Going for Gold

Statistically, I seem to run best when it’s raining or a Sunday. Living in Scotland means there’s a one in seven chance of this happening. Yesterday was pouring, so I was optimistic that things would go okay!

I admit I felt a little overwhelmed and under prepared. I’d been training consistently for ten weeks, but little things threw me off. Like forgetting to bring my water bottle. Like waiting til the night to decide what to wear and finding nothing clean, thus having to wear whatever was the least stinky. Like not having safety pins to attach my race number to my t-shirt.

Who the hell has safety pins? My mum, my granny, my supremely organised sister: they have safety pins. I do not have safety pins. Do you think I could find any in the shops on Saturday afternoon? Nooo. I even tried pinning the number with some of those dinky rock band badges to no avail. Finally the Scottish Companion had the brainwave of stapling it on. This took around half an hour and our combined brain power to figure out. It is very difficult to staple a piece of paper onto thick cotton with a flimsy stapler; difficult to do it straight and difficult to avoid stabbing your boobs.

But it didn’t matter in the end. It was raining so steadily that I ended up my shitty waterproof jacket over the top so you couldn’t see the number anyway. The rain seemed to make the crowd even more loopy. It was a great atmosphere, no one was taking it too seriously. There were runners and walkers of all shapes and sizes; many with little pink signs on the back of their shirts with names of loved ones they’d lost to cancer. Every time I’d see someone with My Mum or Auntie Josephine on their backs I’d get a little teary. Except when I saw a wee girl with Kylie Minogue written on her back, I just cracked up laughing.

The rain came down even harder as we were lead through some warm-up aerobics. The water combined with 7000 women jumping up and down made big fat earthworms wash up to the surface. It was surreal. Then the race start was slightly delayed by a guy getting on stage to propose to his girlfriend. Creative, eh?

Finally it was time to line up. They had two big flags, one said Runners and the other Walkers. At first I thought there was going to be a middle-ground Joggers flag, but it was nowhere to be found. This sparked an existential debate with the Scottish Companion as to whether I was a Runner or a Walker.

“You haven’t been just walking these past ten weeks, have you?” he reasoned.

But I was having a last-minute panic and argue, “But I’m not exactly a runner, am I? I can’t run for longer than five minutes without feeling like I’m going to cark it!”.

He told me to just go join the runners and wished me luck. I gave him a kiss on his wet nose and scampered off. By then it was so crowded I ended up near the walkers, beside a girl dressed in a Batman suit. I was so bewildered by the crowd and the rain that I didn’t think to be nervous, just a faint notion that something exciting was about to happen. Somewhere in the distance the start horn thingy went off. It took five minutes to inch my way to the start line, then I hit the timer on my stop watch. Go go go!

It was then my trance broke and I panicked, What the hell!? What the hell!? What am I doing here?! Everywhere I looked there were legs and arms and numbers and puddles. I am not so good in crowds. Julia had advised me to start out slow so I wouldn’t fade at the end, so I did a very slow jog, ducking around walkers and water. Then the course headed up a hill and I thought Holy fuck. Bloody hills. Better not waste energy weaving around people. So I alternated fast walking with the slow jogging. Then I noticed that after that hill there was another, steeper hill. Bugger.

It was then I started to get cranky. Disclaimer: I was cranky already, my period arrived that morning. HOO-BLOODY-RAY for the feeling of piranhas gnawing your guts! So I was cursing the stupid hill and my stupid slow legs and the thousands of stupid runners cluttering up the road. It felt like it was taking forever. All I could think was, What’s so great about this running shit? Why do people rave on about it like it was so damn special? I recalled a comment Meg left on my last entry. She said I would love it! She said it changed the way she thought about herself forever. Well as I slugged up the hill I thought, YOU LIE, MEG! I DO NOT LOVE IT! It felt like I would never get up the top of that stinking hill, and furthermore I had seen no kilometre markers so I had no idea how far I’d gone or how far I had left to go. Bah!

Finally the course evened out and after a minute’s walk, I picked up the pace again. I began to relax. I acknowledged the view – a spectacular panorama of Edinburgh. Then some guy was shouting from the sidelines, “You’ve just passed the halfway mark, girls!”

Halfway?! Arrgh!

I looked at my watch and wasn’t too impressed with my time. Julia had told me not to worry about my time today, it was just about finishing the damn thing. But I felt slightly disheartened. It was then I gave myself a wee pep talk. Why are we here, Dietgirl?

  1. Because my excellent sponsors have given over £300 to cancer research and they deserve value for money.
  2. Because my husband trained with me all this time and I don’t want him thinking I’ve wasted his time.
  3. Because Mistress Julia has helped me so much and I want to impress her and make her proud.
  4. Because I have worked hard and I want to impress ME and make ME proud, dammit!

