Part of my training plan for my first ever Half Marathon race was to participate on a 10k event. This happened a few weekends ago, just as it was suggested by my training plan. What a coincidence to have a great local event on that weekend! So I signed up for the 10k, while the rest of the family signed up for the 1k fun walk event.
One thing I could prove by running this 10k event was the fact how true the following quote is (“If you are going to doubt something doubt your limits”):
When I started running in December 2011, I could barely imagine myself being able to run a 10k sometime in the distant future and never even thought of being capable to run a Half Marathon. Since then I’ve come a long way. I run 10k distance during my training runs already long time ago and I already run during my training Half Marathon distance as well, so I know already that I am capable of running the distance. Unfortunately gearing up for this 10k event (Farmington Run for the Hills) I successfully blew my right knee in the process, so I spent the week before the race with significant rest time and lower mileage count for the week. By the way, here is an important note what NOT TO DO when training for a Half Marathon.
Originally I was planning to run the 10k in 55 minutes, but considering my recently messed up right knee I was hoping it can just simply hold on through the whole distance and if it can, then maybe I can complete the 10k within an hour.
So this happened at the Farmington Run for the Hills 10k event and this is how it all happened :
Packet pick-up on Friday afternoon after work:
If you ever needed a good, healthy (literally – hehehe) reminder that you are getting older, then here is a great idea! Start running and start signing up for races. Once you are bumped up to the next age group and you are the youngest in your age group, then you will know exactly what I am talking about. Thank you Mr Midlife Crisis for the reminder, but you are not going to stop me now!
Race day morning:
I was already really ready to go, I could not wait for the race to start. Not because I had any chance to win the 10k event. Also my recently revised goal of finishing within an hour was projecting me finishing at the end of the pack based on the 10k finish times from last year. It seems only really fit people sign up for this race… 🙂 Nevertheless two things made me very excited:
- The fact that my family was joining the family fun walk event and I saw how excited the girls were. Especially once they received their special race T-shirts, they were so ready to go. I envisioned that in the not so distant future we might all run a 5k together.
- I was determined to run as best I can, but keeping the main goal in mind: if I feel my right knee is not taking this run well, then I slow down, not to risk a serious injury before the Half Marathon in Chicago in September.
We arrived to the park kind of early, but it was good to see all the other people arriving, warming up. Then finally we were asked to go to the START line.
At the START line and start of the race:
We had the 5k and 10k runners mixed at the start line. Especially because the first more than a mile of the race course was the same (by the way the last mile was also the same) for both 5k and 10k. Not sure about the total count for the whole event (there were about 246 for the 10k event), but not including the Family Fun Walk participants, who started a few minutes later, we were probably a good 600-700 people at the start. Based on personal optimism I decided to squeeze myself into the middle of the crowd on the left side of the road thinking that would be a reasonable starting point for me. Then the race started and the crowd started to move. It was much better than I expected. I must have guessed right or whatever other magic happened, but I seemed to fit really well into this group of the pack. I had to pass a few people, but could pick up my own tempo much quicker than I expected. I was afraid that I will have to tippie-toe a lot and the crowd will not loosen up until closer to the end of the first mile, but fortunately that was not the case at all.
Nice surprise that at the Mile 1 marker there was also a giant timer showing the race time. Starting from the middle of the pack it was obviously not my time, but the race time, but I knew my time should be very close. Running mainly with 9 min/mile pace during all my practice runs when I saw 8:30 after I passed the 1 Mile marker I felt a mixture of several different things:
- I was really happy that I was running at a great pace (relatively speaking, compared to my own regular pace)
- I was cautious knowing that on 6 miles or longer distances I always had an average pace of 9min/mile so I did not want to get exhausted halfway through the race
- I felt great after this first mile and my body never complained about this tempo. At other times when I tried to run at stronger tempo, my body started sending all kinds of signals letting me know that I have to make adjustments => slow down. Not this time!
