Five things I learned running my first 5K road race


Proof positive that I finished the 2016 Seacoast Rotary Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.

Proof positive that I finished the 2016 Seacoast Rotary Turkey Trot in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Thanksgiving morning.

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday, and this year was no exception. In fact, this year’s festivities may have marked a high point. I was not only able to enjoy the fine company of my brother and his family in southern Maine, and a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat, but also we all kicked the day into gear by running together in the 2016 Seacoast Rotary Turkey Trot.

Now, we all know people who run for fun and fitness. I am not one of them. I have tried on and off since my early 20s to become a runner – lean, sinewy, awash in endorphins – but have always thrown in the towel after a week or two. I don’t really like sweating or getting out of breath, for one thing, and that happens way too easily when I run. I also find it boring, trotting along endlessly on the treadmill or the roadside, and frustrating that I can’t enjoy the sound of the birds or the scent of the pine trees when I’m working that hard.

My default exercise is walking. I try to get out there three mornings a week for a good, fast walk to the end of the road and back, which I think is about a mile and a half. It takes me about 25 happy minutes.

My husband, Douglas, on the other hand, runs. We say goodbye at the foot of the driveway and head in different directions. He covers about three miles in the time it takes me to finish my walk. I admire this about him – his discipline as much as his ability. And I appreciate his commitment to staying healthy and strong as we grow older together.

But neither one of us, especially not me, is especially competitive. So back in October when my niece Ivy suggested we all do a little extra family bonding by running together in the 5-kilometer fundraiser in Portsmouth on Thanksgiving morning, we hesitated. But only long enough to remind ourselves of the little we knew about these events – that there are different divisions by age and gender, that it’s a family-friendly race for all fitness levels, that plenty of people walk the entire 3.1 mile distance. It’s all in good fun. And so we signed up.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Dressing in layers makes me look fat. But this was the key to being warm and comfortable at the start of the race, when it was about 38 degrees out. Later on, I opened the zipper on my pullover for ventilation and ditched my hat and gloves. But I still looked formidable in my spandex, rather than lithe and lissome.
  • Sibling rivalry never dies. My brother and I, equally unfit for this sort of thing,  jostled for position until I put on a burst of speed and left him in my dust. Loser.
  • Running with a crowd of about 2,000 people is actually a lot of fun. It’s not boring. My pace was so slow, it was easy to chat a little with the folks jogging along beside me. I passed people who were moving even slower than I was. I ran alongside young parents with strollers and had time to admire their babies. City residents came out on their porches to cheer us on as we passed through their neighborhoods. It was entertaining, motivating and distracting.
  • I can finish a 5K road race! I walked some of it, but managed to keep up a slow-but-steady jogging pace most of the time. Yes, I was sweating and breathing hard, but it was fine. And it was a really great feeling to come around the last corner and see the finish line ahead. That last block was lined with cheering well-wishers, including Douglas and my nieces, who had finished long before I did.
  • After you run a race, you can eat whatever you want for Thanksgiving dinner. You can bet I had seconds.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next 5K road race in my area – I really got a kick out of this one. Maybe I’ll even start training a little, putting more oomph into my morning walks. Maybe it’s not too late to become a runner, after all.

Meg Haskell

About Meg Haskell

Meg Haskell is a curious second-career journalist with two grown sons, a background in health care and a penchant for new experiences. She lives in Stockton Springs. Email her at