Most people who know me probably wouldn’t describe me as a competitive person. Honestly, it’s hard for me to provide evidence to the contrary. I’m definitely not competitive in the ways a lot of people thing of the word. I never really did teams sports long enough for anyone to get an opinion of my compete level and the one sport I did compete in — snowboarding, during the late 90s and early 00s — wasn’t big enough to even have a girls division for me to compete in, so there were times I won Gold for no reason besides being there.
Instead, competitiveness festered in the back of my brain like a secret and selective force that every so often would latch on to a single idea and nurture it until I became a human possessed with the idea that of course I’m going to do this and I’m going to do it better than anyone else has ever done it and no one will know except for me.
This isn’t exactly one of those stories, but it started in much the same way.
Like most nights in 2020, I was doomscrolling through Twitter on Tuesday evening when I paused on a Tweet from the Los Angeles Kings:
You can still sign up for the LA Kings Virtual 5k and get your Halloween Themed t-shirt and medal!— LA Kings (@LAKings) October 27, 2020
Proceeds benefit @ChildrensLA.
You know how sometimes you feel like your phone is listening in on you and making content choices based on your real life? My sister and I had just been talking about virtual race events a few days prior. She’d signed up for a few and was very excited about the tee-shirts that they send when you complete the race.
Once again: the only sports I ever got into were snowboarding and a one-credit volleyball class I took in college where my grade was based on showing up to the campus gym. And yet, I saw this virtual 5K event that ended in four days and thought “Oh yeah. I could do that.”
I mean, if my dweeby little sister can do it? I’ve totally got this.
Now, I don’t want to lie to you, so here’s the deal: I knew from the jump that I was gonna walk this 5K. I didn’t know at the time how far 5K was, but I knew there was no way I was going to go from working on my couch every day for the last ten months in quarantine to running a 5K. I have tried to be the kind of person who runs, but my knees aren’t great (thank you snowboarding injuries) and the most positive I could ever make myself feel about the act of running is that when you are done, you feel like your entire body is trying not to die and that’s a little bit cool.
So if you feel cheated because I walked, I’m sorry, but running was never going to happen.
I registered. My confirmation email is timestamped at 9:47 p.m., which seems like the best time to be making these decisions.
I decide to do it on Halloween.
The first thing I did afterward was look up how far 5K is, because I’m not a runner and I don’t use the system of measurement that the entire world except for the United States uses, so I had to put this in terms I can understand. It is 3.10686 miles. I live on a private road that is half a mile long. It feels far, but I think that’s mostly because the speed limit is 10 miles per hour. I’ve never walked it before, but I can walk to the end and back three times, sure.
Because this is a Halloween 5K, I knew I’d need a costume. I also know that as someone who has been self-isolating for months, there was no other need for this costume and I didn’t want to spend money on it and also I’d have to walk three miles in it. I was thinking about this while wearing olive-colored sweatpants and I had the realization that every redheaded millennial who owns olive-colored pants has when they need a last minute costume: I have everything I need to be Kim Possible.
Another point of clarification: though I’ve been brunette for several years, I am a natural redhead. Sometimes I forget that’s not my current hair color. But here’s photographic proof that this costume is my birthright as a ginger:
Returning to my red hair color was too much commitment, but apparently a full face of makeup, including fake eyelashes, was completely necessary to the look that I would be wearing to go do physical activity in.
Before the “race,” I tried taking photos of my costume outside, in good lighting, but my first struggle of the day appeared in the form of bright sunlight and decent winds — enough that my eyes couldn’t stop watering. I knew this would be a problem come race time.
call me beep me if you wanna reach me pic.twitter.com/VMyKMoexFI— sie | NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE (@nowyousieme) October 31, 2020
I was still determined, and not just because it turns out that the registration fee is $45 if you waited until the final four days to sign up.
I downloaded three episodes of the Blocked Party podcast’s bonus feed to listen to during my power walk, as I’m a monster who listens to podcasts at 2.0x speed with trimmed silences. In my search for how long a 5K is, I found most walkers took about an hour, so I figured I’d be set with two, the third was insurance, in case I ended up a mile away from my apartment at mile three.
Before I left, I took off the belt, because these pants don’t actually have belt loops and I thought it’d be annoying. I left the gloves on, but put my hair up in a bun and then added glasses, to help protect my eyes from the whole wind problem from earlier.
