A couple of weekends ago, I ran a surprise 15k race. It shouldn’t have been a surprise race since I signed myself up to run it, however after I signed up, I promptly forgot to put it on my calendar. I knew it was coming up sometime “soon,” but I thought it was at the end of August and not the beginning. Whoops!
I discovered my error on the Tuesday prior to the race when my cousin and I were discussing our running goals, and I reminded myself to confirm which weekend the race was taking place. I was horrified when I realized that, instead of two weeks to train, I had just 5 days. Upon making this discovery, I had two thoughts: one being that I didn’t have to do the race if I didn’t want to, the other was that of course I was going to do the race because I signed up to do it and I paid good money! The one thing I had working for me was that I had continued to run a few times a week throughout the summer, and the one thing I had working against me was that the longest distance I had run since May was 5 miles. The 15k was 9.3 miles. Uh-oh…
As you can see, the math really didn’t add up, and I was a little anxious about the prospect of doubling my distance in the span of a week. I did seriously consider, all paid entrance fees aside, not running, but I reminded myself of the four magic words that are a comfort to all runners in times of distress- “I can always walk.”
I hadn’t signed up for the race with the intention of winning; it was simply the first in a series of marathon readiness training races, and, since I wasn’t born with that weird genetic mutation that makes me naturally graceful and quick on my feet, I never expect to be the first one to the finish, so, I can always walk.
I continued to tell myself that I could walk if I needed to right up until I crossed the finish line. I told myself that I could walk as I ate my banana in the dark hours of early morning. I reminded myself that walking was an option as I stood in line for one last restroom visit before the race, and, as I sat on the curb near the start line and contemplated NOT running the race and instead just cheering the other runners along as the made their way to the finish- my thought being that Don would never know if I had actually run the race since medals were not awarded and if I stood out in the sun for the appropriate amount of time I’d likely be as sweaty as if I’d actually run- I convinced myself to run by again repeating my mantra of “I can always walk.”
And, you know, I really didn’t need to. When I realized that I had doomed myself to tackle an obstacle I wasn’t prepared for, I made a plan that I hoped would get me to the other side without too much pain, and it worked! One of the benefits of the FitBit Surge watch that Don gave me this Spring is that it can show you your pace as your run, so the plan I made was to stay between a 9:30 or 10:00 minute mile pace until mile 7. The trap I sometimes fall into during a race is that I get caught up in the excitement of the event and I run a little above my pace for the first several miles which just makes me tired at the end. Usually I have done enough training that my fitness levels can get me through the fatigue, but I was worried that I hadn’t done enough over the summer to compensate for over-doing it at the beginning of the race, so by keeping an eye on my pace I managed to make sure I had enough left in my gas tank to finish strong.
The other thing that I think was crucial in helping me finish this race feeling pretty good was that, although I hadn’t run farther than 5 miles since May, the 5 miles that I ran most weekends were through the hilly Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens. Those hills can make or break you and I’ll have to remember to thank them the next time I’m struggling to make my way to the top, because they made me strong enough to get through miles 6 through 9.3.
My”surprise” race went pretty well; I didn’t need to walk other than when I stopped at the aid stations to grab a drink, and I finished in about 1:30 feeling pretty good. I don’t know that I’ve ever run with a concrete plan like this before. I often check my pace, but it’s more out of curiosity and to see if my endurance has improved than anything else. I think, as I run more of these races leading up to “the BIG ONE” in December (there are 4 or 5 races in this Marathon readiness series), I might play with the concept of having a specific goal of what pace I want to achieve. Who knows, maybe it will help make me a little bit faster?