Uganda Water Project 5k (Rochester, New York) 2014 Recap

by Daniel Johnston

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Thick in the middle of my training for my first half marathon, I decided to run a 5k. Probably not the smartest thing in the world, but whatever. It did help me make a key adjustment that helped me a lot on the big day.

After winning two 5k races in a row, I was probably a little overconfident. I figured I could probably run an 18 minute 5k at this point (although that was yet to be proven), and had a good chance of winning this race. Well, at least I got humbled.

I went to this race with my fabulous aunt, so that was fun. She simply walked, but there’s a funny story about that you’ll see below.

At the beginning of the race there was a lot of wind (man, what is it with me and wind?), so I delayed going to the starting line until the last minute. This was a very well organized event, with over three hundred participants. They even had live band. The goal of this race was clearly to help kids in Uganda, which was very nice.

As the race started, I shot out in front. I saw that the record last year was about 18 minutes, and I figured I could at least have a good chance at winning. Unfortunately, there were several faster runners this year, so I ended up going out way too fast and getting passed by a number of people, including (rather humorously) a group of incredibly fast girls).

Before long, I started feelingĀ terrible. I have never felt that physically bad running or playing any sport. It was awful.

It was to the point that I legitimately wanted to die. I was feeling SO sick. It didn’t help there were a few hills on the course, although not overly bad. But it was just terrible. This is what I think of when I talk about the pain of the 5k.

I immediately realized that the problem was that I had taken some vitamins that morning that had not gone well with the running. A nurse soon confirmed my suspicions and I NEVER run in the morning after having taken any sort of medication, eating any type of food or drinking any type of drink. Not after that experience.

Despite feeling like I was going to die and going out too fast, I actually did surprisingly well. I ended up getting 20:31 (my official PR at the time) and placing 16th overall in a competitive race. Disappointingly, I ended up missing a top 3 age group prize by just 6 seconds. The guy passed me at the end, too…

My aunt, on the other hand, finished in a time of 46:22, but got a medal for third in her age group because there were only three people in her age group! Oh, the irony.

In the end, though, I learned a lot of important things from this race. Not taking my vitamins also eliminated my stomach cramp problems. In addition, it was a very good experience to go through that level of pain and still doing pretty well, although I don’t intend to willingly go through anything like that ever again.

It also made my goals more realistic. I obviously thought my running fitness was much further along than it was. Although I have no doubt I would’ve run a lot faster were it not for going out too fast, feeling sick, and just going through a tough training week of 27 miles; my peak during that training cycle, I still wouldn’t have approached 18 minutes.

That helped me be more realistic for the half marathon. I ended up revising my goal of 1:30 to 1:35, which I achieved (!). I can only hope that this remains my most painful race ever.

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