So now not only did I have a full face of make up on in order to look like a cartoon character, but then I made sure to make that character utterly unrecognizable.
I grabbed a grape Propel and my bluetooth headphones and set off.
A couple of notes about where I live: I have an apartment that is located within camping ground and my building is right at the lake front. The campground closes this weekend, but it’s so late in the season, I didn’t expected campers this weekend.
For that, I’m a fool. For some reason, the late part of the season is when the eldest of the campers come out. If you have grandparents who live in Ohio, I’m sure you’re aware that they all come up here to watch the leaves change and maybe clean out their summer homes for the winter. I don’t know why I thought they wouldn’t be doing this on the final weekend before the campground closes, but I probably would’ve made different decisions if I knew how many people I’d end up seeing.
I decide to loop around the campground for a bit before tackling the main road. I realize immediately that I can’t check the distance on my phone with the gloves on, so at all times during this race, I am wearing just one glove.
But overall, I feel pretty good. Once I have a sense of how far a tenth of a mile is, I extrapolate that for how my walk will go and I think it’s cake.
Half a mile in, my headphones die.
First off, I left them in their charging case, which was also charged, so I’m a little annoyed by this happening at all, but also, my phone only uses bluetooth headphones. Even if I wanted to turn around and grab another pair, I don’t own any other compatible headphones.
I was not about to walk for another fifty minutes without something to listen to. Despite having already seen several elderly neighbors at this point, I started playing the podcast through my phone speaker. If you’ve ever listened to Blocked Party, you know this is ill-advised. I don’t think it was loud enough for anyone else to hear. I certainly hope it wasn’t.
The first mile was actually easy. That’s probably not particularly surprising. I’m sure most people could get up and walk a mile if asked. My knees were starting to feel it a little, but overall not too bad. Aside from the mishap with the headphones, things were pretty good. This is when I started walking on the main road, heading away from the campground.
Here’s one of the things about that secret competitiveness I mentioned at the beginning: I will fixate on doing a thing, but I will never put any real consideration into doing the thing.
Had I looked it up, I might have found that I should’ve done smaller walks in the days before. I also would’ve learned that a breakfast of cold brew coffee and a protein shake might not be the best idea.
At the 1.5 mile mark, I was nowhere near my apartment, and I needed to poop. I was still heading away from the campground, about a quarter mile from where the road ends.
I refused to let this deter me. Maybe some part of me thought walking another 1.6 miles while also very much needing to poop would build character or something. Maybe my secret competitiveness was telling me that none of this would actually count if I stopped in order to poop. I did know that this could end badly. I walked on.
At 1.8 miles, I ran out of water. Not the worst thing that could happen, but not great. Now I had to be responsible for a water bottle, though. At that point, I had already done a huge loop around the campground and walked down the main road and back once. I figured one more time down that half-mile road and back would do it.
A little after two miles is when my lungs started to ache a little from the cold air. My knees were fully feeling it. This is more than I’ve walked in one go in months and I started to feel a little bad about that. My mailbox is at the end of the main road and I always just drive it. Should I start walking it every day? God, I used to walk so much. A year ago, I was working two retail jobs and I hit 10,000 steps every day without trying. I tried to remember the last day I met my step goal but I couldn’t.
My body is just doing the walking for me at this point. I’m doing everything I can to ignore the fact that I still very much have a coffee poop that is ready to go and that every driver who passes me has the same quizzical look on their face because it’s unclear if I’m in costume or just a weirdo.
I make it to the end of the road once more. I feel like this sign is just mocking me.
As I start to head back, I realize I’m going to have to make some loops around the campground in order to get the full 3.11 miles. This further frustrates me, as I will be in the same general area as my toilet, but I will have to try to time it just right, so I will not finish too far away from my apartment.
I’ll be honest, I remember much more of the beginning of the race that I do the second half of it. The need to poop put my body into auto-pilot. I hit the 3.11 mile mark and I was somewhere near the campground’s dumpsters and the only time I sprinted this whole day was after I hit “finish” on the Adidas app.
My final time was 01:07:05 and I’m not embarrassed by that. Like I said, this isn’t one of those stories where I decide I’m going to do something and I do it better than anyone else has ever done it before.
But I think I did it pretty okay for someone who didn’t prepare and had to poop for more than half the time.
I’m pretty excited for the tee-shirt.