wanted a good walking time and to not be last. I was surprised that the walking pace seemed so brisk, especially right “out of the gate”, so to speak. At the half-way mark, I was feeling tired, and I was grateful for the small cup of water I was handed at that point, as well as encouragers spurring all of us on. A few of the top runners lapped us walkers. I ran a bit down a hill when the woman I who I had befriended did so; both of us were a tad competitive and wanted to make up time. The walkers in front of us were starting to slow down as we got to the last part of the 5K. Gloria took off and passed about 5 walkers, but I kept my steady pace. I fell along next to 2 girls, and I asked them if they had ever done a 5K. Actually, they both had done an amazing walk for Susan G. Komen, where you walk 20 miles one day, 20 miles the next day, and 20 more miles after that. WOW! The training for that sounded intense, and the one girl’s Grandma had died of cancer. I really admired those girls.

Finally, the end was in sight. I ran the last bit to the finish line when some of us were spurred on. I was so glad to finish, and I felt really proud of myself. My time was 50:58. Yay!

IIt was fun to get a snack after and enjoy the medal ceremony. There were prize drawings of a $25 Starbucks gift card and other prizes, plus the grand prize was a gift card for a pair of Reebok shoes. I didn’t win a prize, but was glad to cheer on those who won medals, like my friend’s son who won a medal for boys age 15-19 5K runner, my friend Heather who took first in the very competitive women’s age 30-39 5K runner, and Melissa’s friend who won a medal in men’s age 20-29 5K run. In conclusion, I would love to walk a 5K again. It was such a special mix of community, fitness, and being part of something bigger than yourself.

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Melissa and me at 5K run/walk (October 13, 2012)

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Women, Cooking, and Body Image: A Slippery Slope

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn (Photo credit: baysmom3)

Tonight I started pondering about women and body image after I looked up “how to cook sweet corn” on ehow, and then a bit after that I queried to find out how many calories a cob of corn had.  My patience was waning, and I quickly gave up on my caloric question when one promising website slowed me down by mentioning about  giving me a free subscription when all I wanted was to answer one simple question and get on to my cooking.  However, as I looked through my pots and pans repeatedly, it dawned on my that I did not have the big cooking pot that ehow said that I would need to cook sweet corn.  Quite disappointing, and since I just cook for one, perhaps that is the reason I never noticed my lack of a big pot before.  All was not lost, however, because I wondered super important questions such as, “why do I need THREE Pyrex casserole dishes?”, and I also found a hidden plastic bag for steaming vegetables in the microwave.  However, the microwave felt like cheating when I was actually planning to cook ON THE STOVE the sweet corn that I purchased recently for 25 cents an ear.

I wish I could honestly say that I am a cook like Rachel Ray, but the honest truth is that when I was young my mom would try to get me to help cook dinner, but I often had my nose stuck in a book and was disinterested in doing the whole cooking thing.   Fast forward to today, and while I can go through spurts with cooking, more often than not I find it tedious when cooking solo, and often I cannot afford the staple ingredients that cooking requires.  Food prices have skyrocketed, and I find myself substituting convenience for healthy.  Honestly, I wish my budget was not as tight as it is, but with student loan bills that seem like I will be paying off until I am 70 (yes, of course I am being melodramatic), I can wish for more income to purchase fruits, vegetables, and healthy foods with low sodium.

Avril Lavigne + Rachel Ray

Society should not pigeon-hole women into having to be a “good cook” in order to be a “good female” or a “good wife.”  The old saying goes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, but if that is true then I don’t really want to ponder about that.  Even in our progressive times, men are often seldom expected to cook for their wives (unless a grill is involved), but my step-dad cooks more often than my mom.  My mom is a decent to fair cook, but I have always thought it is great how her and my step-dad cook together or how sometimes he just cooks for her.  I like the idea of cooking together with a boyfriend or spouse.  It makes the whole cooking thing much more fun and is more egalitarian.

As far as body image goes, I must say that it completely FRUSTRATES me that the media and society tell women that they have to be stick thin in order to be considered attractive and beautiful.  That is one of the prime reasons that so many women struggle with eating disorders.  In the past week, I kept stumbling upon media that was harping on celebrity women who recently had a baby.  The articles were all centered around the women and their pregnancy weight that they have not lost, post-delivery.  The resulting message from the media seems to be that these women need to bounce right back to their previous lower weights, and they are viewed harshly if this is not the case.  I think that this is completely unfair.  Both society and the media in the United States unfairly thrust harmful expectations on women in terms of their weight and body image.  There is only one message that is heard loud and clear: to be beautiful means to be thin.  There are no exceptions.  These harsh expectations often cause women to struggle with low self-esteem and thoughts of only being valued for being thin or how they look in a bikini.

Finally, I want to end on a personal note.  Currently I am the heaviest weight that I have ever been, and it is a frustration for me.  I never struggled with my weight when I was younger nor did the whole diet thing.  Most of the women in my family (especially later in life) struggle with being overweight, and I have unhappily observed how I presently have a much harder time with my metabolism and losing weight than I did in my teens and twenties.  I have tried to make some lifestyle changes, but I know I need to do more.  Also, there are some sacrifices that I am not quite yet willing to make (i.e. giving up my soda- I seriously think that I could be addicted to the sugar and caffeine).  Regardless of society’s view of women’s body images and the resulting horrible pressure to be thin, I want to be happy with myself regardless of my weight while I work to be more fit and healthy.  Being healthy really is better than being thin, when you think about it.