Last Saturday (October 25th) was my first running race all year! I hemmed and hawed for a while about whether or not I wanted to do it; looking back, I think I was insecure about my current fitness and ability to execute a race after so long (last non-tri race being December 2013). Ultimately, I decided to take the plunge. And I’m so glad I did!
In 7 years and 90+ races I have learned that every finish line is not going to bring a personal best or goal achieved; every start is not even guaranteed to bring a finish! It comes down to all the miles along the way, the great ones and the not-so-great, the ones that taught me something, the ones chatting away with friends and the ones alone in my head, the ones that made me want to fist pump in the middle of the street and even the ones where I stopped to lean against a hydro pole, pretending to stretch so I could catch my breath… these are what make it all worthwhile, what I missed so much when I could!not!run! and what brought me to this start line full of anticipation/hope/fear/excitement/nerves/wonder/joy. I never thought a local race for 15 bucks without chip timing or finisher’s medals could mean so much, but this time it did.
I drove up to the Oro-Medonte Fairgrounds in Barrie with hubs and the pups on a sunny and crisp fall morning. We arrived obnoxiously early in my usual fashion, which meant great parking, quick bib pick-up and no washroom lines. I had a chance to chat with a couple of friends who were there for the 5K, and eventually took off on a short warm-up.
I started adding a little workout each week in October, tempo-ish runs starting with 2K intervals and building to 6K continuous. I completed those at 5:20-5:25/KM and hoped I might be able to hold that pace for the 10K. Since this was still fairly new territory (recently, anyway) I decided to start on the conservative side and build to that pace. Truth be told, I may have chickened out slightly. No regrets, though – it was nice to start off relaxed without pushing too much right out of the gates.
The first 2 kilometres chimed in at 5:30 and 5:25, and then it was time to talk myself into dialing it up a notch. For the next 6K I maintained a pace in the 5:18-5:21 range, which was exactly where I hoped to be. I was feeling fairly comfortable and wondered a few times if I was slacking and should have been going faster. I decided to cruise until the turn-around and re-assess.
The course was a straight out-and-back with some long-ish gradual hills (just enough to remind me of my lack of hill fitness). I was running in a small group until the 5K water table where they all stopped for a break. From then on I was mostly on my own, zoned out and listening to music, sending some encouragement to runners still on their way to the turn-around. We had a noticeable headwind on the way back and it started getting harder to hold the pace. I focused on some runners up ahead and worked on gradually catching up, managing to pass a few.
The toughest KM was the 9th with the longest hill (and fatigue setting in). My watch beeped a 5:40 split, which ticked me off enough to chase down a 4:57 final KM.
It felt amazing to race again, to take a chance and see what the course, the weather, my legs and my mind had in store for me on this particular day. I crossed the finish line and bent over, hands on my knees as I huffed and puffed, thinking WOW, that was hard! and WOW, that was fun! simultaneously. Never mind that I’ve run multiple marathons at this pace or faster. On this day it didn’t matter what time was on the clock (okay, there wasn’t even a clock). What mattered was having the courage to line up and race again, phantom injury pains, self-doubt, an extra 20 lbs, previous personal bests be damned. And we’re just getting started!