I had planned a 10 mile race after a recent 5K. Like, the day after.
The plan was to run an “easy” 5K, that is, slow. To conserve energy, save my muscles for the longer 10 mile run the next day.
But I didn’t run easy, I ran hard. Faster than I’ve ever run before.
While I thought I felt fine, my body had other plans. An upset stomach, loss of sleep, yeah, just wasn’t going to happen.
I took a lot of risks on that 5K – choosing to not take it easy, running hard in mile one, then mile two. Choosing to keep chasing the #2 runner, when I could have easily just coasted in for a 3rd place finish.
But I pushed, and took a risk, and came in 2nd, and I don’t regret a thing.
I guess that’s what risk is, though. Not knowing what might happen, and being completely present. Sort of not worrying about tomorrow, because right now is all we got.
Cliche, sure, but in this case it worked out okay.
It was a small field, just about 50 people. I had intended to “take it easy” on this run, as I have a 10 mile trail race tomorrow, but when I saw it was a smaller crowd, I figured I should put my year of training and running to some use!
I was in third place for most of the race, but in the final 50 yards or so I moved into second place. That’s the second time I’ve made a “late race move,” and it usually leaves me scared, waiting for that person to make their move and pass me! But thankfully that didn’t happen, and I finished in second place overall, with a time of 25:25, my fastest ever.
Today I ran my fastest mile, too: 7:49. When I was in high school, back in the mid 90s, I ran a seven minute mile. All these years later, to be just 49 seconds off is okay with me.
Looking back at my training, I’ve been mostly running at a slower pace, from 10-12 minute miles, for about an hour at a time. About once every two weeks I’ll do a speed run using the Nike Training App, with their treadmill runs. It’s wild to think that easy running, with the occasional half hour speed workouts, really make a difference. That, and losing 15lbs since June, of course.
After a five hour drive from the Outer Banks to Greensboro, NC, I was exhausted. Absolutely wiped out. I checked into my hotel room, put on some NFL football, and was ready to just lounge around the rest of the night.
Stress is real, and stress from five hours of driving is real. Lane changes, aggressive drivers, merging, it all adds up, and it feels nice to just relax it away.
Instead I did some online searching and found the Laurel Bluff Trail, about a 15 minute drive from my hotel. It’s a 3.1 mile trail, and it was absolutely gorgeous. As you can see from this photo, there’s an area covered in kudzu, and it was magic.
I knew how the other movie ended; hotel lounging, watch some football, watch TV too late, sleep like crap… but this other movie? I had no idea what to expect, and that’s what made it so great.
Running isn’t always racing, or group runs. A lot of the time it’s a solo effort, and today I happened to be in the Outer Banks, of North Carolina. It was overcast, rainy, and the wind was fierce coming off the ocean, but these were eight fun miles and I wish I could do it again tomorrow.
Multiple times I thought of turning back to my car, walking, calling it a day, but one foot in front of the other, two miles turned into three, and I just kept it rolling.
One of the best things about running is it lets you explore new places in ways you can’t see otherwise. Most of this run was driveable, and I drove some of it before I actually started this run, but it’s just different on two feet, with sweat stinging your eyes, and wind gusts rushing right into your face.
This run started about 3.25 miles away. My friend Jesse knew parking down at the start would be a shit show, so we started out run in the dark down the Schuylkill River trail and it was magnificent! Cool and breezy at a nice pace.
We showed up about 45 minutes before the race start, and just walked the staging area which was filled with people doing stretches and adjusting their iPhone arm bands and such.
This was the race I was sort of training for all summer. The sweaty runs, the time at the gym, this was the event I really wanted to push and see what I could do. Especially since I’ve been working on losing weight since June 1st – like, for-real trying to lose weight. I was down to about 180lbs at this race, down from 195 in June and feeling great.
The race started off and I was motoring along. I was in the E corral, which I’m finding I am way underestimating my speed these days, and end up spending a lot of energy just passing slower people in front of me. As we headed south on a skinny street, I had to get up on the sidewalk to pass people in front of me. Usually moving that fast would have winded me, but it was a cool morning in the high 60s or so, and I was feeling great.