And I wouldn’t be satisified with taking forever to huff over the finish line either. I wanted to finish as strongly as I possibly could. I’d worked for ten weeks to get to this point, and it would never be My First Race ever again. I’d done some pretty half-assed runs in that ten weeks, so now I was going to stop the whining and bitching. No more bullshit! Just GO FOR GOLD!

I kicked up to a nice steady run. I reassured the lazy part of my brain that I could walk any time, but since the first half had been relatively slow I found that I had plenty of energy left. For the first time ever I really felt like I was cruising, that it was a perfectly natural thing for my body to be running. I found a steady rhythm and my breathing was good, not my usual desperate gasps for life.

The rained stopped and I wrestled off my crappy jacket, somehow tying it round my waist as I headed down the hill. I kept talking to myself, Just run one more minute then you can walk if you need to. But I just kept on running and it felt great.

And there was finally a sign – 500M TO GO. Holy crap! 500 metres! How far is 500 metres, I wondered? Ten laps of an Olympic pool. Ooh that sounds like ages, don’t think of it like that. Half a kilometre, that sounds ages too. Okay then. How about one and a bit laps of the running track. Hey that’s not so bad! I can handle that! So I took it up another notch. I have no idea where that energy came from but I’d never run so fast before. It felt fantastic!

As I approached the finish line I started grinning. I couldn’t help it, I would have giggled had I had enough breath left. I was just so surprised to be there. Grin grin grin. When I finally crossed it I suddenly felt a big sob sneak up to my throat. What the hell?!

I glanced at my watch – 35:15. I could not believe that time. Ten weeks ago I could barely run for one minute, yet I’d just run over half the course non-stop. I was euphoric. I, Dietgirl formerly of the Whole Pints Of Ice Cream In One Sitting, had finished a 5k race. It felt amazing! Meg wasn’t lying to me after all! Bless her cotton socks.

I got my goodie bag and scanned the crowds for SC, wandering around in a daze with trembling legs. It was the strangest mix of emotions I’d ever known. I began making these garbled, gulping, strangled chicken noises – this is what happens when you try and cry and get your breath back at the same time. It is physically impossible.

By the time I finally found SC I had my breath back so I was able to just sob uncontrollably on his shoulder. The poor bastard look very confused. Blame my hormones, blame relief and surprise and intense personal satisfaction, but I was crying for Scotland!

Later on I felt embarrassed by my hysterics. After all it was Just A 5k. It wasn’t even a proper race, it was a charity event. And people run marathons all the time, hell they run across continents or sail around the world blindfolded with one arm chopped off! I was all ready to downplay the whole day and dismiss it as a freak accident of nature and stomp out any sense of achievement. But as I’ve reminded myself countless times during my Lard Busting Journey, you can’t compare your achievements to someone elses. All you can do is compare where you’ve been and where you are now, and what you chose to do in between.

I also remembered a day back in January 2001 when I’d stood at the bottom of the stairs in my flat, trying to summon the energy to walk up the dozen steps to get to my bedroom. That had felt like an impossible task. Compare that to yesterday when I stood at the bottom of a FREAKY BIG HILL and running to the top seemed an impossible task. There’s no denying that 5k was a huge personal achievement.

I cannot express to you how amazing it felt to do something that I thought I never, ever could do. I am so grateful to Julia for helping me, to SC for patiently training with me, and to all you groovers for your encouragement and extremely generous donations. This may sound ridiculous but I am more emotional about yesterday than I was on my freaking wedding day! There is no better feeling in the world than to take your mind and body to some place you thought it couldn’t go; a place you thought it didn’t belong. You should all try it sometime.

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52 thoughts on “Going for Gold

  1. Congratulations to you! Finishing a 5K is a major achievement and I am so happy to see you give yourself the credit you deserve – hooray!

  2. DG: I am so proud of you! I know I don’t know you, but I don’t think that matters. It is awesome, what you’ve done, and what you’re doing. You earned every tear and strangled chicken sob — and every scrap of joy at taking your body and mind to those places. Congratulations!
    S

  3. Yup – you went and made me cry at work.

    damn you. Good thing I’m holed up in my cube at lunch eating my soup and facing my screen.

    heh. reading this made me think back to my first race (over three years ago) and reflect on my first half-marathon (last week) – I did not finish in the time I wanted to, but damn it, I did the race. I trained hard, and I completed.

    I would NEVER have believe that possible, on that first night of my training where 1 minute of running seemed like ages.

    I am insanely proud of you, DG!

    hugs

  4. Congratulations… I teared up just reading about your adventure. Thank you for sharing it and inspiring others.

  5. Congrats DG. A 5K is a big deal. I thought of you yesterday. I am totally inspired.

  6. It was so fun to read your 5K story, and I feel like a silly, cliche movie critic when I say, “I laughed, I cried…” But really, I did! Not only are you a great storyteller, but a proven athelete, now! And I’m so impressed with your finishing time! You did so much more than just finish the race. You kicked ass! I’m so inspired by you and reading about your experience helped to quell some of my own pre-race jitters. Thanks!

