Running Smart & Running Together


I’m no Shelby Houlihan, but I like to think I have a solid kick--something retained from playing lacrosse and sprinting for 50/50 balls perhaps? On Saturday, in the Beat the Heat 5k (USATF North Carolina 5k Championships) I was confident in my legs to go when I told them to kick, but not quite as confident in my ability to stay competitive--within reach to make a difference.

I went into the race thinking that I could place around 5th-7th, since I was racing my teammates plus some other badass ladies who usually beat me easily in races. Instead, I hung on to be in perfect position to kick. With 0.1 miles and one turn to go, I found another gear and passed the two ladies I’d been chasing the whole race--to earn 3rd place!

This might not seem like a big deal because my teammates reach the podium pretty often, but for me this was huge. I have a mild case of impostor syndrome when it comes to running for the Raleigh Distance Project because I didn’t run in college and I’m not as fast as my teammates. But this race reminded me that aside from speed, so much more goes into running. Strategy, patience, grit, desire, and joy are what make good races great--and our team had all of that at Beat the Heat.

Before the race, we had Sarah with confetti getting everyone hyped to have fun running. When Rita and I started too fast, we worked with each other to find a sustainable pace. During the uphill stretch of the third lap when Andie said under her breath that she wanted to step off the course, I said “no you’re not” and encouraged her to breathe and keep pushing. After the race, we encouraged Sammy to celebrate the small victories. And we cooled down, took photos, got awards, and headed back to Raleigh together as a team.


Not everyone has the benefit of running for a team, but anyone who runs is part of the community. Isn’t it all about the connections we make, mentors we become, and the strength we build in racing anyways?

I’m excited to continue realizing my ability to compete--not just behind, but alongside my teammates. Marathon training, here I come!

Erin ClarkComment