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My First Race

A week ago today, I participated in my first race ever. I was visiting my friend Tina in Massachusetts who, knowing I'd want to run that weekend, found the perfect (i.e., short) race for me: the Greenfield Winter Carnival Sleigh Bell Road Race, just four miles long.

My goal was to finish in 40:00, or 10:00/mile. I told Tina that I'd be happy with 40:00 and stunned if I ran it in 38:00 (or 9:30/mile).

The first mile was a long shallow downhill followed by a really steep hill at the end, and I ran that in 9:05. That was good by my standards, but it was the start of the race and I was excited. The second mile was flat to uphill, and I was already really tired from the hill at the beginning, so I ran that in 8:55. At that point, I was just thinking, "hold on to where I'm at and finish in 40:00." The third mile was downhill and then flat, and I ran that in 9:22. I worked out the time in my head and realized that if I kept to my overall pace, I would beat 38:00 -- about 37:49 or so. The last mile was a steep downhill and then a shallow uphill, and I was really tired over the last few hundred yards, but I was psyched and so was running okay. I ran it in 8:51, even faster than the first mile, and so I finished in 37:13 for the race, or 9:18/mile.

By anyone else's standards, 9:18/mile over four miles is pretty slow. But for me, it was a glorious thing. During the race, on one of the downhills, when I had the chance to think, I wondered to myself if relative effort is all that matters. If I push myself to my limit -- if I give it everything I have -- and run 9:18/mile, is that just as much a personal victory as anything done by a more accomplished athlete?


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