Editor’s note: Sabrina Michael is a junior copywriter at The Master’s University. This is a first-person account of her experience running in TMU’s annual Winter 5k on Saturday, Jan. 13.
By Sabrina Michael
For The Signal
I hate running. So, driving to The Master’s University’s annual Winter 5k in Santa Clarita on Saturday morning turned into a 40-minute mental wrestling match.
“What are you doing?” I’d ask myself. “You’ve never run 3 miles straight in your life.” Dramatic visions of passing out on the side of the road or being the last person to walk across the finish line popped into my head.
But then I began listing the reasons to run, a large one being that I really wanted to understand why anyone would ever put themselves through what I consider torture. I also wanted to support my co-workers, alma mater and the Children’s Hunger Fund, to which Master’s donated a portion of the proceeds in order to help feed children locally and internationally.
The pros far outweighed the cons, and I found myself standing inside Lou Herwaldt Stadium at TMU with 206 other runners. Self-consciously, I mimicked others, pretending to know what I was doing by stretching my hamstrings and quads and nervously making small talk.
For Kevin Chong, who brought 43 people from his church, Grace Life, his reason to run was a simple habit.
“The older guys at church try to run 5ks every three months or so. We are getting older so we want to stay in shape and fellowship with each other,” he said. He “thought it would be a good family event, so we got the church to come up. This will be an annual thing for us.”
Minutes later, Zach Schroeder, TMU’s cross country and track and field coach, and an organizer of the race, stood in front of the anticipatory crowd with a megaphone.
“Thanks for coming out,” he said. “This is a great morning for a fantastic run. … The gun will signal the start of the race.”
And seal my fate, I thought.
Trying to distract myself from my impending doom, I asked a father and daughter pair next to me, “What brings you all out here?”
They had just moved to Santa Clarita and wanted to find a local run. Mario Balcom said, “We are consistent runners. I’ve done marathons, she’s done half marathons,” he said, indicating to his daughter, Brittany, who finished third place out of a total of 103 women in Saturday’s 5k.
A momentary silence fell upon the crowd, and the gun went off. The 5k began. And, as I expected, I was passed by a large number of people. However, my goal was not to win anything (I couldn’t even if I tried) but to not stop running the entire time.
For some, like Master’s alumna Brooke Eller, the goal was to set a new personal 5k record. For others, it was simply to beat everyone else and take first place in either the male or female category, earning a free pair of shoes (up to $125) from Running Warehouse in the process.
Caleb McClain, finishing in 17 minutes and 18 seconds, took first place for the men, and Stacey Stern, finishing in 21:24, came in first for the women.
I finished about 11 minutes after Stacey. And, thankfully, I did accomplish each of my goals: run without stopping, check; figure out at least one reason as to why anyone wants to run, check.
With each mile marker I passed — mile one, mile two, mile three, and then the finish line — there was a massive sense of accomplishment paired with the fight for mental stamina. A simultaneous celebration for making it one mile closer to my goal, but also gearing up to make it to the next marker without stopping.
It makes “do not run aimlessly” (1 Corinthians 9:26) from the Bible much more meaningful. I didn’t want to look back, no matter how tired I was at the time, and say “I should have kept running,” or “if only I pushed myself further.”
It also helped to focus on a specific goal. I envisioned the sense of accomplishment I’d feel when I made it and saw my friends and fiancé at the finish line. It’s rewarding to complete something I never wanted to do, or something I never thought I could do. I can only imagine what it must be like for those crossing the finish line after a marathon.
For Schroeder, TMU’s coach, he looks back at Saturday’s event and can say job well done. It was the “best yet,” he said. “The participants really seemed to enjoy it, and we were able to support a great cause, which was a big goal.”
Because of the TMU Winter 5k, Children’s Hunger Fund will be able to provide around 2,500 meals to children in need around the world.
“Every year this event becomes more polished and a ‘must-do’ event for those looking for a well-managed community race in an ideal setting,” Schroeder said.
For more information on Master’s Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.