At one point on Washington Ave, heading West, the sun was beating down, and it was starting to get rough. There were less people cheering, and all the runners were spread out, so it just felt slower. But then it headed north again, and again, on a narrow street, so it felt faster, and I found myself passing a handful of other runners.
I kept glancing at my watch, and couldn’t believe the numbers. Mile two I hit 9:08, and mile three was 8:50. What? I mean, I’ve did some of those Nike Run Club speed runs, but those are like, “run fast for 2 minutes,” but here I was running a MILE at those paces?! What? My last full mile (mile 6) was 9:01.
I wanted to get under an hour, and I did, hitting an official time of 56:27 (official results, Strava), which is a 9:05 pace. I still can’t believe how well it went.
My roommate and I got here early, but so did a bunch of other people. Turns out about 1000 people signed up for this one! It was hot and humid, but in all this race was a lot of fun.
The race started a few minutes late for some reason, which is annoying, but when we finally got going it was moving! There was a small uphill switch back to start, then a big downhill, where I made sure to not speed up too much because we were just getting started.
From about the 0.6 mile mark the course went flat, save for a few small rolling hills. I felt good, and wanted to go faster, but I knew the heat would zap me. Managed a 9:25 first mile.
Second mile included the turn around and water stop. Found myself settling in and passing some people. It was hard-packed dirt at this point, and I passed a few people, but the heat was draining me, and I ran a 9:41 second mile.
The third mile turned back to pavement, and crossed traffic with the 10K crowd, and launched into a short by brutal 10%-ish grade hill before it kind of leveled off again. Kept running the whole time, but it was another slow mile (9:40) for me.
We ran past giraffes and kangaroos and then a right sweeping turn up hill was the finish. Again, it was so hot and humid I was soaked with sweat. Official time was 29:23 (results link, Strava), good for 57th place out of 524.
Why head out the door when it’s pissing rain? Why not sleep in, or maybe cozy up in a coffee shop and watch the rain come down?
I guess because I started running back in 2016 when I didn’t have much going on. It was a low point in life, career-wise. Money wise. Running was a thing I could control. It was something I could complete, and accomplish. No hiring manager, no rejection, no automated email telling me thanks, but no thanks.
I could put in the work, then sign up for a 5K, and finish it. Maybe not fast, maybe not pretty, but I showed up just like all those runners and did it.
Now I’ve run three 10 mile races. A half marathon. Then today, in NYC, I put in 10 miles over three bridges in under two hours.
Not fast, not pretty, but I was out there when the rain was coming down sideways, and the wind was pushing my ass.
I showed up for me. I made this, I planned this, I accomplished this. That’s why I keep running, even in horrible conditions, because it’s another thing I’ve accomplished.
Because I want to run a marathon someday. I want to run in Yellowstone Park. I want to run around the Grand Canyon. I want to accomplish those things someday, and I need to do this now to get there.
Actions today lead to accomplishments in the future.
This was my second time running the 10 mile jaunt through the heart of Philadelphia, PA. The biggest 10 mile run in the United States, me and some 40,000-ish other runners who wouldn’t let a little rain spoil the fun.
Last year this was my first major distance race, after completing a few 5Ks since I began running in 2016. I ate horribly the week leading up to the race in 2018, bonked, and had to walk a few times. I was exhasuted afterwards, had to take a nap. Took a week off from doing my beloved Skull Toaster metal trivia. It was hard.
This year? Ran the entire time, no walking. My last two miles were my fastest, and didn’t even need a nap. Hell, didn’t sleep in the next day either. Knocked off five minutes from last year’s time, too.
Not gonna lie, though. It was rainy and breezy. I was cold, and standing in the corral for 40 minutes I had to pee, too. It was shoulder to shoulder, and there was no way I could leave to use a porta potty.
So the race started, and I tossed my poncho, and stopped at a porta potty about a mile down the road.
This was also my second race without a water bottle. I’ve been carrying one with me for every race, even the 5Ks, as I’m just super scared of dehydrating or whatever. But this year I relied on the water stations, and it worked out just fine.
By mile five I was feeling good. I was comfortable. I ran a very hilly 10 miler about two months prior, but hit the wall at about the 1:15 mark, mostly because all my training was just one hour runs.