- It felt great to be part of this run and I was so happy to see how many and how many different kind of people chose running as a form of exercise to get fit or at least to increase their chances for a healthier and longer life
- My right knee felt great however I was running with a compression band wrapped around it, just to provide more support.
So after all these thoughts I made the executive decision that I will keep this current pace as long as I feel great. Also I received an unexpected motivation: in the first mile there was a moderate uphill climb, nothing really to worry about, but when a Mom (race participant) pushing a jogger is passing you running uphill and then get out of your sight => read: runs much faster than you (a male who is not pushing anything, let alone a jogger)… Right at that moment I felt pathetic, but then I decided that I will use this as a motivation, just as I use the Hoyt story as a motivation every single time when I think I am in a need of one.
This mile went by with mixed emotions again. As I mentioned earlier approximately the first 1.5 mile of the race course was the same for the 5k and 10k events. First I felt really proud of myself, when I made a right turn at a sign that said: “10k turn right, 5k keep going straight”..
As I expected there were less people making the right turn and that just made me feel strong right there. I am sure it did not happen, but still I had this vision that behind me large crowds of tired, struggling 5k participants are watching amazing as I was making this right turn towards longer distances. Distances of what poor 5k participants can only dream about. What a selfish, childish thought from me. Especially when I made my right turn and I started not seeing very many people around me. This great pride turned quickly into some kind of weird fear that I might be the last one in the 10k event. I remembered when I looked through last year’s results and compared “my right knee”-driven expected finish time (one hour) and I found not too many runners finishing the 10k in more than one hour. I was afraid to look around as I was expecting to see the police car opening up the streets right behind me and angry drivers lined up behind the police car wanting me to get out of their way with my right knee and my pathetic pace. Then a younger couple just passed me, so that comforted me for a second that I was not the last one, then I started thinking again: now as they passed me, now I might really be the last one. So I decided to keep pace with this younger couple. In the 10k race course there was a loop we had to make around the 2 Mile marker (see picture) which turned a short section of a street into a two-way flow of 10k runners. One side of the street was still running towards the loop, the other side already had the loop (roughly 1 mile long) completed.
Not that I needed additional motivation, but when you are still running towards the Mile 2 marker and the leaders are already getting close to the Mile 3 marker… Surprisingly, I was able to get some strength and positive out of this: I remembered when I run my first ever race, a 5k. When I passed the Mile 2 marker I heard the race officials announcing that the winner just passed the finish line. That meant losing with at least 1.1 mile on a 3.1 miles long race. In this case after almost 2 miles of running I was “only” about 1 miles behind the leader. That is actually an improvement! And positive thinking!
At the 5k distance (3.1 miles) there was an aid station.
This is the half distance also for the 10k and I still felt great. I did not want any refreshments so I just passed all the nice volunteers who were standing there offering water and Gatorade. Also a quick self-check returned no problems reported from the right knee, lungs were still holding strong, no bad feeling on any sides and I was still keeping pace with my running mates. Not the younger couple, they left me behind step by step, but I was able to join other “speed buddies” (running at the same pace as me) and just kept on running. In a strange way the aid station still served a booster for me: I did not count the number of people at the aid station, but there were quite a few. And obviously you do not want to run slow nor look exhausted while there are people watching you, so I stepped up a bit. Also as I was running North on Power Rd, getting closer to make the left turn onto W Eleven Mile Rd there was a small hill there. How handy those steep uphill climbs were that I run every time during my practice runs!!! Priceless. (You know the rest: for everything else, there is Mastercard… hehehe)
By the Mile 4 marker I was keeping pace with a few fellow runners with a few steps separating each of us. One of the fellow runners a few steps in front of me suddenly switched to speed walking and when I passed by I heard an angry/disappointed “my knee is killing me”. My right knee was still not sending any alarm signals, holding up great, but I could relate to her problem so much. I remembered when two weeks earlier my right knee was killing me and I could barely finish my practice run and had trouble walking afterwards. She must have had a great attitude as a few minutes later she passed me again, so either her knee magically healed within minutes or she could just reached the point of successful ignorance of painful condition. Either way, her example also helped me to keep pushing forward. Also kept thinking about the point when I will turn on the “backburner”, means switching gears and start running faster. I decided that as soon as I see the Mile 5 marker I will turn on almost everything I’ve got and have a really strong last 1.2 mile. In the meantime, I had no idea what my pace was. It still felt comfortable and I was afraid that I slowed down from the initial 8:30min/mile pace too much as I did not feel too tired and my right knee was still helping me without complaining which I took as a sign of running slower than I wanted to. Finally I decided to start running stronger even before the 5 Mile marker, which I did right about when I reached Farmington Rd. Probably none of the spectators recognized it, though… 🙂
From here on the 5k and 10k race courses were the same again.
