“What time would I have to run for you to think I did a decent job, keeping in mind I am not a runner?” I asked Travis in an email I sent on Friday, just one day prior to our racing in Ottawa.
“I’d aim for 20-30 minutes. Anything below 20 minutes would be very solid, but anything below 30 is very reasonable for a fit non-runner,” responded Travis.
As most of our readers have probably figured out over the years we’ve been writing Obesity Panacea, Travis and I definitely have different preferences when it comes to physical activity. Travis is an endurance athlete who dabbles in some strength training, and I’m much more comfortable hoisting dumbbells or sprinting than I am running long distances.
Thus, I drove to Ottawa with my fiancée, Marina, this weekend for my first 5 km race with a bit of trepidation. Marina was running her first 10km race, but due to her superior Russian genetics, I sensed she was a bit less nervous than I was.
Equally hesitant to race was my long-time gym buddy, Ryan, whom I had cajoled to run with me so I’d have some company. The fact that his wife, Tatianna, was running the half-marathon this weekend helped seal the deal.
“How much do you not want to do this?” was the first thing Ryan said to me as we met up in Ottawa, a mere 2 hrs prior to our scheduled race time.
But in truth, I was eager to see how well I could do competing in an activity I don’t regularly train. I had hopes of doing lots of running, and tapering off my weight training, leading up to the big weekend. Unfortunately, I caught some nasty flu that stuck around for the better part of 3 weeks leading up to the race. Thus, my training had consisted of a few runs on a treadmill.
But here the four of us were, among thousands upon thousands of running fanatics. Ryan and I were first up at 5:00pm on Saturday running the 5k.
So around 4:40pm, Ryan and I made our way over to the start line, cheered on by our partners.
Our goal was simple: pace ourselves, run the whole distance, and try not to throw up.
As far as time was concerned, I was hoping to get under 25:00 minutes, which, as Travis suggested, would be a reasonable goal for an active non-runner.
We squeezed in near the front of the crowd of approximately 7500 others who were running the same race. That’s right, seven and a half THOUSAND people were all running the same 5 km race. The volume of people was a bit overwhelming, and due to the humidity and the appearance of the sun, also suffocating.
While most people that trained and knew what they were doing came prepared with heart rate monitors or at the very least watches to help pace themselves, Ryan and I had none of these tools. We were completely oblivious.
After standing and sweating among our fellow runners, the horn eventually sounded and we were off…sort of.
Due to the number of people all crowded together, the first bit of the race involved dodging people and trying not to trip over each other. Although people were supposed to place themselves in the line according to their expected finish time, many people did not heed this advice. Thus, some people right at the front of the pack obviously should not have been there, merely posing a hazard to all those that had to pass them.
As much as Ryan and I agreed to pace ourselves, our excitement and adrenalin got the better of us and soon we were running at about 95% capacity, zig-zaging between people in an effort to stay together.
“How much longer do you think we have?” I asked Ryan as we continue to push ourselves.
“I have no idea!”
So we continued to run blindly, not knowing how far we had run, how long we had been running for, or how much longer we could keep up our pace.
Somewhere midway through the race, my mouth became uncomfortably dry, and all I could think about was having some water once we finished. The anxiety, combined with the effort of the run, had altogether seized my salivary glands from producing any saliva.
Eventually, at what we later learned was the 4 km mark, we were handed a cup of water, which both Ryan and I promptly spilled all-over ourselves as we attempted to run and drink.
Before we knew it, we were within 500m of the finish line, and the crowd cheering us on got denser as we approached.
Despite the sensation that my body wouldn’t give much more, I decided around the 100m mark that I would sprint to the finish.
I could not have been more relieved to hear the sound of the chip attached to my running shoe being registered as having crossed the finish line.
And man was I thirsty!
So how did we do?
I crossed the finish line at 22:17 and Ryan was just 6 seconds behind – it was during the last 100m that we became separated by more than a few meters.
I placed 254th of all the 2850 men that ran the race, and 28th of the 234 men in my age category (25-29). Ryan placed 260th overall and 29th in our age category.
We could not have been happier about our results.
“Imagine if we trained!” Ryan exclaimed as we proceeded to high-five each other.
While our personal results certainly made our egos soar, mine and Ryan’s relative successes were quickly thwarted when our significantly fitter female counterparts competed in their respective races.
Next up was Marina who ran her 10k at 6:30pm. Despite also dealing with the flu I had passed on and thus not being able to train much before the race, Marina ended up finishing the 10k in 48:56, at a pace she would later describe as “moderate.” This time resulted in her placing 152nd of 5053 women overall (top 3%) and 41st of 817 in her age category (top 5%).
Marina’s Russian genes prove themselves yet again.
Finally, after a late night out on Saturday, Tatianna ran the half-marathon at 9am on Sunday. Regardless of the time, I personally feel that continuously running for more than 10km is a huge accomplishment. Not to be outdone, however, Tati did a fantastic run, finishing in 1:58:03 while making the whole thing look effortless.
All in all, we all had a blast and we are already in discussion about our next potential race later this summer.
How about you? Did you or someone you cheered for race in Ottawa this past weekend? How did you do? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments section below.