One thing I've really tried doing in the last year or so is that when I go to races I try to enjoy the experience as well as the race. Whether it's trying to meet new people, running with friends or just observing what is going on I'm trying to do more than just show up, run the race and go home.
Yes, for the longest time that's what I would do. Part of the reason for that was I trained alone and didn't have any running friends (except for Noah, who lived over an hour away and moved to Los Angeles in 2002 before moving back to Chicago a couple of years ago) and rarely had anyone come to races to cheer me on. I'm also pretty reserved in new situations, I have a hard time just walking up to people and starting conversations. If I have a little help -- like a wife who is a PR goddess -- I'm OK, but doing it on my own isn't always easy.
But over the last couple of years I am feeling more confident in those situations and am trying hard to just reach out to others. Just trying to be more into the social part of races have made them much more enjoyable.
After my 5K on Saturday I went back to my car and got my camera to take pictures for my race report. As I was doubling back along I took a minute to cheer some runners in and took a couple of photos for other people. It was a lot more fun to be more social at the race, although it probably helped that I was in a great mood after setting a new PR at 29:51!
One thing I have learned over the past couple of years is that everyone who lines up for a race (regardless of the distance) has a reason or a story that got them there. Here are a couple that I observed at the race, I think you will like them, and maybe see yourself in one of them.
* After the race was over, there was a chili lunch in the banquet hall of the golf club. I had just sat down with my food and just for fun took a picture of it because it was the perfect celebratory meal...a brat, a bowl of chili, a beer and a bottle of water. One of the people sitting at the table looks at me and says "Looks almost too good to eat, I just did the same thing!"
Turns out his name was Stephen and he had just moved to Chicago last summer after graduating from Purdue. He's run the Indy Mini five times and so we shared a few stories about that, and how we are both planning to run it again after several years away. I told him of the great running scene around here and said a fun thing to do during the summer is run night races (my favorite) in Chicago because the city and the lake are so beautiful at the end of the day. He said he was going to do that because he'd never run a race at night and thought it would be awesome. Stephen was just a really friendly guy and I'm glad I took the time to talk to him.
* Just over two miles into the race I was passed by an older woman who looked like she had been running a really long time. She was about as tall as me but was very slightly built and had a nice, economical stride. We took turns passing each other because she would stop and walk a little whenever we were going into the wind.
I ended up finishing ahead of her (she finished in 30:03) but at the awards ceremony when they announced the age group winners, Sandi was firs in her age group...the 65-and-over age group! First of all, I couldn't believe she was 65 (or older) and secondly, she is a perfect example of the benefits of running as you get older. She looked younger than her age, she still moved very well and was healthy and fit. I'm guessing a long time ago she had probably been a good athlete too.
I'll tell you what, I only hope I can run 30 minutes for a 5K when I'm in my sixties!
* Before the race I saw a woman walking around nervously with her mother and young son. I couldn't hear what they were talking about but she seemed very anxious. As I was circling back to take some pictures she was about 150 yards from the finish line and the volunteers were cheering her in. Her name was Sonya and she said that it was her first 5K and she had run the whole way!
I hustled up the hill to see her finish, and her mom was waiting there with a sign and her son had a bunch of balloons. They were the only ones left at the finish line. Sonya crossed the finish line and just kept walking by herself. As I got a little closer I could hear her sobbing. It was really an amazing moment, and you could tell for whatever reason this was a huge accomplishment in her life. Just being a fellow runner I was really proud of what she had done. Something made her decide to run a 5K and she dug down and found the fortitude to do it, which is really cool.
Congratulations to Sonya, I hope this is the first of many races you run!
Saturday's race only had 120 runners in it but it was a great event because there were lots of groups of people who ran together, and the camaraderie afterwards was really fun to see. It was a great way to close out the year.