Imagine 100 people signing up to participate in a 10-week Learn to Run Clinic during the coldest, wettest months of a coastal Canadian town. Many were absolute beginners, who had decided that this was the year to make a change. Many others were the repeatedly injured who chose to finally take advice from experienced volunteers. Some others sign up annually, as a New Year’s resolution to try to get fit again, in hopes of squeezing into that bikini for spring break. Some (like me) just wanted company and extrinsic motivation.

Then imagine 64 of those participants toeing the start line 10 weeks later. And then stand back and be amazed that 63 of them finished the 5km race! A great day, indeed.

For me, the goal was to pace myself right from the start. I always start off too quickly, even when I run by myself, and the reason is that I am usually cold. So today, I had a nice long, slow warm-up run in my sweats and gloves and made sure that I was starting to sweat before the start. I peeled off the layers and headed to the start line. It made all the difference! Can you believe it? I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!

The course was a straight-forward out-n-back, with a gentle incline all the way out and a slight headwind all the way home. Once I found my own space, I stayed focused on going gently and trying not to get caught up in anything else. As we came to the 2km mark, the incline increased and I started to think a lot about my breakfast. (Did I eat too much? Too late?) I was keeping an eye on the turn-around cone, knowing that I would feel a lot better once I hit the sweet downhill.

I started to count the runners as they turned. 6? 6 runners ahead of me! Well, I’ll be dipped. And only one was a woman! Hee-hee! In the few 100 meters after the turn-around cone, I opened up a bit and managed to pass 2 more close-by runners. I could see that the others were too far ahead to catch so I just had to maintain what I had gained.

As I headed back into town, I had the lovely treat of seeing all the people I have met over the past 10 weeks. It felt like I was calling out names and encouragement to each runner. I saw the true learn-to-run participants who were actually running the whole distance. I watched the walk/runners who would dutifully begin running again when someone’s watch beeped. All their happy faces on a sunny Saturday morning made the second half fly by.

And, just like that, it was all over. I crossed the line in 23:30 – 5th overall and 2nd woman (not that anyone was actually keeping track of these things).

As I finished, they handed me a popsicle stick, a ‘participant’ ribbon and a tottery older gentleman. He offered me his arm and I happily obliged, as I was pretty wobbly for those first few steps! As soon as I was steady again, I headed back to watch the others finish. I was struck once again by the enormity of this run for some. Entire families were gathered at the finish with bouquets of flowers, videos filming the finish and children joining parents in the finish chute. Fabulous, indeed.

I think I’ll do it again next year!

Now I can truly say I am a member of the Comox Valley Road Runners and an official participant in the 5km Fun Run! I have the proof!