Sabrina Lott First 10K

Guest Post: “My First 10K”

By Sabrina Lott

They say you never forget your firsts. When I think about it, I can still feel the burn of the fear and nerves in my belly. When the Facebook memories come up, I’m right back there. When someone shares their fears with me about their first time, I am empathetic because I have been there. The first 10K race is a beast!

I signed up for my first 10K race because I found people to do it with me. Plain and simple. I saw a friend advertise for a race coming up in a few months. At this point, I had only walked two 5ks and had just started running. I did not consider myself a runner but had friends who had participated in races and shared their experiences. For weeks, whenever I would think about the race, I would search the website and internet for information but could not commit. Most importantly, I wanted to know what the time limit was. I did not want to be the last person to cross the finish line or get kicked out because I was too slow. I heard sad, stressful stories and did not want that to be my first race experience. A friend told me that she only participated in races if she was running the shortest distance offered and lots of runners would be finishing after her. That made plenty of sense to me. If I run the slowest 10k possible and there happen to be slower, half-marathon runners on the course, I shouldn’t be alone, right? Unfortunately, this race wasn’t offering a longer distance.

My boss at the time was a recreational runner who raced often with her running group. One morning, while getting ready for my daily break walk, I mentioned the race to her hoping that she might help me find the maximum time. She was confident that my walk/run pace was average and that I would have no problem participating, but I still wanted proof. When my coworker came into our office to grab me for our walk, my boss blurted out, “Sabrina is signing up for the Wonder Woman race in October. You should do it with her!” I was shocked and mortified. I had absolutely not committed to running and didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of my coworkers.

Instead of compounding my fear, her announcement had an unexpected positive effect. My coworker, younger than me and a volleyball player looking to add more cardio into her routine, suddenly became our Team Captain for the race. She spent the next few weeks inviting other women to run with us. My boss confirmed that she was already signed up for the race with ladies from her running group and would be there too to cheer us on. By the time race day arrived, we had six coworkers out there running!

Sabrina's 10K Training Plan

Sabrina’s 10K Training Plan

Having never raced before, I had no idea how to really train. I am, however, generally well organized and know how to use a calendar. I converted a training plan that we were given into a word document and adjusted it to fit my schedule. Instead of walking on our lunch breaks, we started bringing a change of clothes and added running to the routine. We met after work and on a few weekends to get in as many miles as we thought we could handle. It was not until much later that I learned about Jeff Galloway and the run/walk method. At this point, we ran as hard as we could until we were exhausted, walked a little, and then did it all over again. The majority of the time, I was running as hard as I could to keep up with my training partner and then would request the walk break before I felt like I was going to pass out. I promise, we know better now! I regularly teach athletes how to use app- and watch-based interval timers.

It’s weird to me now that I remember more of the prerace emotions than I do the actual race emotions. Fear is a powerful emotion. I remember bib pickup the day before the race. My very shy daughter was brave enough to go on stage for a trivia game and I felt an immense sense of pride and also determination to make her proud by facing my own fears. I remember when we passed the two-mile marker and the excitement of realizing I was still running. I remember taking my first walk break because the incline of an underpass was not something I was familiar with. The burning in my legs and chest was different and not something I was prepared to handle. I remember losing my friend at one point because she was faster than I was and I needed a break. And I remember later catching up to her, and being so darn proud of us, as we crossed the finish close together. Training helped us change our goals from “don’t be the last one to finish” to “I think I can do this in under 80 minutes.”

Most importantly, though, I remember sticking around to cheer for all of the people who finished after us. Some of our friends were injured. Some used different run/walk interval paces that had them further behind us. But we all finished! We celebrated every person that crossed the finish line with pride, joy, and sincere admiration. There was no way of knowing if they felt the same prerace fears that had almost robbed me of this experience. We took so many pictures and enjoyed every bit of the celebration.

Writing publicly about my first race has been heavy on my heart because this is a conversation we have constantly. Many of us have faced this fear in one way or another. I wasn’t nearly as scared of my first half marathon as I was of my first 10k because I was surrounded by friends and my partner. I knew they would be proud of me no matter how I finished and I would not be alone. We have conversations with new runners regularly about facing this fear. This fear of being last or of not finishing at all. We have to remember that someone has to be last. If this is a fear that you struggle with, can you try to think about it from a different point of view? Someone recently told me that the person who finishes last is almost performing an amazing service for the rest of us by taking that place and allowing us to finish ahead of them. As athletes we can face this fear with our hearts and minds open. As Coaches, we can make sure that we support our athletes whether they finish first or last. We can support our athletes through many of these fears so that they do not miss out on these amazing opportunities to see their growth live and in living color.

Sabrina and her teammates.

Sabrina and her teammates.

I ran a half marathon when I was four months pregnant with our miracle baby. The doctor cleared me to run and I ran a 12K as a test the month before, but I still ran very conservatively. I did not want to spike my heart rate or put unnecessary demand on my body but I wanted to prove to myself that I could run while pregnant. My “A” goal was to finish. My “B” goal was to finish under 3 hours. It turned out to be a smaller race than I was used to, and guess what: I was close to the very last person on the route. Everyone else was hustling back to the finish to make the 5K Challenge that started within a very short window, including the friend who talked me into racing pregnant. For the majority of the first 6 miles I was leapfrogging with an older, white woman. But growing babies put pressure on your abdomen, and by the time I came out of the port-a-potty, I was all alone. I ended up with a police escort around the lake and realized I had finally come full circle. I could joke about being the lone black woman on the course, being “chased” by a cop car through Oakland. It was hilarious to me. If you know, you know. I finished that race alone and in tears. But they were not tears of shame. They were tears heavy with pride in how far I had come and the strength of my body. As I waited for others to finish their bonus 5K, I was able to absorb the amazing sense of accomplishment I felt and the hope I had for my endurance abilities and our new baby.

After I finish every race, I now make a point of cheering for as many race finishers as possible. I have been at the finish line of at least two races now when the very last person crossed and we cheered for them just as loudly as we cheered for the earlier finishers. The distance we travel from start to finish is the same. I will continue to support all of our runners through their fears, questions, nerves, and training, as they worry about being closer to the end of the race than the beginning. The finale of the show is almost always grander than the opening act, right? If you have the honor of being the last one across the finish line, accept it and celebrate your accomplishment. If you have the honor of being that athlete’s coach, I hope that you cheer for them until you have no voice left. They deserve it!

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Coach Sabrina Lott is a mother, athlete and partner. As a curvy woman of color, over the age of 40, she saw the lack of visibility and inclusivity of people who looked like her family in endurance sports, racing and training and wanted to work to help make a change. Sabrina became a Coach in order to help other women feel safe and supported in fitness whether that looks like walking, hiking or running in the outdoors. As a mother runner, these days you can find her running the streets or hiking with her infant in the jogging stroller or with her local running group. While she may be training to PR the Half Marathon distance, her passion is best experienced on the trails enjoying the natural beauty with family and friends.As an 80/20 Endurance Certificated Coach, Sabrina specializes in helping Women, Mothers and newer athletes get moving. Whether you have a specific fitness goal in mind or you’re still trying to figure out where to start, she is here for you.

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