I still felt great and suddenly run into some traffic. Human traffic of 5k walkers, but it was not overcrowded and could pass the 5k walkers easily. This also made me feel really fit (another selfish thought): passing others who were walking half of my distance. For a short time I could relate to what the 10k leaders could think when they passed me at the loop around the Mile 2 marker. They probably did not have such thoughts, but let’s pretend for a second that they had. Also just as it has been advertised that the last mile is continuous downhill (please save the political intended comparisons to the current status of the US economy) by the end of the sixth mile we were already running steeper and steeper downhill. Also as I increased my speed I was trying to minimize the impact on my knees. Also if everything was fine until this point, running steep downhill strong I was waiting for my right knee to give up, but it never did. That in itself was already an accomplishment for me and definitely a nice surprise.
Mile 6 and FINISH line:
Back to the park, leaving behind the steep downhill with continuously increasing speed, I was already running on flat surface as fast as I could. At the marker a group of volunteers were cheering me with “Looking good” and “Almost there” cheers. The first one made me smile as looking good after 6 miles of running is a very relative term even if I know that they just meant it from a sports-event spectator point of view. Anyways, I was running as hard as I could to finish the race strong and as the finish line was getting closer and closer, I felt prouder and prouder. When I crossed the finish line, my family was there already waiting and taking pictures.
At this point I am not sure how much influence my running will be on my family, but any influence that it will have will be a positive one. That is something I am 100% sure of. Also showing to my children an example of accomplishment after a focused effort through an extended period of time is a really good feeling. They run to me showing their medals they received when they crossed the finish line at the end of their Family Fun Walk, which they ended up running. Even without knowing my time, I already felt like a winner.
I have exceeded my own expectations and finally run the 10k in 51:25 (measured with iPhone Sports Tracker App that sometimes in the past made me think I have superpowers). My official chip time was 51:33.6, but it did not consider the fact that there was no mat at the start line and I was starting from the middle of the pack.
In case there is anyone like me who likes to over-analyze things, here are more details from the Sports Tracker recording of this Farmington Run for the Hills 10k run.
A group of volunteers served bagel, pizza, banana, apple, water and I do not even know what else. Nobody could complain that he/she was not given the opportunity to recover the calories burnt through the race. So all-in-all we were very happy that we participated and could not have been happier. On the way home in the car my wife told me that she would like to participate on a 5k in the future herself. That was something I could not have been happier to hear. Also since then my children keep asking when we go out running, so we will start some kind of regular practice soon. Not sure how long this positive spirit will be around and how much the family will be determined to keep running, but this is definitely a good start.
I hope if you were not sure if you should start exercising, then now you get up and start doing whatever makes you happy. Walking, jogging, hiking, weight lifting, tennis, soccer, etc. Whatever makes you happy.
Also please remember that nobody was born with the condition to run fast or be good at something. That is developed through determination and investment in the form of a great, focused effort. Even if your goal is not to be a nationally, internationally or however recognized champion, please set your goal to become your own champion! As soon as you can overcome your own fear of starting something new, You will become a winner already.
Have fun! 🙂