Group Race
Running Ray, "The Cat" Carucci and "Ravishing" Rob after completing the BlumShapiro 5K at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn.

Amazing. That’s the only way I can describe my first 5K experience.

I woke up early and felt extremely nervous. Probably the most nervous I’ve been the morning of an athletic event since April ’92, when I was about to make my first little league start as catcher for Mr. Kold Kuts in Yonkers, NY. Unlike that faithful day, my mom wasn’t around this time to remind me which socks to wear, or to remind me to brush my teeth. Of course, that’s neither here nor there.

When I got to the course, I met up with “Ravishing” Rob and “The Cat” Carucci. It was officially game time. Prior to the race, “The Cat” and the “Ravishing” one thought I would break the 30-min mark. I was just hoping not to puke or wind up on the front page of the local newspaper while on a stretcher.

A view from the starting line...

Once I was in the crowd at the starting line, my mind went blank and the sunglasses went on, despite the dreary Saturday morning conditions. “I Came to Play”  blasted through my ear buds, and just like that we were off.

The first mile was a pretty easy jog. I found myself feeling better and better about myself as I passed person after person. This being my first race, I was surprised to see a mile marker along with a stop watch. When I saw 9:18, I knew I could do more.

The second mile featured a downhill stretch, where I was flying past people left and right. I thought to myself that maybe I should take it easy… but the competitive spirit had me going faster and faster with each step. I probably should have saved some energy for the uphill part of the course. Lesson learned for next time.

However, as little kids stood at the corners of this residential stretch, cheering all of us on, I kept pushing myself. The mile 2 marker was to my right. The time was something like 17 minutes and change. Holy crap, I was flying…. and holy crap, I might actually break 30 mins.

Down the last mile, my legs started to burn, and the smell of someone making pancakes (I LOVE pancakes, even though you shouldn’t run after eating them), had me thinking maybe I was done. Again, the competitive spirit kicked in, and I looked at the people in front of me. There’s no way any of them were in better shape than me. So I hustled, and along the way found someone willing to pace with me. And as we got to the final stretch, I thought back to those countless sprints that “Lady B” had me go through.

And as I crossed that finish line, I knew I left everything I had on the course. My reward: a personal best, 26:33.  Simply amazing.

Note: Thanks to “Ravishing” Rob and “The Cat” for joining me in my first 5K. Special thanks to everyone for the texts, e-mails and calls prior to the race. And the overwhelming amount of support post-race. Y’all make this blog and quest to complete a marathon worth every second invested.  Next stop: 13.1 miles in the Hartford Marathon.