Here is an article I wrote for Runners World/Zelle back in 2014. So much of it still rings true and resonates today.
Since then I’ve gotten faster, but so has everyone else. In the big NYRR races, I’d place in the 50-56% range of my age group, always making me feel just average. I’ve had better luck in the smaller races, sometimes I’d place 12th, or maybe even 10th. Even then, it’s easy to feel like you’re good, but just not good enough.
One of my big goals this year was to run a 5K at a 7:5x pace. In 2013 I had run a few in the low 8:00’s, and I was dying to get that first number down to a 7. I thought about how much more accomplished I would feel as a runner if I could run a 7:xx pace for a 5K. I had run a few 5K’s this summer on a hilly course, and danced around my current PR, unable to break it. One day I came across a super flat 5K. Looking at past results for the race I knew even if I didn’t PR, I could do really well overall, so I signed up about a week before the race.
My first two miles were paced great. I counted the women that had hit the turnaround ahead of me: 8. Then I hit a nasty headwind. There was a woman running next to me at the turnaround, but I was fading. Nine women. Mile 3 was my slowest mile yet. I tried to use a trick that Lauren Fleshman wrote about just a week before; use positive words to tell yourself what a good job you’re doing, instead of berating yourself about how slow you’re running, or how painful it is. It kinda worked. I crossed the finish line with a 12 second PR.
I was happy to finally get a PR, though I know my pacing could have been better. I wanted to stay around for the awards, because if there were only 9-10 women in front of me, including each age group winner I knew I had a good chance to place. Or I’d just miss it.
When they called my name for 3rd place in the 20-29 age group my heart fluttered and my stomach dropped. Everyone was clapping! For me! I quickly texted my boyfriend, and then my coach, and almost started to cry. My first hard earned medal.
I know that in another race my time might not have gotten me a medal. But on that day I was the one who showed up and gave it all I had.
Just by showing up, I had already won.