A few months ago, January, to be exact, I was fitted for the right running shoes for my feet at a local running shoe store, A Running Start. I signed up for email updates and news from them at that time, and sometime in March received news of a running class that they would be offering. I was just finishing up my C25K program and had not yet run my first race, but I signed myself and Erin up for their 5K class, anticipating that I would need the extra encouragement to continue after I achieved my first goal.
The six week class, meeting once a week on Tuesday evenings, began mid-May- perfect timing to keep me going. Having learned a lot of the basics while pursuing the C25K program with the online group, what I really wanted was for someone to run alongside me and help me with any mistakes I might be making from one step to the next. As it happens, for once in my life, I was already doing the athletic thing right- and was beyond most of the people in the class!
Well, except for Erin, of course. Our first meeting with the group we discussed our goals for the class. Erin was the only one to declare that she wanted to run a faster 5K than she had already run. We broke out into groups after a few classes, figuring out who ran a similar pace and sticking with those folks each week. The only one in the class, besides the teachers Sorita and Lauren, who could keep up with Erin was a guy in his 20's named Todd, who was taking the class with his fiance' leading up to their wedding. Each week when we began our run, Erin and Todd would lead off, the rest of us following in bunches.
One of the neat things about the class was learning some of the local running trails. There are a number of lovely places to run around here, and breaking out of my routine of running the same three miles of pavement was an unexpected and genuine treat.
Our graduation was a local 5K race that occurs each third Thursday of the months of May through September, sponsored by a local Pub that is right on a local trail. The Pub offers a free beer to each runner after the race, making the Third Thirsty Thursday race a very popular event! The week before our "graduation" we met at the trail where the race would be run to have a test run and familiarize ourselves with the terrain. Mostly flat and shady, the Thun trail is a rails to trails reclamation which is so pleasant to run. Lauren told Erin that she would be running with her for the actual race to keep her on track for beating her former time of 26:57. Lauren runs in the crazy "ultra-marathon" races, 50 miles at a stretch, so she was up to this. I was personally hoping to beat my own time of 32:40.
Race day arrived and we were wearing our A Running Start shirts- neon yellow and not-to-be-missed in the crowd. Over 400 people turned out for the race, breaking a record, evidently, for this particular course. Kate brought the camera along, and we met up with our fellow classmates for a group shot and pep talk from Sorita. Lauren put us through a little warm-up run across the field, which made me sort of nervous- i wanted to save my energy for the race. Erin and Lauren had a chat about her goals, and when Erin said that she was hoping for something in the 24 minute range Lauren just chuckled and said, "we'll see".
Time came to line up, or rather, gather in the field, for the start. The trail is only 6 feet wide, so the 400 runners gang up in the field, start running in the right direction, and gradually merge onto the trail. At about 1/4 mile the crowd is thinning out a bit, so it's not packed the whole time. We started, we merged, we proceeded down the trail, and for a bit I felt like I was running backwards as the faster runners passed me by in DROVES. Before I got to the 1 mile point, the first racers were already coming back from the turnaround at 1 1/2 miles. I soon saw some of the neon yellow shirts- Erin being the first, followed closely by Lauren- and we shouted encouragement to one another.
Turning around at the far point was encouraging, and the rest of the race went well. I found a burst of speed to finish and passed a couple of ladies as we neared the end. I finished in 30:33, shaving two minutes off my first time! I found Erin and learned that she had done even better than that. Lauren told me that as they neared the end of the race Erin needed a breather, so they slowed a bit to allow her to gather her resources for the final push. They sped back up and, since she wasn't running a full timer on her watch, Lauren started looking for the time clock to see how they were doing. As the crowd cleared Lauren saw the clock register 23:09 and shouted, "GO Erin, GO!" Erin crossed in 23:20, slicing more than 3 1/2 minutes off her former time!
Erin Bleacher had also run with us, coming right before me, and Michelle drove the exhausted girls home since the free beer didn't appeal to them. Kate and I joined the festivities on the back deck of Trooper Thorns, where the sweaty, victorious runners were packed shoulder to shoulder, reveling in the completion of the event. As I enjoyed my beer and soft pretzel the announcements of the winners began. As it happens, Erin came in third in her age group! There were many more young people running here than in Pottsville in April, so getting third was still a great achievement!
We are now preparing for our second Thirsty Thursday run, but Erin may opt out. She is running every morning with the Cross Country coaches and team from the High School, and her training for that comes first. I'll be running though, and can hardly wait!