Yesterday, after a summer full of training, I completed my first ever 5k.  My training was a long road, with a couple of bumps.  At one point, I thought the training was exacerbating my migraines, so I stopped training.  Then, I realized that tons of people had migraines the week I was struggling, so I think it was more about the weather/barometric pressure than it was the running.  So I got back on board.  With my sister's wedding and back to work, I found myself exhausted and only got to train 1-2 times a week (on a good week) in the 3 weeks leading up to the 5k.

Once upon a time, I tried to get into running, but it never "stuck."  This time, I got into it in desperation to lose weight.  The frustrations I've experienced over the last 1-2 years on and off with counting calories, working out, and trying everything I know how to do (short of starving myself) have been exhausting.  I've watched those around me do just what I am doing and lose lots of weight.  Truth be told, it has made me even more frustrated and want to give up.  In spite of all the factors I mentioned, I really didn't give up.  Along the way, I've had some great cheerleaders, especially my gym buddies Mom and Jessica.  My friends and coworkers, sister Alexis, and Brandon have all been behind me 110%, which I am so grateful for.

Yesterday, I got up at 5:50 to get dressed and ready to head beachside for the 5k.  I left, forgot my heart rate monitor as I pulled out of my driveway, and ran back inside to get it.  I grabbed an egg & cheese bagel at Dunkin, and I choked most of it down even though it wasn't very good.  When I arrived, I had a bit of trouble finding parking, but that issue resolved quickly when I parked at the surf shop.  

I debated whether or not to run with my sunglasses, and I had to shove my car key in my sports bra since my family & friends weren't there until a bit after the race started.  Let me say, I made the right choice by wearing my shades.  The sun would have killed my eyes.  Although, maybe that would have made me run faster?

I saw my buddies Indica and Tori before the race started, and that helped calm my nerves  little.  Since I'm a nervous pee-er (what a ridiculous predicament), I found one of the 14 porta-pottys available.  We lined up for the race, listened to the star spangled banner, and listened to the starting signal: "Runners, on your marks, get set, go!"  I had total goosebumps in that moment.  I don't think I will ever forget it.

Since official time is calculated using the chip we had on our shoes from starting mat to finishing mat, I walked to the starting mat.  As soon as I hit that mat, I hit the ground running.  With 1,579 participants, it was really hard not to get caught up in the herd mentality.  So many people passed me by in a swarm, but I remembered everything I'd read-run your pace.  Though I've done outside interval running before, I didn't do my training for this 5k on the treadmill, which allowed me to monitor my pace since I had to adjust the treadmill speed accordingly.  I am so glad I dusted off my ipod for the race because the mental aspect of the run would have been worse without it.  Reminding myself to keep MY pace (the best I could), I soaked up the view of the beautiful Atlantic Ocean in the initial stretch of the run.  

The energy of the run was spectacular.  There were so many people-young and old, every ethnicity, every body type, every interesting running getup you could think of.  It was truly a joy to run among so many, even though the number of paid registrants (1800) made me very nervous.

When I hit the flag for mile 1, I felt encouraged and discouraged all at once.  The first mile was definitely hard for me mentally because it felt like it was going on forever, and I was questioning my pace.  Am I going too fast?  Am I going to burn myself out?  Am I going to slow?  Will I be able to meet or beat my best treadmill time?  My best time on the treadmill was 37:35, which I did the Thursday before the 5k.  

The volunteers that were there to wave, shout words of encouragement, give high fives and thumbs up were awesome!  At one point, a volunteer was holding out her hand, and I ran past her, giving her 5.  Her hand was covered in the sweat of all who give her a high five along the way.  Kind of gross if you think about it too much, but kind of cool to imagine how many people she got to encourage that morning.

Mile 2 was my best mile, for the most part.  I felt like I was in the groove of things, and I stopped questioning my pace so much.  The end of mile 2 was very sunny and hot without much shade to dart in and out of.  As I made the turn down the straightaway to the finish, I got tears in my eyes.  There were a lot of people clapping and cheering as we rounded the corner for the last .5-.6 miles of the race.  Appropriately, Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" came on my ipod.  Thankfully my old causeway walk/run playlist was still on my ipod.  That really jazzed me up, which I needed.  

My legs never gave up, but the breathing got hard at times.  My legs are never the problem!  The worst part is the mental aspect.  There were a handful of times I wanted so badly to walk.  I even bargained with myself.  "Run to that mailbox, then you can walk from the mailbox to the stop sign."  When I made it to the mailbox, I refused to walk.  My stubbornness served me well in those moments.

Back to the finish.  I had to restart Don't Stop Believing along that final stretch.  I knew I wanted and needed it to make it through to the end.  I heard my mother-in-law yell my name and point to the rest of my supporters: Mom, Alexis, Brandon, Ayla, and Jessica.  They were holding up a hot pink sign that said, "Go Amber!  We're proud of you!"
I sprinted to the finish, seeing that I was going to finish in under 36:00!!  I searched out my group, and I burst into tears, hugging everyone and leaning on Brandon.  My buddy Tori was there at the end, and I was excited to know she'd finished with a great personal time as well!  The emotion of that moment was unreal.

In that moment, I was not consumed with the thoughts of the weight I can't seem to lose.
In that moment, I was unstoppable.  I was fierce.  I was strong.
In that moment, I was not defined by the disability and disease (RSD) that has been a constant in my life since July 8, 1996.  
In that moment, those 16 years of illness were silenced.
In that moment, I proved to myself that I can overcome any obstacle that I face.
In that moment, I felt so alive.

Happily, I got to cheer and encourage my buddy, Indica, who also beat her best time!  We then all hung out, got to see some awesome owls in person, and eat and drink.  

I found out that my start to finish time was 35:27.  I finished 57th out of 104 in my age group and 850th out of the 1,579 runners.  I was SO close to the time of the person who won the "middle of the nest" award, and for me, that feels pretty awesome for my first ever race.

I am so proud to say I didn't quit.  I didn't walk, even when my thoughts worked out a way for it to be possible.  

Here's to a remarkable experience that impacted my life in a huge way, and here's to what is still to come!


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