I ran my first 10k this past weekend, and I learned a lot of things.
1. Don’t be afraid to go it alone sometimes. This 10k was not only my first 10k ever, but it was also the first time I have run any race alone. I went to the race alone, ran the race alone, and left the race alone. And it was awesome. I was very apprehensive of feeling lonely, out of place, or awkward, but I ended up feeling independent, empowered, and sure of myself.
2. Listen to your body when you train. About two months before this race, I got an annoying (and painful) calf strain which basically prevented me from running for a month. Here I was, getting in great shape for my 10k, but paralyzed from continuing to run my training plan. I made friends with the elliptical at my gym in order to maintain some level of cardio fitness, and waited impatiently to feel well enough to run again.
3. Prepare for the terrain. This particular 10k was hilly, winding through vineyards and farmland on soft dirt roads. It was beautiful but challenging since I had never run more than a mile or two off-road before. If I had prepared better, I would have done some of my training in a similar setting.
4. Start slow. When the gun went off, probably 90% of the group went out at a fast pace. It’s exciting! Adrenaline is pumping! We had been waiting nearly an hour and the anticipation had been building to a breaking point. The only issue with going out so fast is that it may cause you to fatigue faster. I went out slowly and felt demoralized by the huge wave of runners quickly passing me, but 10-20 minutes in, I was passing them, which reminded me that I did the right thing.
5. Adopt a pack. Since I was flying solo, it was helpful for me to latch onto other groups and run with them. That helped me set a good pace and for some reason (psychological) made it feel easier. At times I would break away and be by myself again, but usually gliding from pack to pack.
6. Don’t be scared to ask questions. The course had a few forks in the path, and since the run was both a 5k and a 10k, it was important that I stuck with the correct route. There were a few times when I had to ask a sideline volunteer “Is this the right way for the 10k?” just to be sure I hadn’t taken a wrong turn.
7. Post-run requires walking and shade. After pushing myself so hard to get to that finish line, I was sweaty, tired, and feeling way overheated. It was tempting to just collapse in the grass near the finish line by all the other tired runners, but I took a lap. I walked slowly around for about ten minutes until I could feel my heart rate slowing. Then I promptly got some water, fresh strawberries, and found a patch of shade to help prevent me from getting heat exhaustion.
8. Nothing tastes better than strawberries after a run. Okay, so this is different for everyone, but after I finished, I found that tables of post-run snacks were set up; orange slices, pastries, and strawberries. Never have I ever tasted anything more delicious, refreshing, and all together life-changing than those strawberries.