I’ve only been in one other 5K, on Mother’s Day, in 2006, I believe. I walked the entire thing with my cousin, Tanya, and we chatted so much that it was over before we knew it. But that was in Minnesota on a beautiful May morning. A 5K outside in Minnesota on New Year’s Day, well, that’s a weather gamble. And the odds are usually in favor of frigid temperatures.
The weather yesterday was particularly bitter, a frosty 4 below, when participants started making their way to our race location in downtown Minneapolis. Still, a few people were spotting wearing shorts. I was bundled up with the rest of the Experience Life team. In fact, it wasn’t the distance that I was worried about; I was planning on walking the course and felt comfortable doing so. What I was most concerned with was proper dress: how many pairs of socks? Mittens or gloves? Snow boots or running shoes?
I opted to go with running shoes. My Boot Camp buddy, Jennifer, joined me and the EL team for Commitment Day, and knowing that she’s run other 5Ks, as well as half-marathons, I wanted to be prepared in case she compelled me to run (we jogged a bit, but mostly to catch up with the group when I stopped to take photos). I completed my cold-weather gear with: two pairs of SmartWool socks, a base layer pant and shirt, a fleece-lined yoga pant, a windbreaker pant, my Commitment Day T-shirt, a long-sleeved hoodie, a fleece, a parka, gloves, a scarf, and a hat. Whew! I was almost too warm. (And the gloves were a miss. Even though they were meant for cold weather, mittens would’ve kept my fingers toastier.)
Besides the chill, the weather was otherwise fair. A bit windy by the river, but no snow or sleet. The route itself was nice, and peppered throughout volunteers cheered on the sidelines. As we walked under a bridge, the drumline River City Rhythm played us on to our next mile marker.
But the best part, for me, was the crowd. Seeing some 5,000 people get up early on a holiday to show their commitment to a healthy way of life was really moving. People in costumes, people dancing while carrying boomboxes, people in tutus. Even one woman with MS who crossed the finish line with the aid of a walker. Friends, partners, and parents and their kids (Craig Cox shared a nice recount of his experience running with his son on his blog yesterday).
For a while, Jennifer and I walked near a mom and her son, who looked to be about 11 or 12. As they walked, the boy complained to her, “This is soooooo hard. Why is this so hard?!” She responded: “It’s only hard today. It’s going to get easier the more we do it. We just have to keep working at it. Remember, this is why we are doing this today. We want it to get better and better. Just keep trying.” Hearing her embrace the message of Commitment Day reminded me that while it was fun, it was also serious for many people. We were united in our goal to get better and better, just like that mom said.
At the finish line, an announcer’s voice noted the time was narrowing in on 1 hour, so Jennifer and I sprinted to the end, just squeaking by. Although I hadn’t planned on keeping time, I did think that I’d be able to try another 5K and run more often next time, or even the whole time. So I’ve already started thinking about the next 5K I want to sign up for.
That’s the thing about healthy behaviors: When they are rewarding, they are deeply rewarding and tend to perpetuate those healthy habits.
This wasn’t the usual New Year’s for us. In years past, I’ve had one-too-many cocktails, maybe indulged in too many treats, and stayed up till 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, only to sleep off a hangover the next day. Kyle and I have still continued to stay up late even if we don’t go out, but with the race the next morning this year, we made early dinner plans and ended up asleep after the 10 p.m. news. I was rested for the 5K, and we both felt great all day. I even had enough energy to make it to Boot Camp that evening.
Just as we’ve changed our holiday tradition, I’ve changed my behaviors. It’s been one of the biggest hurdles in getting healthy — breaking the “this is just how I am” mindset. The more I surprise myself, though, the more I feel free and capable of accomplishing anything.