Finish Line #1: Poplar Spring 5k Recap

Last Sunday, I ran my very first 5k!

I registered for the Poplar Spring Run for the Animals 5k at Wheaton Regional Park. Poplar Spring is an animal sanctuary in Poolesville, MD that cares for abused, neglected, and unwanted farm animals. These include horses, pigs, goats, mules, and chickens. I’m an animal lover at heart, so I thought this would be the perfect race to put my $25 race entry fee towards. I also signed up for this race last year, but ended up doing the walk instead. I figured I had to run it this year to make it right.

I woke up around 5am with butterflies, but was excited knowing that I was going to run an actual race and accomplish a big goal. The race start was 8:30am, but I planned on getting there an hour early to pick up my timing chip and make sure I could find a decent parking space. I got dressed and tried to eat. I managed to get most of an English muffin with peanut butter down, but couldn’t finish the whole thing. Mark and I hopped in the car, and off we went.

We arrived at the park and found a parking spot right up front near the registration booth. Score! I picked up my chip and attached it to my shoe like a pro (I had to Google how to do it the night before so I wouldn’t look like the complete amateur that I am:).

Just as I started to warm up, I got a huge surprise! My mom showed up to cheer me on! She did a great job of convincing me she had to work that morning, so I was so surprised that she made it out. I greeted her with a big hug and finished warming up.

Around 8am, I decided to take one last bathroom break. That was a very smart decision because the line for the bathroom was starting to get long as more and more runners were prepping for the start. I had to wait about ten minutes, did my business, and starting walking over to the start line. I made my way toward the back of the pack. At that point I was regretting not bringing my mp3 player as I saw many of the runners getting their music ready. When I picked up my race bib the day before, I specifically asked if headphones were allowed, and was told no. Guess they didn’t care after all. Oh well. I tried to get in to the zone and mentally prepare for the next 35-45 minutes.

At 8:30 am, the MC announced “Ready, Set, Go!!” and off we went.

I waved to my mom as I ran by and scanned the crowd for Mark ( I never did see him). After a minute or so I crossed the official starting line and glanced at my watch so that I would know exactly what time I started so that I could track my time throughout the race. Maybe two minutes into the race, we were running on a gravel path and all of a sudden I felt the worse pain in my knee. I had never experienced it while training so I was caught completely off guard. Please not now! My worst fear entered my mind that I might not be able to run this but luckily the pain subsided after a few minutes and I felt better. Whew.

The gravel path soon turned into a paved one and I was feeling strong. Until…the first hill. I had planned on a few throughout the race but had no idea the intensity of these hills. These were STEEP. I managed to run up the first hill and was told by one of the volunteers that this was the worst part and the rest would be easy. Great. Smooth sailing from here right? Nope. After a quick stretch of flat pavement that was parallel to a lake, it meandered back through the woods and the hills returned. And they were harder. Most of the runners took walking breaks up the hills and I followed right along. It was also tricky because there was also a 1 mile fun walk and those walkers were on the same path as the runners. So I had to weave around walkers with their dogs (which were super cute) and strollers. It could have been organized a little bit better, but it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Around the 1 mile and 2 mile markers, there were water stations. Yes!!! I took a few sips and followed the lead of the more experienced runners and tossed the cup to the side. Some of the course was out and back, so many of the faster runners were running toward me and passing. All I could think was how strong these people are to be running THAT fast up THOSE hills! Kudos to them!

Around 2.5 miles, I started to hear cheering. At that point I knew I was close to the finish. It was exhilarating to hear the crowd cheering and it pushed me to start to run faster. Before I knew it, I came around a bend and one of the runners who already finished was cheering us on and was giving hi-5s. I slapped his hand as I ran by and then saw my mom, who had walked up the path to watch for me. I waved to her as I ran by and I could see Mark at the bottom of the hill with his camera. I heard “Great job Megan…go…go…go!”

I saw the finish line and sprinted towards it. A few seconds later, I crossed the finish line!!! I just finished my first 5k!! I couldn’t believe it. I stopped to catch my breath and turned in my timing chip. My mom and Mark found me a few minutes later and congratulated me.

After the race, there were tons of refreshments, including bagels, brownie bites, bananas, apples, and an assortment of vegan snacks. My mom picked up a vegan ice cream sandwich, which was surprisingly good. Although I follow a vegetarian diet, vegan is very tough for me and I’ve found that many of the vegan foods are no so tasty. But this tasted like a regular dairy ice cream sandwich. I picked up a few of the nutrition bars to take with me and ate part of an apple. As we ate, the race organizers awarded the winners of each age group with cash prizes. Many of the winners donated the money back to Poplar Spring. Very cool in my book. Raffle winners were also announced and given small prizes. I didn’t win, but I didn’t care. I was still on a high from finishing my race. Soon after, we got back in the car and headed home. My mom and Mark took me to lunch and I relaxed the rest of the day.

I woke up the next morning pretty sore (damn hills), but I was super proud of myself. I went into the race hoping that I would run it in under 40 minutes, but after I saw those hills I just told myself that I just needed to finish. This was something that I was told by everyone all along. It doesn’t matter what time you finish. Just finish. One of my biggest fears was that I would finish last, but I ended up doing pretty well. I checked online and saw my official time. 38:09!! I did it! I finished and came in under 40 minutes! I’m an official runner!

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4 thoughts on “Finish Line #1: Poplar Spring 5k Recap

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