Monday, May 14, 2012

running with gratitude {25K}

On Saturday I completed my first 25K race.

If you live in Grand Rapids, you know that the Fifth Third River Bank Run is a much anticipated event each spring. It is the largest 25K road race {25K = 15.5 miles} in the country, and this year was the event's 35th anniversary. It's a common goal for local runners to want to run this race which happens on the second Saturday of May each year.

I'm not sure when I was first bitten by the 25K bug because {please believe me when I say this} this is one of the LAST things I thought I would ever want to do.

I think it must have happened last November as I was finishing up the training for my first 15K. At the time, 9.3 miles seemed to be at the very top of my running capacity...until I completed my last long run and realized I probably did have it in me to go a little further. We had an awesome race in Chicago a couple of weeks later and as we finished, I knew there was probably more mileage in store for me down the road.

January rolled around and it was time to get down to business. I followed the training schedule the best I could, making sure to hit the long runs on the weekend and filling the week with shorter runs and cross training like swimming and spinning. {Cross training became my BFF. I think it helped prevent both boredom and injury.}

When it was all said and done, I completed 17 weeks of training, 85 workouts in all. I logged almost 300 miles in runs and countless laps in the pool along with a handful of other workouts to round out my weeks. Week in and week out, I took it one step at a time. I had an amazingly mild Michigan winter and spring to train, and I was fortunate enought to stay relatively injury free.

Race week arrived and I was nervous. I wondered if my training would be enough. Would it rain? (River Bank tradition says it always rains on race day.) What should I wear? How should I fuel up? What pace should I start out at? Could I conquer the hilly terrain of the second half of the course? 

Luckily, I didn't need to worry. It didn't rain. My attire and fueling plan worked great. I hit my target pace and came in under my goal time. The hills were no problem. And yes, my training, all 17 weeks of it, was enough. And don't go spreading this around, but I daresay I even enjoyed myself.

I spent the first six miles or so perfectly comfortable, running along the Grand River with a cheerful, green canopy of trees overhead and a pair of friends nearby. Around the six mile mark we hit the turnaround to start heading back downtown and the road was lined with spectators for the next mile or so. Shortly after that, I was happy to see the halfway point sign and as I hit mile eight, the first half of the race was securely behind me. Around that point, I lost my friends and knew I was probably on my own for the rest of the race. 

And then the hills began. If you mention the River Bank course to a previous River Bank runner, they will inevitably mention the hills. I have plenty of hill runs under my belt, however, so I was hoping I was well prepared. They were still slightly daunting because I knew I needed to keep up my current pace to reach my goal time (I was around 1:14 at the halfway point and I wanted to finish in under 2:30).

The key to hills, I've decided is make them spiritual. This section of the course, roughly miles 8-12, was definitely the toughest, and I found myself charging up each hill as something to be conquered. I ran for those who can't run. I thought of all my hours of training. I stayed positive and in the moment. I ran with gratitude.

Around mile 12, I spotted Matt and Dylan and my father-in-law who rode down on bikes. By then I was back in the city and they were able to ride down the sidewalk next to me which was a huge boost. Around mile 13, I spied Theresa, Bethany & Katie P. cheering from the curb, and from then on I knew I was almost there. As I started to wind my way through the downtown streets, I heard shouts of encouragement from Tiece, my sweet SIL K3, and my neighbor girls.

I used my last surge of energy to cross the finish line just under 2:30 - 2:29:44 to be exact. Truth be told, it was a near perfect race for me and I crossed the finish line knowing I had run it to the best of my [current] ability. I felt good the entire run, I soaked up the experience, and I pushed myself to leave it all out on the course.

I am so grateful for these beautiful words from my friend and Holy Yoga instructor Jami. Last week via Facebook, she said to me: "enJOY every second... stay present... worship... breathe... pray... run with gratitude." I took those words to heart and they were on my mind my entire run.

It took me a long time to realize that running really is a community sport. There are so many people I want to thank for helping me along the way.

I am thankful for my workout girls for getting me started on this journey towards better health 75 weeks ago.

I am thankful for the countless veteran runners who patiently answered my questions along the way.

I am thankful for each and every Facebook friend who ever liked or commented on a running post on my wall (chalk one up for social media).

I am thankful for my husband who supported me along the way and for kids who are proud of their mommy.

I am thankful to God for giving me the ability to run in the very first place.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am beyond grateful.

There are so many things I will remember about this day - the sights and the sounds, the spectators and the friends, the fun parts and the hard parts, the hills and the valleys. Most of all, I will remember this: feeling grateful.

Will I ever do it again? A friend said that's kind of like asking a woman in the hospital who is holding a freshly delivered newborn when she's having another one. The blood, tears, and sweat may still be too fresh to give an honest answer. But like a mother looking back, give me some time and I will likely only remember the good stuff - the tremendous sense of accomplishment, the euphoria, the joy

My short answer: Ask me again later.


  1. Glory! I am so proud of you and the message you are spreading! Now all you need to do is bask in the glory of your success.

  2. Way to go Katie! I think your readers should read my post on running because running really is hard. I salute you. :)

    1. :) Keep on keeping on...I know you can do it :) It gets easier...and more enjoyable, I promise!

  3. Congrats to you! Way to go at all the training as well as having a great race! I know how great that can feel. Glad it all went so well for you.

  4. Awww! Congrats Katie! I almost cried.. you are so inspirational! So happy for you :)

  5. You are amazing!! Congrats on finishing the run. I ran a marathon before I had my babies (and I am not a runner!!) One of the things that helped me make through another step when I thought I couldn't was taking that step for those who couldn't. It really made me think of my legs and how grateful I am for them- sounds crazy, I know! I loved this post and your yoga gal said it right- worship-breathe-pray-run!

    Jessie Lynn

  6. Nice job on finishing the race and even beating your goal! You have inspired me to not complain about my 2 mile runs :)

  7. Just signed up for my first 5k. I've never ran, so I think that is right where I belong. Hopefully I will find the joy in it - as you have. :-)


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