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My first 5K – Bagpipes, bibs, and bananas

“You’re going to have to kill me, bitch!” the man in a white t-shirt and jeans yelled as he dashed across the Quiznos parking lot. Was he talking to me? I had just opened the car door and my mother had just popped the trunk so I could stow away my backpack. Then we were going to have a light dinner before the Indy Irish Fest 5K run at eight o’clock. As a cop pursued the man across the street and another one dashed out of the Marco’s Pizza next door, I decided that, no, he wasn’t talking to me. Then I shut the door, locked it and begged my mother to roll up the windows.

“Maybe we should go somewhere else for dinner,” I suggested. A police car pulled into the parking lot with its sirens wailing.

“Are you kidding?” She replied. “This is the safest place in town. We’re surrounded by police.”

I just wanted to get to the Indy Irish Fest 5K, but I’d gotten stuck in the middle of the Escape the Fuzz 5K being run by one individual without a numbered bib or a timing chip. The competitor didn’t make it the entire five kilometers. He was apprehended and handcuffed across the street. Looks like they didn’t have to kill him to do it either.

Escape the Fuzz 5K ends in handcuffs

It was still two hours until my race, but I was very hyped now. It could have been pre-race anticipation, but it was probably my imagination thinking of scenarios where I’d gone to the trunk 10 seconds sooner and been pulled into a hostage situation or a carjacking or been tragically shot in the Quiznos parking lot. (I don’t think the runner had a gun, but my imagination didn’t care.) Then my family would have to figure out how to log into my blogging software and tell you people that ironically my increased fitness and my participation in a 5K race led to events that killed me. Puts the whole butter vs. margarine debate into perspective, doesn’t it?

I got over my anxiety as I ate a Flatbread Sammie at Quiznos, which is basically a small sandwich with a fancy name that costs $2.00 (+ tax). I love that restaurants are starting to offer smaller portion sizes. We met up with my younger brother and headed for the Irish Fest to pick up my bib number – 51. I have an unnatural compulsion to analyze numbers, so I noted that it was one less than the number of weeks in a year. I thought it was a prime number too, but I just checked and it is divisible by 3 and 17. Damn those multiples of 17! They are so hard to catch.

PQ is 51

There was still an hour until the race started at eight o’clock that evening, so we explored the festival. They had four stages set up with Irish rock, traditional Irish music, dancing and lots of vendors selling Irish paraphernalia. These leaf people decorations seriously creeped me out. If I’d been drinking the Irish beer I probably would have hallucinated that they were whispering running tips to me. “Remember to pace yourself! And don’t forget to stretch!”

Creepy leaf people

There was also a vendor who was selling Irish food, including the delightfully named Pinhead Oatmeal. Do you have to be a pinhead to eat it? Or does eating it turn you into a pinhead?

Pinhead Oatmeal

As the race time approached, I used the Port-o-Potty and congregated with the other racers near the start line to stretch. It started to get cold and I did not envy the woman wearing only a sports bar and running shorts.

Then the bagpipers arrived.


They marched down the right lane of the street that had been sectioned off for us with fluorescent pylons. I positioned myself towards the end of the pack. The sun was beginning to set, so I cracked the green glow stick I’d gotten at registration. While this made it less likely that I’d get run over, it also made our group of runners look like a hoard of ravers trying to escape a police raid. A man in a van with a loudspeaker started counting down the minutes to the race. Five more minutes. Two minutes. The race will start in one minute! And then we were off!

I recalled everyone’s advice not to go too fast at first. People who did not heed that advice started passing me even though I was at the back. We ran down New York Street, right through a red light, as cars were forced to stop and honk angrily at us. Ha! I stuck to a pace where I was breathing in for 3 steps and breathing out for 2. At the one mile marker someone called out the time on a stopwatch. 11:30. That was a bit slow for me, so I started to pick it up. I’d already started passing people who’d started off too fast and I continued to pass people until the last half mile of the race. Passing people is fun. Passing men is really fun. Passing thin men is totally awesome! Eat my BMI, skinny boys! (I apologize to any skinny boys reading this, but it was truly fun kicking your ass.) At the two mile marker I discovered that drinking from a cup of water while running is a skill I need to practice. My time was 20:35, so I’d obviously made up any speed I’d lost earlier on.

