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The Power of a Challenge – My 10K Race

Race 01

Yesterday I had planned to run a 5k with my sister and my brother at our hometown’s yearly “celebrate-our-lovely-little-village” day. You know, with a parade, mud bogs, baseball tournaments, exhibits, and races. We thought it’d be a fun experience and I hadn’t run a 5k in a long time.

Last time I ran a 5k (photo below) was maybe two years ago with my two brothers and my sister-in-law. It was a horrible race, my first 5k and I had just gotten back from over a month long music tour with the family band. Not only was I terribly out of shape, but I was recovering from the H1N1 flu that I managed to get on the trip home. I ran the 5k in maybe 35 minutes or so, but I felt sick most of the run.

Old 5k 01

SO…I was excited to have a nice little experience with this 5k, run with two of my sibs, and try for a good time.

But once we got to town, I started wondering if maybe I should do the 10k. I talked to “Mr. Man from the City” who was running it and he found out I have ran half marathons and a whole and he wondered what on earth I was doing running the 5k.

A phrase popped into my head. “Choose to be extraordinary.” Almost everyone was running the 5k and only a handful of people (mostly guys) running the 10k. I knew very well I could easily be like…second last…maybe even last. (I’m not exactly a speed crazy runner, kind of average). It might not be pretty. My brother started to encourage me to run the 10k instead.

I don’t know about you…but it’s a little weird running in your hometown where people sort of know you. I didn’t even want to run this race, but I wrote it down as a goal on my 2011 Resolution List, haha…so I knew I’d do it. And because there aren’t many runners there I had this fear that I would run in to the finish line with the Grandmas.

Now I’m a little weird in a few ways (okay, a LOT of ways), but one of my quirks is that when something scares me or makes me nervous it’s like I have to do it…conquer that fear no matter what. It’s like I want to do things that scare me. Like bungee jumping. SCARES me to DEATH, but I will be doing it. Sometime or other, I know it. Yes, yes…glad you know one of my quirks now.

Maybe this quote sort of makes things make sense.

“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.” – Nadia Comanect

Yup, best quote ever.

And as for the race bit, it’s not like I was scared to run a 10k…that distance is not really a deal, but I was scared to come in with the late bunch. And mentally, I didn’t feel prepared to run a 10k…I haven’t run that far since the marathon a couple months ago. I was also nervous because I’d never run that far (outdoors) without music. (Yes, I loooove my music when I run) And agreed, it’s pathetic and un-runnerish to be so attached to my ipod. Whatever. As silly as it sounds…running without my iPod kind of queered me out. I knew my mind would be yacking at me the whole time, which I despise. And I hate hearing my breathing when I run.

But I asked the lady at admissions to change my information for the race.

Race 03

Then the race started. I was near the head of the pack…maybe a dozen people ahead of me. It was nice. I felt good. I wasn’t last…just sort of average. Then a mile and a half into the race, the 5k runners turned around and suddenly I felt sort of…in shock. There was only one human ahead of me.

I was second! Me…in second. Average runner Charissa, who had a fear of being last.

I could hear two guys huffing behind me. They were close. The thought struck me…I have a chance at being second or third…but if these two (who were obviously sticking together) pass me…I’d be fourth. I wouldn’t even get a medal. At that moment I determined to be 2nd or 3rd. I knew I had a chance…if I could keep ahead of them.

I started saying nice things to myself like…”Isn’t this fun? I could do this all day.”

My body replies, “Liar. Not fun. I couldn’t do this all day. Those dudes are like right behind you. You can’t keep this pace.”

I started commanding myself, “I can do this. I can do anything I set my mind to. I just have to keep this pace and I’ll be fine.”

At the three mile mark, the dudes behind me sort of just fell behind. It was wonderful. I had no more competition. I would be second. It wouldn’t even be hard, I could maybe slow my pace just for a minute or two…I felt like I had been running really hard. Then I looked back and saw a female form in purple behind me…not too far. She could totally catch up.

I started running hard again. But every time I snuck a little glance behind me I knew she was closer. I had been second almost the whole time and now this Purple Ninja was going to beat me. No. She. Wasn’t.

By this time, the half a bagel I had for breakfast was not sitting well with me. I had cramps even up my neck. I was feeling sorta nauseous. And my legs started to shake. And the Purple Ninja was getting closer.

