Eric’s First Race

Late last year, our friend Kara suggested that Gretchen and I sign up for the George Washington Parkway Classic – a 10 mile race that starts at Mt. Vernon and goes into Alexandria, VA. Kara had run the race in 2011 and said it was a blast.

At the time, I’d been running several times a month and thought, “I can do this. I have plenty of time to begin training.” I came up with a 14 week training plan and psyched myself up. Gretchen was pretty excited about this also. The two of us were so pumped about our first race that we mentioned it to our best friends Jenny and Mike, both of whom are avid runners. They are veterans of races, having run 5Ks, half-marathons and even a full marathon. They were happy that we signed up for this and even signed up themselves.

So once our hardcore running friends signed up, it was real. I stuck with my training plan for all of 3 weeks, fail.

I’m in grad school and once the semester really got underway, all training was placed on the backburner and the race was a distant thought in my mind.

Then in early March, Gretchen and I found out that she is pregnant. That took her out of the running (pun intended) for this race. So now that meant I would run alone with Mike and Jenny – again, our hardcore running friends.

I checked the race’s website and found out that I’d be able to ‘downgrade’ from a 10 Mile to a 5k. For a few weeks that was my plan, however, I missed the deadline to downgrade. So the week before the race I planned on running a few days just to get myself ‘warmed’ up and then I twisted my ankle on a short hike in Mt. Gretna. Fail.

I figured, let’s just do this race and I’ll try my absolute hardest to finish the full 10 mile race in less than 3 hours.

So on Saturday the 21st, Gretchen and I + Jenny and Mike drove down with a 6:00pm deadline to pick up our race packets. We pull into the store at 5:51. I made awesome time from Lancaster to Alexandria.

Once I had my packet in hand, looked at my race bib and check out my T-shirt, it got real. I actually started getting pumped about this. While in VA, we stayed with Jenny’s sister, Melissa (who was able to take Gretchen’s place in the race).

On Saturday, we all went out to dinner in Fairfax and had a great dinner.

The next morning, we woke up, got ready and went to the race. We were there 10 minutes before the race was to start. My first thought when we pulled in was that I’d never seen anything like this: HUNDREDS of excited runners about to embark on a 10 mile journey through the cold, windy, rain. I got in to my race group (13:00+ mile) and soon the race was underway.

I ran the 1st mile and a quarter without a problem. But soon my ankle that I’d twisted last week started hurting to the point where I could barely walk. My shin on that same leg started cramping/getting tight. I walked for awhile until I decided to jog it off – which led to running about 3 non-stop miles (with the help of a little water/gatorade along the way).

I trucked through the 10 miles in 2:25 – 5 minutes before my planned finish and 35 minutes before they’d stop the race. The view along the race (the Potomac River) was beautiful, it was incredible to be around such a variety of runners, and the spectators along the way were so encouraging. My last mile was tough, but I made friends with two guys around my age that were also struggling. We helped each other out until the very end.

And speaking of the end, once I saw Gretchen, Jenny and Melissa cheering/screaming my name – I sprinted across the finish line. It was so exhilarating! 
Plowing through the finish!

For being my first race ever – and never having run longer than 3 miles in one shot, I am super excited. I’m on a runner’s high that has not gone away yet.

Mike and I excited about finishing the race!

The Runners

I’m already looking forward to running more official races and I’m aiming for a half-marathon.

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