Then there was the hill.

Nobody told me about the hill. Indiana doesn’t have many hills. When I saw that my training program called for a day of hill running once every week or two I just scoffed because the most I can find around here is a gentle slope. Honestly, this wasn’t even a hill, just a slight incline, but it did slow me down. Then I got to run downhill over the canal bridge towards a view of the Indianapolis skyline lit up like a Lite Brite. “Oh,” I thought, “Maybe this is why they run this at night.”

As I got closer to the finish line I started pushing it harder, breathing in for two paces and out for one. I knew the finish line wasn’t far ahead. And I kept running. And running. And where was the finish line again? Wait a minute, did that faint chalk writing on the street say I had another half mile. A half mile?! I slowed down a little bit and three or four people passed me in the last half mile.

Finally I turned the corner and there was the finish line, which looked like a gate made from a giant erecter set. It was all lit up with people on either side cheering. A girl was running about 15 yards in front of me and I thought, “I can totally beat her if I just sprint.” So I kicked it up and ran through the line, crossing through eight inches before her.

*Imagine triumphant photo of PastaQueen crossing the finish line here*

There is no photo of my crossing because I have a crappy camera that takes 15 seconds to warm up the flash. Also, its batteries died after I took photos of wolfhounds and leaf people earlier in the day. Here’s me near the finish line after I changed the batteries. I am staring at the camera thinking, “I am going to wake up at 4:00 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving to buy myself a camera not made out of feces.”

PG finishes the race

I finished in 32:35, placing 345 out of 448. In the female age group of 25 to 29, I placed 35 out of 50. Yeah! There were 103 people slower than me and 15 of them were my age and gender! I ate a banana and an apple afterwards and I also went back to the Pinhead Oatmeal tent to buy foreign candy. I ate a Walnut Whip and a Cadbury Turkish Delight. The nutritional information was printed slightly differently than in the US.

Foreign Nutrition

980 calories! What is in this thing? No, wait, that’s 980 kJ or kilojoules. Kilojoules? What am I, a light bulb? I was also confused because it listed the information not just by how much is in the bar, but how much is in 100 grams.

Overall, this was a great 5K experience. I ran the whole thing and I also got to see some sheep dogs and listen to a funny toast competition. The festival was much more fun at night when everything was lit up by generators against the night, making it more like a carnival and not just a bunch of people milling around some tents.

The best thing about the race was that it ran right by The Lawn at the White River State Park and past the parking lot at the Zoo. Over three years ago, I went to a Ben Folds/Guster/Rufus Wainwright concert there and was exhausted walking back to my car. As I jogged past the lawn entrance and across the bridge over the canal, I waved at my old self, as if I could overlay this moment in time with that one. She didn’t see me, of course, even though I was breathing heavily just like she was. But this time I wasn’t struggling to get back to my car. I had miles more to go and I was feeling alive. So I stepped up my pace and passed her by.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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Jules • September 15, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Hey PQ! Congrats on your first 5k! How cool that it included bagpipes and was at nighttime.

Adds to the poignancy of waving goodbye to your former self. She’s rooting for you all the way.



Patty • September 15, 2007 at 1:33 pm

Way to go on your first 5K! Sounds like a good time and glad you had some fun.


Sinistral Cerebrations • September 15, 2007 at 2:10 pm

You always make me laugh! The mental imagery your words conjure is so funny. Congrats on the 5K, that is fantastic.


Michelle • September 15, 2007 at 2:38 pm

I randomly went to the Irish Fest last night, slipping in just before they started charging admission. Then found out the 5k was going to happen last night.

