The 25th annual Summerfest marked a personal milestone for me.
I ran my very first 5K, although it wasn't pretty.
About a week before Summerfest, a couple of co-workers and I decided it'd be neat to run the 5K. We did nothing -- zip, zero, zilch -- to train for it, which was a huge mistake. We're all gym buffs, so we figured it couldn't be that bad, right? Wrong.
Maybe I was just caught up in the Olympic spirit when I agreed to put my body through that torture.
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On Saturday, as I walked up to the starting line, I saw just how serious my fellow runners were. They were in it to win it. I, on the other hand, was just going to be happy to finish the 3.1-mile loop through historic York.
I decided to run as a bandit, meaning I didn't register for the race. That way, I thought, if I don't finish no one will know.
While my co-workers Amy Garvey, Mary Pettus and Kathleen Storey spent a few extra minutes stretching, I gabbed with York Superintendent Dr. Russell Booker. He's been running for about a year and competed in several other 5Ks before this one. I found out he ran the Summerfest course four other times last week to prepare for Saturday's race. Why didn't I think about that?
We wished each other luck -- somehow I was sure I needed it more than him -- and then it was off to the starting line.
"On your mark, get set, go!"
We were off.
I kept up with the pack for a solid five minutes before I started losing steam. I was down to a slow jog before the second song on my iPod ended. That can't be a good sign, I thought.
As we approached the one-mile mark, I was excited to see the water stop ahead of me. York student trainer Stacy Amburgey handed me a cup of the coldest, most refreshing water I'd ever tasted. I drank it as I jogged and then wondered what to do with the empty cup. I looked around and saw dozens of pixie cups scattered along the road, so I tossed mine, too, but not without guilt. I hoped I wasn't gonna get a ticket for littering.
By then, Kathleen had already left our group in the dust. I turned around and saw Amy right behind me. Mary was nowhere in site. Time to step it up a notch, but I couldn't. My calves were starting to tighten, so I slowed to a brisk walk.
I quickly realized my 30-minute morning treadmill routine paled in comparison to an actual road race with uneven pavement and hills. Maybe all that fresh air was getting to me, too. I was missing my friends from "Good Morning America."
But I loved seeing the people out in their yards, waving and watching the runners. One man quit mowing his lawn to cheer for us.
When I saw the two-mile mark, I felt a rush of relief.
"It's almost over," I told myself. "You can do this."
Then came the mountain.
OK, it was more like a really steep hill, but it might as well have been Mt. Olympus.
As I headed up the hill, fellow runner Gary Love of Clover told me I was doing great and to push on.
"It's not up to me for you to beat me," Love challenged. "It's up to you."
And just like that, I got a burst of speed.
As I turned down Jefferson Street and passed the McCelvey Center, I knew the end was near. Then there was the sign for Roosevelt Street, where the race began. As I rounded the corner, I saw it -- the finish line.
Call it coincidence or call it fate, the very minute I turned that corner, the "Rocky" theme song came on my iPod. I broke into a giant smile and then gathered everything I had in me to sprint across the finish line as the crowds cheered and clapped.
It was probably one of the proudest moments I've ever had in my life.
I finished 77th out of 83 racers and had an embarrassing time of 34 minutes, 12 seconds.
By comparison, Clover High athlete Mick Francis won with a time of 17:49 and Dr. Booker, seven years my senior, finished with an impressive 23:25. I have such admiration for these guys and the other runners.
But I didn't care about my time. I finished the race with my head held high.
And I wasn't last. That honor went to Mary.
In case you're wondering, yes, I definitely felt the pain on Sunday, and two days later when I got back in the gym my legs were like rubber on the treadmill.
No doubt, I'll train first before the next go-round.
Meanwhile, I can't stop smiling.