  7. I am hugely proud of you!! Look how far you have come! Fantastic achievement and I love the way you told this story! You’re awesome.

  8. Oh my god, I could practically HEAR the Rocky theme in my head as I was reading… God what a STAR you are! What a brilliant inspiration you are and you brought tears to my eyes as well! Fanbloodytastic 🙂

  9. I’m so happy for you!! You made me cry too, right here at work, thank goodness my office mates are in a meeting right now. You’re totally my hero, seriously!

  10. Thanks for telling us the whole story — the ups and the downs. Knowing that it wasn’t easy makes the success all the more sweet. Lovely!

  11. Woohoo!! You finished…congratulations!! Thanks for sharing all the story. Hearing stories like this make me feel less crazy for signing up for a marathon in October 🙂

  12. That’s awesome, DG. Your story brought tears to my eyes. Your experience sounds very much like my first 5K race. There are no limits as to where you can go with this. So, when’s the next race? (I’m only half kidding)

  13. Brilliant post. Well done on your 5K. On your time, your completion, your commentary. I am so encouraged now to find a 5k’er of my own, or a 1k’er if they start that small ;)..

  14. Well done! Your story literaly made me cry, I’ve been struggling on my own “carrot chase” lately and maybe there IS inspiration to be found

  15. Congratulations, that is so good. I too cried whilst reading your post at work and remembered my own chicken sobs when I did something similar last year. In Melbourne we have an old steam train called Puffing Billy and every year they hold a race to beat him. It’s 13kms and it’s insane. I walked it on my own (not a runner – yet maybe!) while my husband ran it and it felt like such an achievement when I got to the end. It was the hardest physical thing I’ve done. Again, well done.

  16. Oops, forgot to say that I have just bought ‘Tales from the Scale’ and am awaiting the delivery from Amazon. I can’t wait for it to arrive and will let you know what I think.

  17. I was quite teary-eyed reading this. Seriously. It is an awesome accomplishment. Not just because you did it, but because you did it when you thought you couldn’t. And, I hate to have to tell you this, but 35 minutes for a 5K is a most excellent time. Yes. You’re “a runner”!

  18. I’m all blinky now….. I am so happy for you – I just ran my first 10km since I was young and fit (a long time ago) – and BTW a 10km is your next goal!! – and had exactly those same emotions at the finish – euphoria, disbelief, pride, oh and relief b/c I could stop LOL. Congratulations (HUGS)

  19. Is it possible to be terribly proud of someone you don’t know? Because I certainly am! Congratulations to you.

  20. Congratulations! I signed up for the RfL after reading about your intention to do it. And was astonished to finish in 40 minutes, and was especially thrilled to have managed to run continuously for 12 minutes, having only managed 3 minutes in training! Thanks for the inspiration.

  21. Well, I’m terribly proud of you too. My eyes went all shiny…

    You can have some of my safety pins next time! I always have tons, as I get paranoid about my bra peeking out when I’m wearing a low-cut top!

    I got my Race for Life pack yesterday! I really have to do it now…

  22. Oh Shauna….I’m all teary too now!!! Really heartfelt congratulations!!!! I can only imagine how you feel, but keep this flame mate!!!

  23. Bloody amazing!! and yes, I know exactly how you feel. I once trained on a mountain bike and did a 100km ride over two days. That was something I never in a million years thought I’d be able to do. Well done you, as always!

  24. that post belongs in a book of its own! that was really amazing DG congratulations! i cant stop smiling for you 😀 way to go!

  25. You brought tears to my eyes. Brought back lots of memories of my first race.

    Congratulations on your achievement so far. Won’t be long before you’re considering entering 1/2 marathons.

    My first one is the 17th July…..aagghhh!

  26. Sob sob sobbing at work! What a wonderful experience. You reacted precisely the way I did during my first race. For a minute- why not compare yourself to others? How many people do you know- say in your family who have run a 5k? Not many I bet- not many of your close friends- or maybe co-workers? Certainly not the majority. You did something so special! You inspire me to go out and drag myself through my 3.5 miles today- even though its 80 out! – Because nothing surpasses that profound feeling of accomplishment.
    Once again- YOU ROCK!-All the best- Vicky

  27. Thirty-five minutes? HOLY COW! My first was 39! Rock on with your bad self!

    I recalled a comment Meg left on my last entry. She said I would love it! She said it changed the way she thought about herself forever. Well as I slugged up the hill I thought, YOU LIE, MEG! I DO NOT LOVE IT!