As I am a lurker/sometime commenter here, I was going to try to see you start. However, my friends pulled me to a beer truck and to watch the dancing. So, alas, I was unable to see the race start. I did try to watch the finish a bit later (through the fence, as I wasn’t sure I could come back in without paying otherwise). I don’t know if I was too late or too early to see you at this point (I was a bit tipsy), but I missed my chance to cheer you on.

Just know that a local blog fan had hoped to see you in your first 5k. I’m very happy for you!


Flora • September 15, 2007 at 2:39 pm

PQ, you look freakin’ radiant! If I’d known how good it makes you look to run a 5K, I would have gotten back to my Couch-to-5K training a long time ago. As it is I may just make it by the end of the year, or I may not. But I’ve got to thank you for the inspiration I’ve gotten from your blog.

Escape the Fuzz 5K! Ha!


MaryK • September 15, 2007 at 4:28 pm

Damn, girl! You are drop-dead gorgeous AND a phenomenal writer!! And, you know, smart and funny and inspiring and all that!

Thanks for another great entry!


Janice Bridge • September 15, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Extremely insightful. What a difference three years have made in your life, your perspective, your future. Was was moved by your waving to your former self. . . I am sure she is definitely smiling at you now.

I am not a runner – and 40 years of abuse through obesity tells me I will never be. However, having discarded 135 pounds of the abuse, I can cycle, eliptical, walk, and swim. And I can relate to the process of setting goals and working toward them.

I notice that you are six short pounds from having lost the 8 packages of kitty litter mentioned by your previous self. Get ready to celebrate another milestone


starbird • September 15, 2007 at 5:03 pm

I, too, was moved by your reference to your former self.

It is great that you were so kind to her. We know she is happy for you both.


Urbn Chick • September 15, 2007 at 5:12 pm

Congratulations on your first 5K!


Heather • September 15, 2007 at 5:44 pm

5+1 = 6 … means divisible by 3. If I remember right. :D



KrisR • September 15, 2007 at 6:13 pm

Lovely post. What a great accomplishment. Made me smile reading about you waving to your former self. A loving nod to the woman you used to be! I think too often we trash our formerly heavy selves which is sad as we were doing the best we could at the time.

After fits and starts, fear and mental gyrations, I am going to a personal trainer this week to start the next phase of my fitness plan. Some day maybe I’ll run a 5k!


Tammi • September 15, 2007 at 6:22 pm

I’m an overweight occasional lurker who is so proud of you. I don’t even know you, but your accomplishments are so awesome! Keep it up!


Katie • September 15, 2007 at 6:31 pm

Great job, PQ! I would have been one of those 15 same age & gender people you passed, too… awesome time for your first race! Did you possibly imagine three years ago that you’d be here, today?


Elizabeth • September 15, 2007 at 7:07 pm


I loved this post. There is something truly amazing about that feeling of passing by your former self – and you captured it perfectly.


K • September 15, 2007 at 7:23 pm

Well done! That’s an EXCELLENT time for a first 5K. (I’ve never done one that quickly, but I’m going to cling to the theory that they were all hillier than yours.)

I am sure your former self is clapping and cheering.

I’ve never been able to work out who wants to know energy content in kilojoules, either.

PQ – I can guarantee you that they were hillier than mine. The hill I was talking about was no big deal really, just a surprise because it’s so flat around here.


Jenny • September 15, 2007 at 8:18 pm


What’s next????

Maybe a little kick boxing?


Princess Dieter • September 15, 2007 at 9:08 pm

YES!!! You are a hero!

A great post–again–and an inspirational one. And you just have this rosy, healthy glow. Nice.

The Princess


Zanitta • September 15, 2007 at 9:32 pm

Well done on your first 5k! And I envy you for british sweets, I miss walnut whips so much… (though they would probabaly make it even harder to stick to my food plan and I really don’t need the extra temptation).


Israel • September 15, 2007 at 9:36 pm

nice. congrats on the run.


