I am not a natural runner. I have very little, if any, talent as a runner. The only reason I am able to run and sometimes run well is because I want it badly enough. Apparently I did not want it badly enough on Saturday night.

I entered the Run for the Pies 5K feeling hopeful. I ran regularly for the first month I was in Florida, but by mid-April it was just too hot, so I moved to workout DVDs and walking instead. Just before Memorial Day weekend, fiance and I headed out to a nearby track, and I wondered if I’d even be able to go a mile. I did, and pretty effortlessly for having not run in so long. I felt pretty confident that I’d be back up to a 5K in no time, and ran a few times a week for the past two weeks. On Wednesday I had a really, really good 3.0 mile run, so I was feeling really, really good about this race.

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Right after we parked. I hate this photo, but there weren’t any flattering shots taken. I’m considering burning both the shorts and tank top. I think they are permanently stained with the stench of failure, anyway. My official time was 36:32, with an 11:46 pace. (We did fix my bib after I went to the restroom and saw how ridiculously crooked it was.)

I was nervous all day Saturday, which is pretty ridiculous. This was not my first race. It was a 5K, and I was making a marathon out of a molehill. But I knew there would be way more people there than at any race I had done in Pennsylvania. Right after the gun went off, I heard the announcer say there were 1,439 people running, which was fewer than I expected. Having so many people made for some really interesting people watching before and during the race. I had never seen such a variety of shapes and sizes at a race, but the biggest race I ever did in Pennsylvania was about 700 people.

There was a really, really heavy woman lined up near me at the start. She was at least 100 pounds overweight, and I overheard her ask someone if they were planning to run the whole thing. She looked so nervous. I was a little overwhelmed looking at her because I couldn’t imagine the guts it would take to enter a 5K in that shape. She deserves all the credit in the world. I hope no one said anything mean to her or laughed at her, but people are idiots. I saw two teenage boys snickering at me when we walked through the Landing after the race and I was all red faced and sweaty.

I walked a lot of this race, and I am really embarrassed to admit that. I wasn’t mentally defeated like I was in Johnstown, and I don’t think there were any physical problems. Heart and lungs and legs felt fine. If I am really looking for an excuse, I guess I could say that I am a chubby Northern girl who has not yet adapted to the Florida weather. It was about 90 degrees with 70 percent humidity.

I’m sure the humidity factored into my performance, but the truth is that at some point, I just gave up. I passed the one mile clock at around 12:20, and that made me angry, because I felt it was too slow. I walked for the first time around 1.5, and passed mile 2 at around 23:00. I’m a fast walker, but I would walk, run much faster than my usual pace, then walk. It was totally ridiculous, and if I could run that fast for a few blocks at a time, then I could have run at a nice slow pace for the entire 3.1 miles. But I didn’t.

I felt really good for that first mile, until I realized I was only one mile in and moving that slowly. I think I gave up shortly after that. In the first few minutes after I crossed the finish, I just kept walking to find my fiance, blinking back tears. I knew that everyone whom I’d told about the race would be like “But at least you got out there! Just showing up is an accomplishment! You should be so proud; look how far you’ve come!” But I knew that I did not do my best, and I was really disappointed in myself. I have done better than this on three separate occasions, and I should have done better than 36:32. I don’t run for anyone but me, and I let myself down.

My first thought after the race was that I was done with running, that I would go back to the gym and the elliptical and my workout DVDs and the half marathon I’ve been dreaming of for the past year was just not meant to be. But then I thought about something my favorite riding instructor in college once told me, after a really good ride in which I did not even place in my class. She said, “A different judge, a different day, and the results would have been totally different.” A different race, a different day, and maybe I would have gotten it together. So I’m going to do another 5K in a few weeks. Whenever I get frustrated with my weight loss, I tell myself that I even if I never progress past this point, I still have to keep working to make sure I don’t regress. Where I am at today, in regards to both weight loss and running, is far better than where I started.

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I was finally willing to smile again after downing one of the free beers they were handing out to race participants. I considered it a nod to my 300-pound college girl self. Even she would not have been impressed with my performance, but she would have appreciated the beer.

One of my favorite chapters in Runner’s World’s Complete Book of Women’s Running is on the mental aspect of racing. There is a paragraph at the end of the chapter that says, “Races are simply a measure of where you stand on a given day. They are best treated as information.” So instead of obsessing over the failure, I consider myself “informed,” and I am moving on.

How do you bounce back from a letdown?

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