After spending the last few months training for marathons, one in May and one in October, it was refreshing to take on the Symphony of Lights 5K last Saturday. Pumping out a 5K exactly a month after running the Des Moines Marathon, I wasn't exactly expecting to break any records. I didn't know how much speed I had left in me and definitely did not expect to come close to my times from cross country. Boy was I surprised and delighted about how things turned out!
Hundreds of runners gathered at Eagle Point Lodge to prepare for the race. I waited in a long line to pick up my bib and swanky new shirt. After going for a quick warm up and waiting near the start area, the energy was infectious. Everyone was eagerly anticipating the start of the race.
I went toward the front and lined up with what looked like seasoned runners, mostly men. And I couldn't be more glad that I didn't start with the middle of the pack or it could have turned out like a mini Bix disaster. With the hills and sketchy footing I was a little paranoid about rolling my ankle, which has happened too many times to count. Luckily I had plenty of space and no injuries.
Eagle Point Park has always been a favorite running spot of mine, but racing there at high speeds I feared would be a different story. It was a completely different story, but in a good way. Powering up and down the big hills, and enjoying the views and lights, brought me back to my cross country days (which really weren't that long ago, but feel like forever ago). I blasted through the first mile in under seven minutes, so I might as well have been wearing my uniform again!
While I had done some shorter races in between marathons, Paul Skeffington 5 mile and Clinton Half Marathon, I forgot how quick these races go. Before I knew it I only had a mile to go! I kind of screwed up crossing the finish line, slowing down at the cones instead of the chute. In my defense, the finish is usually at least a little bit in front of the chute to avoid chaos at the narrow chute. Regardless I finished 11 seconds under my best 5K in cross country and was surprised and thrilled! I also felt really good, like I could have definitely ran even faster.
As I stocked up on the wide array of free fruit and picked up my award for being first in my age group, I reflected on the light-hearted stress-free fun of doing a 5K instead of a marathon. Sometimes it's fun to not have to commit to so much training and just run a nice quick race instead of an agonizingly long stress fest!
Natalie Conrad is a staff writer for the Clinton Herald. She enjoys running marathons and trying different recipes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.