Kyle • September 15, 2007 at 9:47 pm

congratulations! you look so happy in the after picture, I love it :)


Lori W. • September 15, 2007 at 9:47 pm

Way to go! You look happy in your photos and you did great. I’m touched by your remembering your former self.

Don’t get a Fuji camera unless you get a rechargable battery — mine just eats batteries like crazy and always dies just before something important.


Chubby Chick • September 15, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Wow! Congratulations on completing your first 5K! What an awesome accomplishment! You are SUCH an inspiration to me! I’ve recently begun a journey to lose 200 pounds… and I dream of the day when I can run 1 mile.

By the way… you look GREAT! I’m SO happy for you!


Sunny • September 16, 2007 at 12:13 am

Wow! You rock! What a long way you’ve come…I can’t even imagine the pride and sense of accomplishment you feel. Congratulations!


Sam • September 16, 2007 at 12:28 am


loved the post, you must add that one to your book. Congrats on the 5K you’re an inspiration.



sb • September 16, 2007 at 4:23 am

Congrats PQ! You are truly an inspiration!

I am a lurker who is struggling to lose 20-30 pounds. When I started reading your blog I was hooked – spent WAY too many hours reading through the archives! Your writing style is fantastic, and I’m sure your book will be a joy to read as are your posts. Anyway, you really made me think that if you can accomplish what you have… then I have no excuses for not getting down to business and working on myself! I know my weight will drop with increased activity and making smart food choices. I am slowing increasing my fitness, and plan to run a 5k myself as soon as I can run 3 miles without stopping. At this point, I would have been one of those people you passed! ;-)

By the way… if you have not tried it pinhead oatmeal (also called steel-cut oatmeal) you should. It is fantastic! It takes longer to cook… But, in my opinion, the nutty flavor and chewy consistency make it worlds better than it’s mushy cousin (regular oatmeal). You can find it outside of Irish festivals at many natural foods markets (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc).


Dee • September 16, 2007 at 4:39 am

Well done! You’re such an inspiration.


Karen • September 16, 2007 at 9:13 am

O.K. The last part of your post actually made me cry!! I can’t believe how far you have come! Congrats for completing your first race. I have the feeling it is not the last one for you.


George Chernikov • September 16, 2007 at 9:15 am

A very, very inspirational and witty read! Actually, I’ve tried to lose weight by running, but, unfortunately, the only even remotely picturesque running track around my house led up and down a really steep hill, and, somehow, I was always reluctant to go running in a place where a lot of people can see me (I guess I wanted to spare them the sight of my fat rolls jiggling)! :-)

All the best,



DK • September 16, 2007 at 9:29 am

Congratulations on your first 5K! I’ve been lurking on your blog for a while now and I just want to tell you what an inspiration you are. Losing weight has not been easy for me, but your humour and determination has really helped me get a more positive perspective on this process. I look forward to reading more about your future adventures!


Kriss • September 16, 2007 at 10:48 am

Congrats!! (And kudos for not racing home and crawling under the covers with a big box of donuts after your brush with the bad guys.)

I, too like the idea of passing your former self. I just wish you didn’t feel so ashamed of her. I’m still there, and it breaks my heart to read about how negative we are towards our “fat” selves. For better or for worse, she’s a big part of who you are today.

As far as the camera . . . if you can swing $350, the Canon Power Shot S5IS is probably the best point & shoot camera out there. It’s easy to use, zooms to amazing distances (12x optical), and takes clear, vivid pictures.

AND it doesn’t gobble batteries like the Kodak’s.

AND it has image stabilization that actually works (unlike the Sony garbage).

Circuit City had them for $349.99 last week, and I’m sure the price will drop again before Thanksgiving.

I’m a professional photographer by day, so trust me on the camera! :)

PQ – I don’t feel ashamed of my old fat self. If I did, I probably would have spit on her instead. What is up with runners spitting so much? I had to avoid a couple loogies on the road and it was gross.