Mental conversation was driving me nuts. “You can’t do this. You’re exhausted.” Over and over on the repeat setting.

I prayed, “God, give my mind and my body strength to finish strong.” I remembered my favourite life verse which is Philippians 4:13.

By this time “Mr. Man from the City” has won the 10k. I’m not sure what I think of him…he came from his city to our little “celebrate-our-little-town” today, did his thing, picked up his gold medal, and then motor biked back to the big city. As nice and pleasant as he was…I’m not sure I agree with the idea of someone from “out of town” participating in these races. I think it’s different in a city, or even a bigger town, but when it’s some small race for the locals…I’m not sure I think that’s entirely right. Anyway…back to me and the Purple Ninja.

I felt she was closer. I tried to speed up, but suddenly I heard the Purple Ninja breath right beside me. This is like ½ mile away from the finish line! I had held 2nd place for almost 6 miles and now I couldn’t get it together.

And then she passed me. She beat me in the race by maybe…one minute.

But whatever! The point is I challenged myself, took myself to a place I never thought I could get to and I faced my fears and guess what? Wonder of all wonders I placed 3rd! I never would have dreamed that I would (Granted, it was a really small race in a small town!). But for me that was good. I’m an average runner and this race pushed me in a different way than any other race has. Often we think that we can’t do things, we’re not good enough and we sell ourselves short. But we can do things! But we’ll never know unless we try!


I don’t know about you…but I’d rather live a life of “oh-wells” than “what-ifs”.

I mean…look at this man!

Race 03

He is 88 years old and he did the 5k yesterday! Isn’t that amazing!? He’s almost 90! Sure…it took him 1:15 to get across the line, but he did it! That’s what’s cool! Facing a challenge, take a chance, digging deep and doing what you can, and then whatever happens happens!


And then there’s my brother Andrew (the only brother you haven’t met on the blog yet!). Yesterday he ran his first 5k…which was his first race ever. He didn’t even train for it (and sorry ladies, he ain’t single). Andrew even won a bronze medal for being 3rd in his age category! He and my sister never even stopped for a walk. I’m so proud of them!



I know that it’s just a race. It’s nothing that amazing. But it’s these small challenges that make us who we are. They make us stronger and they help us realize that we’re capable of more than we think. I challenged myself to run without my iPod.  I ran the 10k instead of the 5k even when I was scared I’d be one of the last. I fought my mental battles. I raced hard for 2nd and placed 3rd. I did what I could and took a few chances on looking stupid and failing. Sometimes it’s just the fact that you’re willing to face failure for something better that matters.

I think it’s worth it.

Sibs 02


What do you think about non-locals racing in small community races? How do you feel about conquering your fears? Have you had any of those “Aha” moments where you realize that you are capable of so much more?

Category: Fitness, Running | Tags: , , , , 5 comments »

5 Responses to “The Power of a Challenge – My 10K Race”

  1. Kelly

    Wow, congrats for pushing yourself and getting
    3rd! You must have been rolling :) I always dread 10ks but I’m so
    Glad I did them once they are over!

  2. chris @ thekeenancookbook

    Lol – purple ninja. Hahah. Grats on 3rd place though! That’s quite the achievement and great you challenged yourself. Id have def been last :)
    I should challenge myself more physically, especially now that baby boy sucks up whatever exercise time I did hav.

    But id say I challenged myself with my mba 3 years ago. I dedicated myself to passing the entrance test, then to workingfull time and going to night school. I graduated in december, just in time for baby boy (which is a whole new challenge heheh). It was tough at times, but I’m really proud I finished.and while it didn’t translate to a pay raise (I’m in small biz, more about exp than degrees) it was a personal achievement :)

    Great story,thanks for sharing :)

  3. Faith

    You are so inspirational…a huge congrats for challenging yourself and placing 3rd! You’re right, that pretty much is the best quote ever!

  4. shannonmarie (rawdorable)

    You go girl! Such an inspiring post :-)

  5. Sharon (from Bit of the Good Stuff)

    Congratulations Charissa! You did a fantastic job and well done on getting a medal! I ran my first 10k a month or so ago to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. I’m a rubbish runner and yes, I did finish with the stragglers (even most of the grannies beat me :( ) but the main thing is taking part and having a go. I truly believe that the most challenging experiences are the most rewarding. You keep going girl! xx

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