I have been racing for more than 10 years now and have participated in dozens of 5Ks. I remember my first 5K really well. It was the Beverly Homecoming 5K. I decided to run in it after running all summer in an effort to lose weight before senior year of high school. I vividly recall looking at couples, who were running next to one another, encouraging each other, chatting and some who even crossed the finish line hand in hand. I was wicked jealous. Running had always been a solitary sport for me. So, when I was out of breath and approaching mile 3 and just wanting to walk the rest of the way, I had to be my own cheerleader encouraging myself to finish strong.
Now, 10 years later, I have an amazing boyfriend who is willing to run races with me. I am truly living the dream, right?
Kind of… KC and I running together is not how I had pictured it. From our first run, it has never really been a “couple activity”. The first run took place in pituresque, Provincetown, MA. We were there for an annual family trip. This is first time he met most of my extended family. We went for a run through the dunes, an annual tradition of mine; something I had always done solo. I was very excited to share this with him. KC, less experienced at running, was willing to let me set the pace. He was not impressed with my molasses like speed and took off ahead of me. He finished the 3 mile loop faster than I did. He was tired and sore the morning after the run. Meanwhile, I set off and did a 10 mile run…
A few weeks later we ran our first race together, The Color Run. This was KC’s first 5K ever. We were both excited about it. I had never done a color run before and KC was anxious to finish his first race. Race day was rainy and cold. It was late May and I believe the temperature stayed in the 40’s. Most people participating were walkers and were dressed in elaborate tutus. There were waves of runners. KC and I decided we would run together without music. The atmosphere of the race was light. There were people literally rolling around on the course trying to get more color on their outfits. KC and I were not those people. We were probably the only 2 people who were timing themselves. The course was over a race track and had a few inclines. KC was slightly struggling up a hill. We still had over a mile left. I suggested walking up the hill. KC responded “No! The only thing I hate more than running is giving up!” I was kind of in awe at this statement. It truly speaks to KC’s personality. He NEVER gives up when faced with an obstacle. Whereas, I will totally give up. If he had asked me if I wanted to walk, I would have been like “OK, we’re not getting timed anyway, want to loop back and see if we can get some purple color on us?” But not KC. KC is the type of person who’s biggest compettition is himself. We finished the race in under 30 minutes, not that anyone there was keeping track.
2 months later we participated in our second 5K together. This was affiliated with KC’s work so many of his co-workers were also running it. It was on a hot summer evening in downtown Manchester. I would not have selected this race. I usually find races with beautiful locations or free alcohol. If they have both then sign me up twice. I also prefer morning races, as that’s when I am on my A game and I can also be sure I have not eaten something terrible. To make this race more challenging, it was also 4 days after my half marathon. So, I was not expecting to do particularly well, but was excited to be a part of it and to have another chance to race with KC. KC had been sick the week prior, so he was not expecting to do too well either. He had debated participating.
KC took off so quickly! I was shocked. It was somewhere in the low 90’s. It was humid. I made the decision not to push myself too hard. I finished in about 30 minutes. I texted KC to see where he was and before he could respond, I found him sitting on a curb, eating yogurt, looking pale and dehydrated. I asked him where his water was, he had not been able to find water post race. I left him on the curb and went on a search mission for all things hydrating. I returned with water, Gatorade and Popsicle (KC’s favorite). We sat there for a bit while he had fluids. The color came back into his face and lips and we decided to not go out to dinner. KC finished the race in under 27 minutes I think? Impressive time, but as my dad likes to point out (much to my delight) he did die a little after…
Flash forward 9 months and we are competing in our 3rd 5K together. KC unfortunately had been under the weather again and I could tell he was nervous about running. I think mostly because he thought I had a good chance of beating him. I have had multiple runs at 9 minute mile pace. And, KC had not run since Mother’s Day. I was excited about the free beer and the cool shirt, but to be honest also was very hopeful I would beat him.
We are both ridiculously competitive and stubborn. I get really jealous and kind of annoyed at KC’s running. He wont run for MONTHS and can run a 9 minute mile. I have been running for MONTHS and barely can consistently keep a 9 minute mile pace. It just doesn’t seem fair.
The race started, and once again, KC got a good head start on me. We have very different running styles, so I shrugged it off. Much to my delight and surprise, I caught up to him rather quickly! I passed him before mile 2, giving him a loving little squeeze on the right arm as I passed. I was making great time, feeling great, until I realized how badly I needed to pee.
Peeing and me have a long history. My friends and family joke I know where every public restroom on the Northshore is because I pee so often. I had peed 4 times prior to the race and had stopped consuming liquids an hour before. But, none the less I had to pee and it was urgent. The water station seemed like a promising spot for a “portapotty”, but that was not the case. The race was in a very residential area and it was a packed with participants so popping a squat was out of the question. I just had to muscle through it. I had never been so aware of my running belt. I felt as though it was squeezing just my bladder. The last mile was slow, as I was certain if I opened my legs too wide I would pee myself, and for what a 27 min time in a beer related 5K? I would not be able to live with myself.
I crossed the finish line with a time of 28.46 and kept running till I hit the porter potties. I may have cut a few people in line but this was an emergency, there was no time for pleasantries and social norms. I managed to get to the finish line right after KC crossed it. I was STOKED, but did not want to gloat as KC had never gloated over me in the past.
We found shade, and let KC catch his breath and sit while I was scoping out where the food and beer was. KC was very kind and gave me lots of praise for beating him. I said it was a false victory since he had been sick leading up to it. I think we were both secretly planning for the next 5K in August to compete again.
Even though having a boyfriend to run with isn’t what I envisioned as a 17 year old, it is still fun to have someone to share the fun of racing with. KC makes me a better a runner. The way he challenges himself, challenges me to push myself harder. Not
just to beat him, but to beat my times. KC’s “never give up attitude”, competitive nature and positive outlook are all qualities that I hope to incorporate more into my running. Though, he may not fancy himself a runner and vows to never run more than a 5K he is truly a running inspiration for me.