Thanks for the tip on the camera. I have a PowerShot A300 that’s at least 3 years old. Other than the fact that it takes forever to take pictures I like it a lot. I’ll watch for sales on the S5IS


Kriss • September 16, 2007 at 11:56 am

Sorry I misunderstood you. :)

(Thanks for clearing that up. When you mentioned being out of breath & struggling to get in the car, I thought you meant you were embarrassed by your old self. I fight the feelings of guilt/shame almost every day, & I didn’t mean to project my issues on to you.)

PQ – It’s okay. Ironically, I am less ashamed of my old fat self now than I was when I was actually fat. I remember those feelings of guilt well. But now I just look back and think, “Yeah, that’s how I was and that’s okay.” I still have pictures of myself at fatter stages of my life around the apartment because I figure, that was how I was and there’s no point in being ashamed of it anymore.


Marianne • September 16, 2007 at 12:30 pm

Congrats PQ! Sounds like a great race and a great experience, passing your old self by.

As for the loogies mentioned above – if they’re anything like me, it has to happen, unfortunately. I find that when I run, my nose does too, and sometimes it goes down the back way. Loogies prevent gagging. :D


Lorrie • September 16, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Beautiful. I know you are so proud!


MB • September 16, 2007 at 2:09 pm

WOW! Congrats! If someone told you three years ago you would be able to finish a 5K would you have believed them?? Bravo!!!!


Jancd • September 16, 2007 at 2:49 pm

WooHoo!! You did it. Waving goodbye to your old self must have been great fun.


Carm • September 16, 2007 at 4:00 pm

Wow, congratulations! And you look so beautiful in these pictures. My first thought on seeing them was that you look even more beautiful here than in the fancy dress photos. I loved the part of your post about passing the skinny men. How fun is that!

You deserve to be very proud of this accomplishment. Congrats.


DBloor • September 16, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Cadbury’s Walnut Whips were the comfort food of my (Irish) childhood. It was essential to bite off the walnut first, for full effect. They never taste as good when you’re a grown-up.

Well done on your race. You rock!


Kathy W. • September 16, 2007 at 6:06 pm

This would make a perfect finish for your book!



Laura • September 16, 2007 at 8:31 pm

Congratulations!!! That is so awesome. What a great race. We are 2 mile twins– I ran the Komen 5K in Evansville today, and at 2 miles I was at 20:35. There were no hills on my course, though, so I finished a bit faster than you but not by much.

And you have the craziest things happen to you! A police chase before your race… who does that happen to? ;-) I makes good fodder for a writer, eh?

What’s next on your race agenda? Looking forward to reading more! Hope the book is going well.


jae • September 17, 2007 at 2:00 am

Whoo Hoo! Way to go, PQ. You look so great and must feel awesome! I was touched that you waved at your former self. If only she knew what was in her future… :) ~j


Lynette • September 17, 2007 at 10:16 am

You are AWESOME and you are my hero! It just ROCKS that you were able to do this!

A BIG congratulations!!!!!


dietgirl • September 17, 2007 at 10:17 am

happy days! congrats PQ, love all the pics :)


psychsarah • September 17, 2007 at 10:32 am

Hey PQ-first of all, big congrats on your race! What a great experience and a great time!

Second of all, just when I thought you couldn’t get any cooler, you mention Rufus Wainwright, one of my faves!! You rock!


TeaMouse • September 17, 2007 at 11:15 am

I cannot tell you how that moved me – what an amazing moment that must have been for you crossing that finish line – I love the last part where you waved to your old self – how wonderfully poetic.

Running at night must have been pretty awesome.



Mia • September 17, 2007 at 11:29 am

I’m so proud of you! Way to go! Awesome time, girl! AND…I might add, you look quite fit. I would never guess you watched your weight based on how you look (and run!). You look great!


