My first official 5k was a couple years ago in New Orleans, but I did run the distance once back in 1997. It was December 1997 in Wisconsin. Construction job was going great and I had purchased my first nice car months earlier. It wasnt uncommon for my parents and I to switch cars. We both owned nice cars and worked hard for them, it was nice to switch it up once in a while, it was liking getting a new car. They had just purchased a brand new Yukon and I happened to be driving it.
Im not sure what led to me to the construction site at bar time with a car load of drunk (and who knows what else) friends, I must have had a sudden urge to go off-roading. I knew the site well, I worked there everyday. I drove in, we did some off roading, finished some beer and were on our way back home at 3am . Im not sure what happened, I think I hit a patch of ice, but the next thing I remember is this nice new Yukon smashed into a pole behind a department store. My first instinct was to run, which I did. Oddly enough 3.1 miles back to my house. Amazingly since it was the back of the construction site, no one saw, and nothing was damaged except for the truck, I never got in trouble. I went back the next day, pushed the truck into construction parking and had it towed Monday morning to the body shop. $8000 later and some maxed out credit cards the truck is fixed and returned to my parents. They knew I was using for it two weeks so I was in the clear. I just couldnt tell them. They had stressful jobs, I got myself into the mess and I was determined to get out of it on my own. I took care of it but it set me back for a long time. I hate letting people down. Theres a lot more to this story but that can be saved for another day.
Fast forward to New Orleans 2008. I had been running for about 6 months but had never entered a race. My wife happened to working out of town in New Orleans and I often go with her just to hang out and see different cities. Her sister was planning on meeting us there as well. She had run a 5k and found one for us to run in New Orleans. It was race day and I was nervous. There were 1000 runners.I didnt know how to put a race bib on. Good thing my sister in law was there. I was basically lost. Its not difficult to be in race but I did have a big case of the nerves. It helps to have someone there that knows whats going on. By this time in my running life I could run about 8 miles comfortably. I didnt really know how far exactly or how fast because I didnt own a Garmin. I lined up near the middle of the pack and the gun sounded. I started out with the pack and then I realized I was really holding back. I went to the outside and passed hundreds of people. My thoughts were racing faster than me. Was I going to pass out, was I going to puke, was I even going to finish?? At the mile mark I still felt awesome. I actually sped up. 2 mile mark felt great. Now there was no doubt I could finish, I just kept running a nice pace crossed the line. I was hooked, I love running races. Theres a lot of people there but ultimately its you against yourself. Leaving it all out there is the best feeling you can have no matter what time you finish in. I finished fourth in my age group, one away from a medal on my first race. I was actually good at something besides partying. I love the positive attitudes of all the runners. What other event gets 1000's of people out of bed at 6am on a weekend morning to go push their bodies as hard as they can?? Its just awesome. I love seeing the elites on the way back knowing Im only a couple minutes behind. Watching a great runner is a beautiful thing. I love running and keeping up with the high school kids, makes me feel young again. I love getting passed by people older than me. It inspires me to know that there is chance I could get faster. I like being passed by kids way younger than me, future elites I hope. Also very humbling. Nice seeing kids starting out early in running, I wish I would have. It would have saved me a lot of money and a lot of brain cells.
My wife has said to me a few times, "you are a better runner than I am." I tell her BS. A time is just a time, there will always be faster people, but faster does not mean better. We as runners are all pretty equal especially when it comes to race day. If your putting your max effort out and running your hardest, trying to get your PR on race day, we are equal. Max effort equally difficult no matter where you finish so keep that in mind and be proud of yourself for being out there!