So this year I made sure to sneak in some 1:30 runs. They weren’t fast, they weren’t “half marathon pace,” or anything. But they were just runs that lasted an hour and a half.
I also did some “speed runs” using the Nike Run Club app. They have a handful of guided training runs, where you run fast for a minute and a half, then slow down for a minute, and you keep going back and forth.
At about the eight mile mark I remembered that training. I remembered that running fast didn’t kill me, and I’d get to recover eventually. The pain would end. So I picked it up a bit.
And I kept it up. I had control of my breathing, and it was… comfortable. I wasn’t out of control. I felt good. I remembered that training, that it was okay for it to not feel easy because I had just run eight miles. It’s supposed to not feel awesome, but I just needed to settle in with the hurt, with the effort, and keep it moving.
I look back, and mile eight was one my slowest. I thought about just taking it easy the rest of the way. Hey, at least I didn’t walk, right? Just be happy to finish.
But mile nine for me was 9:50 pace. Then the last mile was 9:40.
Mind you, when I’m doing my training runs, just out doing my thing, pushing a 10:00 minute mile is tough for whatever reason. It’s just… ugg.
But those Nike training runs? I was pushing 9:00 miles. 8:30 pace! Just for a minute and a half, a couple of times per work out, but it was training. And it got me to 9:50 for a mile. Then 9:40 for another mile.
A whole mile. Then another one!
So yeah… it’s not fast compared to everyone else, sure. But for me, having just started in 2016? I’ll take it. For turning 43 this month? I’ll take it.
I’m cautious. I don’t want to pull something. I don’t want to get hurt. But this race showed me things. It showed me the mental side of things, that I can dig deep, think back to my training, and finish strong. Those are words and phrases that I didn’t think I’d ever be writing or talking about back in 2016, but here we are today, in 2019, and that’s where I’m at.
And I’m excited for where I’ll be at this time next year.
Race number one of 2019 done! Finished at 1:43:55 or so. First seven miles felt great, but the last three is the real story.
Early in the race I was following behind a gentleman in all black. I didn’t know anything else, but he was just trotting along, so I figured I’ll just follow behind him.
I’m running comfortably, and fighting the urge to look at my watch. When I look at my watch a million calculations go through my head. Pace, and speed, and time, and if I run a certain pace for the next two miles, then… yeah, having that information usually throws me for a loop.
So I looked at my watch.
And I was running a nice pace, rather comfortably! We ran up so many hills (800′ in total climbing, about the height of the MET Life building in NYC), and I stayed close behind.
After about mile five, though, I passed him. I stopped hearing his footsteps, and I felt like I was flying! Well, for like a mile or so.
But then at about mile 7 my body was like, nah. I just hadn’t trained enough for this distance, so I understood, and smiled and tried to shuffle along.
Well, that fella caught up to me, with a woman he was pulling along for a few miles. He passed me, but we made it up the final hill together (very hilly course), and all three of us did our best sprint finish together.
Three random people, different ages and backgrounds and all that, united for one cause for that one hour and 43 minutes. We high fived, ate some chips, and now have an awesome story for life.
I’ve been able to string together four weeks in a row of running 20 miles. Tonight on the treadmill I had one of my fastest hour runs in awhile, having pushed out of my comfort zone a bit, fueled by the early afternoon burrito lunch.
Maybe it was the after effects of the run, or the post-workout beer, but tonight I signed up for a 10 mile race about 40 minutes away, this weekend.
This will be just the third time I’ve entered a 10+ mile race, with the previous two coming last year, in just 2nd year of running.
May 6, 2018 – Broad Street 10 miler in Philadelphia: 1:48:34 (10:51 pace) Oct 21, 2018 – Runner’s World Half in Bethlehem, PA: 2:17:02 (10:25 pace)
During that Half I ran by fastest 10 miler, too, at 1:43:16. I’m not sure I’m on target for that this weekend, and I won’t really be trying, but it’d be nice to at least be in the low 1:40s, that’s for sure.
When I started running on July 7, 2016, I never thought that this would be what I do now, but here we are!