Joyce • September 17, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Congratulations on your 5K run. Great time. You are inspiring me to do the same.


sarah jolie • September 17, 2007 at 1:14 pm

I have tears in my eyes.. I am so happy for you. I just did a 35 mile bike ride (all 300+ of me)..and the feeling was awesome.. and I tried to envision what it would feel like without the extra me on my back. Thanks for the image of running past your old self. I will take that with me as I continue on this journey.

I have a thought…YOU give so much to all of us. What if we sent you amazon.com gift certificates that you could use towards a camera?

Remember… YOUR photos are like gifts to us. I know I’d do it in a … well.. flash.


PQ – Wow, that’s a lot of biking! My butt always hurts after I ride :) It’s sweet of you to offer to gift me a camera, but I would feel weird soliciting for gifts like that. However, if you ever click on one of my Amazon links on the site and buy something, I get a percentage of the purchase as an affiliate. So if you’re ever buying something on Amazon anyway, you can throw a percentage my way if you want.


Debbi • September 17, 2007 at 1:33 pm

Congratulations on a great finish. How wonderful that you were able to wave good-bye to your old self and celebrate the new by running this 5K. May there be many more runs in your future, and may they all be as fun for you as this one was. Minus the police stuff. Heh.


Lily • September 17, 2007 at 5:27 pm

Thank you for sharing your marathon day with us. it was entertaining and motivating.


AJ • September 17, 2007 at 9:08 pm

Congratualtions PQ – an awesome effort :)

In Australia we list the kjs per 100 grams as well as per portion on the nutrition bar of all foods (legislation demands it). I think this is because it allows you to easily compare the goodies (and baddies) in different foods against a common measure.


Christy • September 17, 2007 at 10:53 pm

Congrats on the 5k! I completely my first one this summer (well, since I had the stupid idea to run on the cross country team, while terribly out of shape, 5 years ago), and it’s such a great feeling!

Also, just reading some of your responses here to other comments – I love how positive you are about your old self. We seem to live in a country with such a ridiculously anti-fat mentality, and it’s great that you can accept how you were and not feel the need to hide that part of yourself away.


the veggie paparazzo • September 19, 2007 at 11:47 am

Congratulations! I think it’s cooling off enough to be 5k season for most of us who are trying to run.

And wow, you are a great size right now! You look amazing.


Christian Faith • September 19, 2007 at 6:05 pm

You are so my new hero! Not only do you run the 5K, you also are into numbers!

And just so you know, I read before that the number 17 can mean Victory or Spiritual order. Go Pastaqueen!

Christian Faith


BrightAngel • September 19, 2007 at 11:37 pm

“As I jogged past the lawn entrance and across the bridge over the canal, I waved at my old self, as if I could overlay this moment in time with that one. She didn’t see me, of course, even though I was breathing heavily just like she was. But this time I wasn’t struggling to get back to my car. I had miles more to go and I was feeling alive. So I stepped up my pace and passed her by.”

I truely love those lines. Way to Go, Pasta Girl.


Paige • September 20, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Oh, that is AWESOME! And well written. I love the part about how you are going to get up after Thanksgiving and buy a camera.

My friends and I are just discussing doing our first 5k. Of course, I just recently realized that I can even walk that far, so it will not be a fun for my fat old self, but I can walk it.

Thanks for the inspiration.


steph • November 26, 2007 at 9:29 pm

It brought tears to my eyes to see you looking so happy and glowy before and after the race. I hope to continue and have the same success as you. I love your honesty and your conviction. Thank you for being so a lovely inspiration to all of us taming the chew.


LoriAnn • July 28, 2009 at 12:11 am

How exciting! I know I’m pretty late on posting a comment, but I just found your book and started reading it. I’m walking in my first 5K on Saturday. Running at 279lbs is not an option. I’m terrified! My training only tells me that I should work up to going 40 minutes a day? That is equal to 1.54 miles…about half what I will be doing on Saturday? I sure hope I can go the whole way without looking stupid.


Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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