After the 2012 race season, I decided that I would not run 5Ks anymore. My race times were disappointing and frustrating at best. While 2011 was full of good race time finishes, many under 25 minutes, yet in 2012 I did not finish a single 5K race under 25 minutes. The best finish time was 25:00 in October, 2012. I’m not saying that my race times were bad, but it was frustrating not to be close to the finish times I had in 2011 despite the fact that I was doing track work and tempo runs. Thus, I decided that 5Ks were just not for me anymore. In fact, I wasn’t seeing a lot of progression at any race distance. Maybe road racing wasn’t for me anymore.
Then in the winter several people approached me to either help them start training or mentioned that I was an inspiration. Whenever someone asks me to help them with running, I want to be sure to teach them the right way. So that means I start training properly too!
In February, I started consistently doing track work. In March, I ran a 5K at the behest of some friends and finished in a surprisingly decent 25:25 on a hilly course. A week later I finished a half marathon in just over 2 hours with minimal training. I started thinking that there must be something to work with.
Thursday, one of my neighbors contacted me to do the Demarest 5K with him on May 19th. I had just done a half marathon on May 12th, so I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to run a 5K. But then I thought, who cares, let’s go for it. My neighbor offered to drive, so we headed down to Demarest to sign up on race day. Of course, it was about 57 degrees and raining. Steadily raining.
We showed up at registration and one of my friends from the gym was there. She had been training a group of little kids at the Demarest school to run a 5K and would be running with them, which is cool. Get kids started early, right?
My friend and I registered and then waited in the car for race start. Then at 9:10 I said I needed to warm up a bit, so we headed over.
57 degrees and raining is not one of those cut-and-dried weather situations where you automatically know what to wear. I opted for less fabric that would be hanging on me wet and went for a tank top and shorts. It was a bit chilly, but at least I wouldn’t be covered in a lot of drenched fabric.
I started my warmup and realized I was running at goal race pace too quickly, so after half a mile I decided to cut it short. My goal for the race was to run negative splits — preferably, 8 minutes the first mile, 7:55 the second mile, 7:50 for the last mile, and then run like crazy for the remainder. I didn’t know if I could do it on the hilly course in the rain, but I figured it’s better to start out slowly regardless.
We lined up at the start. Since I typically finish in the top 20-25% of most races, I generally line up the same way. Though this time there were a ton of kids in front of us. There were some announcements before the race, then we were off. It was crowded mayhem, as most race starts are. My friend and I did a lot of weaving through the slower runners, the people with dogs, and even people with strollers. Eventually, after about half a mile, I was able to break free of the crowd. It felt good to pass people, but I wasn’t feeling great.
The first mile marker showed up, and I looked down at the Garmin and saw 8:01. Then the Garmin beeped 1 mile at 8:06….guess I was a bit off. The course had already turned into the rolling hills that I remembered from when I ran the race in 2010. My friend passed me, and while I was tempted to catch up with him, I told myself, “Run your own race.” Besides, there weren’t any female runners around me, just guys.
I didn’t feel like I was in a good groove. I tried to maintain a pace that was faster than the first mile, but I didn’t know if I could maintain it. There were a couple of teenage boys that I passed, and there was an older guy in a red shirt and bad toupee who was trading paces with me. There was also a group of 3 boys around my son’s age of 11 who were running together, and they kept cutting me off as I tried to hug the curb. Annoying…..
The rolling hills kept coming and going. Pump your arms on the uphill, bust it on the downhill. Near the 2nd mile was a water stop with music playing. A group of 3 in white shirts — 2 guys and a girl (younger than me, who cares, not in my age group) passed me as if they didn’t have a care in the world. One guy was raising his arms and waving to spectators. I kept telling myself that the hurt would be over soon.
Garmin beeped the 2nd mile at 7:55. I told myself that this was the final mile, open up all throttles and go full out. I also knew that this was going to be the most hilly part of the course.
I passed a young girl who suddenly stopped and told her not to quit. Red-shirted toupee dude and I kept exchanging leads. I looked at my Garmin and realized I had about half a mile to go, so I told myself to treat this like an 800 m repeat and bust it out. Up and over the hill, bust it on the downside. I got to the turn in the road that led to the final stretch and passed a teenage boy and girl. The girl was struggling while the boy was trying to encourage her. He looked back and stepped in a massive puddle. I came up on his left and jumped over the puddle. We both laughed.
I looked at my Garmin and realized that I could finish in under 25 minutes. The remainder of the course was downhill into a straightaway to the finish line. I was running as hard as I could. There were some guys in front of me, and I made it a goal to pick them off one by one. I felt like I was going to barf, and as I neared the clock, I could see 24:XX………I sprinted, knowing that my race time would be 24-something, anything, please!!!!!
I crossed over the finish line and immediately pressed stop on the Garmin. 24:38. I did a major fist pump and stifled the urge to barf. Barfing is a sign that I put in my best effort, and 24:38 was a sign that training was working.
I looked over and saw my neighbor and asked how he did. He was ecstatic that he finished in about 24:20. We walked over to the table with water bottles and snacks. Red shirt bad toupee dude came over, shook my hand, and thanked me for helping to pace him to a good finish. He said his goal was to keep up with me because he thought I was running a good pace. I congratulated him on running negative splits too! I picked up some orange slices. We both were ecstatic over our sub-25 minute 5K times. I mentioned that this was the first time I’ve seen 24-something since October, 2011. As we drank our water and ate our orange slices, I basked in the feeling of joy at having accomplished that feat again, finally!
We noticed that people were crowding around the race results as the rain kept coming down. I found my name and saw a “2” next to age group place. What???? Did I really finish 2nd in my age group? Not believing my eyes, I checked the results 3 times. Yep, 11th female finisher, 2nd in the 40-49 age group. Unbelievable.
My friend had finished 11th in the 40-49 male age group, just one out of the top 10. He was a bit bummed about that, but I reminded him that he had shaved over a minute off our 25:25 finish from March 17th. Not too shabby!
My friend offered to hang around for awards, but I didn’t want to stand around in the rain and insisted that we go home. I was so happy to find that training is paying off.
It’s good to have my passion for running back again. It isn’t about winning trophies, that isn’t important. What is important to me is to see that my hard work is paying off. Additionally, I felt ecstatic to have successfully executed negative splits: Mile 1, 8:06; Mile 2, 7:55; Mile 3: 7:46; Last 0.13, 6:35! There’s something to running negative splits.
Tomorrow I head to the track with my friend to do 1600 m repeats. And I will crush them!