I still had enough energy in the second mile to give it up for the camera.
The second mile wasn't as happy. After the nice downhill slope, where I actually passed a few people, I lost a little bit of my steam, settling into maybe a 10:30 pace or even a little slower for a little bit. The five or six 90-degree turns were particularly annoying, mostly because people who seemed to be taking it a little more seriously would wind from left to right and back again to try and catch the insides of the curves. This is also the mile where I saw my parents (twice), and at least had enough energy to smile big for the camera.
The third mile was pretty much just straightaways and culminated in that incredible turn from Hereford Street onto Boylston, incidentally also the final turn of the Boston Marathon, where suddenly you can see, stretched out four (very) long blocks in front of you, the marathon finish line, the grand stand, and an ocean of other people between you and the goal. Just taking all of that in felt incredible -- I can't even imagine what that same sight must feel like after almost 26 miles, instead of just two and a half.
I had a general desire to "finish strong," but was still content in my typical pace, a comfortable 10:30 or so, and because I knew the blocks were long, I wasn't really ready to let myself really start pushing. Honestly, such was the level of my comfort that if I were running by myself, I probably would have left well enough alone.
But I wasn't by myself. I was surrounded by literally hundreds of people. And as I jogged back toward the heart of Back Bay, a couple of them started talking to me.
"Are you having a good time?" they asked.
I said, "absolutely! It's my first 5K."
"It's your first time? Then, go!"
"Let's see how much more you've got! Go! Go! Go! Go!"
And they were right, of course. I would have let myself get away with finishing comfortable, but whoever those other runners were, those random angels, they gave me exactly the push I needed at exactly the right time. If I could hold a conversation with them while I was jogging, right there with the finish line in front of us, I wasn't pushing hard enough. I gritted my teeth, opened up my stride, and put the petal to the metal. The last couple blocks were a blur, but as I started passing people left and right, I looked up at the clock and could tell that I was shaving some serious time off of my finish.
After all was said and done, I had run my first "official" 5K in 31:25, more than a minute and a half better than my previous personal best for that distance.