    ::dies laughing:: Well, okay, I’m flattered to have been anywhere in your thoughts during that race, and I’m very grateful that you can’t kill people with your brain because I suspect you might’ve done me in at that point.

    I was euphoric. I, Dietgirl formerly of the Whole Pints Of Ice Cream In One Sitting, had finished a 5k race. It felt amazing! Meg wasn’t lying to me after all! Bless her cotton socks.

    I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT! OH, YAY YAY YAY! ::squeals, hops up and down, hugs you like mad:: Isn’t it something? You’re an ATHLETE, woman! You’re a RUNNER! You RAN in a RACE and you made EXCELLENT TIME!

    Oh God, I’m so proud of you that I could bust wide open. I think I’m going to go cry now. You’re amazing, DG, and don’t you forget it.

  28. I was pretty much humming the Rocky theme (Gotta Fly Now) as I was reading your post! Well done, congratulations, and thank you so much for taking the time to write it all out so your readers could feel like they were there!

  29. I don’t think I have ever laughed with such hilarity all the while having tears of pride gush down my chubby cheeks. And all this for some random chic on the other side of the world whom I have never met!! You make me want to run and not for any exercise merit but for the fact that I just can. You are truly an inspiration DG and I am so stoked that I stumbled upon your journal all those months ago. Congratulations!!

  30. I am so proud of you! That is such an encouragment for those of us who keep thinking we are never going to get there. You gave me goose pimples.

  31. Congratulations!! Finishing your first race is such an awesome feeling, who cares what the distance is?! I remember the feeling of finishing my first 5K — outstanding. Other races might never equal that feeling, but each one is unique and keeps me going.

  32. This is an amazing post. You have achieved so much. Never underestimate our ability to change our lives through sheer force of will. Congratulations!

    Onwards!

  33. So glad that it felt natural to you! And, by the way, your time was faster than my first 5K time by at least a minute, and that was only about three years ago.

  34. DG, you are the BEST. What a champ… go DG, go! I’m so proud and amazed and insanely jealous all at the same time. Congratulations…

  35. *sniffs*

    Jesus. If that doesn’t inspire me…

    Bloody beautiful.

    p.s. for the record, whilst reading about the ‘gasping cry’ at the end of the race, I was gasping crying too. Bah.

  36. Since I’m an 80’s kinda gal, I was singing “Eye of the Tiger” while reading about your amazing race. DG–I’ve been reading your blog since the beginning and I couldn’t be more proud if you were my own child! You continue to inspire this middle-aged hag…keep it up, girl!!

  37. Found an article on your blog in a local newspaper last month and decided to come check it out. I have to say that I’m really impressed with all your entries. You put down in words what i have always found impossible to express and i have to smile when i read your entries.
    You rock~!

  38. I’m a sap but this post brought tears to my eyes, AND I’m Googling 5Ks in my area. I’m going to ask my own non-Scottish companion to train with me.

    I have been thinking a lot about something as I’ve read your site — I have not been very heavy, nor lost much weight, but I can relate so much to your story. Then I realized my thing was being a sickly and un-athletic child. I had fairly severe asthma as a child and it affected my self-esteem, how I perceived my body, and led to a very inactive life. I think the inactivity is partly because of the doctors’ prescription at that time (I’m 37 and was diagnosed at 6 so around 1974) was to avoid strenuous activity; a decade later they’d learned that regular exercise can actually be a benefit to asthma sufferers. But I can’t blame it all on that; I took the easy out they offered me, and I took it with relief.

    Later, as I entered adulthood, I exercised on and off for looks, never achieving many results, but only in the last year have I tried achieving the more elusive fitness. I lift weights and do cardio at home, and have dabbled with walk/running but never got very far with that. I can see and feel muscles I’ve never known, and for the most part, even though I’m a little more padded than I was in my 20s, I am stronger and more fit. But an athlete? Who, me? I’ve wanted to find the ability to see myself that way, but I’ve mostly assumed it’s not in the cards.

    Well last vacation, for our July 4 anniversary (7 years!!!) I demanded (well, suggested) that I wanted to do something active. So we kayaked. Big whoop, right? But I had never set out to do something like that voluntarily on a vacation. I used to HATE it when people would suggest such things. It’s vacation. Made for sleeping in, sightseeing, eating, and, yes, lots of walking, to shops and such. But this year I discovered I really wanted to do something active. It wasn’t mountain climbing, or even hiking (although we did also take hundreds of stairs to the top of Mt. Baldhead, and that was no casual stroll), but it was something. Those things are in my future.

    And now, thanks to you, so is a 5K. I can feel it. Enough daydreaming. Do it. I will!

  39. Oh yes, and congratulations, BTW! I can’t believe that last comment was so self-centered. Way to go, DG!