This past Sunday, I participated in a small local 5k called Pawz by the Sea, and surprised myself by finishing 3rd female overall! What was so surprising about it? Well, this was my first running race in months, and given my 2-month break from running over the summer to heal my plantar fasciitis, and the fact that I haven’t trained to run fast in a very long time, this was a pretty unexpected achievement. Another win in my book – taking part in this race helped me get control over anxiety that’s been plaguing me for a while now.
I usually avoid talking about my emotional state here on the blog, but it would be unfair for me to make you believe that my day-to-day life is all roses and vegan cupcakes. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed in the past months with all of my commitments – a new job that I recently started, posting here on the blog regularly and exploring new opportunities to grow Vegan Runner Eats, making sock monkeys for my Etsy shop, doing freelance translations for a Russian nonprofit that cares for children in need, etc. All of these activities not only leave me strapped for time to spend some quality time with Rob (I’m so sorry, honey!), but also make it hard to find time just to sit down on the couch for 5 minutes to relax in the evening without thinking that I should be doing something more productive…
With every day being filled with all of these activities, my running and racing has been put on a backburner, and I haven’t been happy about that. When I first started participating in running races, I did seven half-marathons in the span of a year and a half in addition to races of other distances. I was so fond of competing and receiving age group awards left and right (this was easy in relatively small races in Southern Alabama) that doing so became a part of my identity. One important note: I didn’t have a job at the time (long story), so there was plenty of time to train. Now that I’m back in the workforce, I can only find about 30 minutes a day after work to spend at the gym before going home to shower, make dinner and spend an hour or two working on my blog. My high-intensity workouts help me stay in shape, but it’s impossible to train for running races of any serious distance when all you have is 30 minutes! Even when I do get a chance to go for a 4-5 mile run, I stress over my slower pace (the hilly routes in my area contribute to that) and the memories of my ‘past glory’…
So this is where last Sunday’s 5k comes into the spotlight. To reintroduce the joy of racing back to my life, I made a decision to find a small, low-key race, and run it without stressing over the outcome. Luckily, a local animal clinic was hosting a 5k, and I found out about it a few days before the race. This 5k was supposed to be quite unique: the participants were encouraged to run with their dogs, hence the name ‘Pawz by the Sea’ (‘by the Sea’ part comes from the sea surrounding Whidbey Island).
The night before the race, I finally made up my mind to participate in this 5k. I knew that it was going to be fairly easy: the distance was relatively short, and I was positive that the field would be small. I also decided to leave my GPS at home so that not to stress over my pace (I was ok with it being slower than all of my previous 5k’s) and just run by feel.
Rob and I arrived at the start line on Sunday to see lots and lots of dogs with their owners getting ready for a good run! I don’t know if being vegan has something to do with this, but I always feel so much better emotionally when I’m surrounded by animals. I’m looking forward to the day when Rob and I finally have our own home to get a dog, but until then, I’m happy to interact with any fuzzy creature I meet. The race organizers put on a fun warmup routine a few minutes before the start:
Once the race started, I took advantage of the fact that I was dog-less (no offense to those of us who regularly run with dogs!) and made it toward the front pack within the first half a mile. Three women – two of them with dogs, including the previous year’s winner – ran at a conversational pace that was just comfortable enough for me, so I stayed right behind them. Within a mile or so, I got closer to them, and we exchanged a few words. It turned out that they run together regularly, and know the course very well. They were surprised to find out that I just moved to Washington from Alabama, and after the race even invited me to join them for their Sunday group trail runs.
When only a mile was left to go, one of the leading women dropped back, and I got in 3rd place. This race was giving awards to the first 10 male and female finishers, so I knew that I was going to score. Regardless of that, I decided against relaxing, and gathered all of my strength to speed up (or at least it felt so). I crossed the finish line in just under 26 minutes.
I knew that it was my slowest 5k to date, but brushed away negative thoughts and chose to enjoy my 3rd place. The endorphins were rushing through my system – I think Rob enjoyed seeing me so elated! We stayed to cheer up the rest of the field as people and their dogs approached the finish.
Towards the end of the race, I was amazed to see this little guy named Oliver cross the finish line:
It turns out that Oliver and his owner are regulars at this 5k. While his owner mostly walks, Oliver often makes it hard for her to keep up with him! Seeing this handicapped dog filled with life and joy put things in perspective for me: there are plenty of less fortunate living beings who still manage to live their lives to the fullest, so my time limitations are not an excuse for me to complain.
To sum things up, this race turned out to be a cathartic experience. I managed to leave behind the anxiety of wanting to perform at my best, and just enjoyed the opportunity to run well and meet new people. I also realized that I am blessed with so many amazing things in my life – being able-bodied, having lots of amazing opportunities, and most importantly, being married to my wonderful and supportive husband who took all of these pictures! – that there’s no room left for complaining. If we take a look at our troubles from a different perspective, we’ll see what we haven’t noticed before.
Question for you: What was the last experience that made you count your blessings?
(All of the original photos for this post are courtesy of Rob Zavatsky.)