Whidbey Island 5k (Sunday)
The last time I participated in this race day was 2013 when I ran my first half marathon. Six days after a very bad ankle sprain, I braved torrential rains and blustery winds to hobble through my first 13.1 miles. It was an accomplishment that came with mixed emotions, but I am still proud of my ability to persevere through that race.
I felt this year was to be a triumphant return to Whidbey even though I was running the 5k and not the half. Saturday after Fun with the Fuzz I was just feeling good. I felt something in my bones and my muscles and my mind that all told me I was stronger and more prepared for Whidbey than any other race I’ve completed. I can’t explain except to say I just knew I was on the precipice of something.
We made a ladies weekend of the two back-to-back races and headed to Whidbey for some pre-race hijinx – which mostly consisted of snacks in the hotel, thai food for dinner, a beer at a local bar “Off The Hook”, hot tubbing, and some comical commentary as we flipped through channels and snuggled in bed.
The race was amazing. I was so in the zone I don’t know what took over my mind and my legs. The first little bit I navigated the crowd and by mile 1 I had found a pacer to try and catch/keep up with. Our legs fell into rhythm and stayed close enough to be in her shadow the whole time. At 2.3 miles she turned over her shoulder and said to me with frustration, “There are no mile markers on this course”. I showed her my watch and she groaned, “Ugh. Another mile…”. I said, “You are kicking my ass. Thank you!” She smiled and replied, “You are kicking mine!!”
We spent that last mile almost side by side. We didn’t talk, we just ran – each knowing we couldn’t let the other person down by slowing or walking. As we turned the corner to the home stretch she looked over to me and with a determined smile said, “Turn it on!”. I knew just what she meant. We both gave it everything we had and sprinted, pushing our legs to move faster and our lungs to pump harder.
We crossed the finish line and chatted for a few minutes. I learned she was visiting from Denver and was racing with several friends that day (in various other distance races). We thanked each other and talked races, running, and generally basked in the glow of what was most certainly a PR for us both. I will not soon forget her kindness and our race together.
I checked my watch and was blown away. Prior to this race, my race PR was 37:54 from 2013. I have beat that a handful of times in training runs, but never by much. I was aiming for low 37:?? and even dared to day dream about seeing 36:??.It has been a while since I ran a race all-out and I am aware my training over the last several months has been more consistent that ever. I know I’ve talked about my pace in a few posts recently and how I’ve been seeing an uptick in my pace and generally feeling more stable in my runs. I just haven’t seen anything like this.
I finished Whidbey 5k averaging 11:20/mile (WHaaaaAAtt??) in 35:12. Thirty five minutes and twelve seconds. This is almost 3 minutes faster than my previous PR (exactly 2:42 if you’re counting. I know I am.).
Even typing that, I cannot believe it. I am still riding my race and PR high. While I am not counting on every race being faster than the previous – heck, it will be a while before 35min 5k is a regular thing for me – but most importantly, I am more motivated than ever to keep up my consistency and to continue working on my running practice.
I run slow as shit. So what? Who the hell cares?
One of the challenges on my journey to embrace running and being a “runner” has been an increasing self-consciousness about my speed. Throughout the last year, my goal was mainly to increase my stamina and distance and my speed never bothered me much. Now that I’ve achieved many beginner goals with running, I’ve starting to think more about speed as an aspect of my running and looking at ways to speed up just a bit. Now, I am not interested in achieving a 6 minute mile tomorrow, or ever really, but as my fitness increases, speed is one measure that I find helpful and motivating. My running family is so good to politely wait for me at finish lines and are always happy to cheer me on as I shuffle across the line, but it would be cool if they didn’t have to wait too long for me!
Part of what I enjoy about running is the plodding along and the time it gives me to clear my mind and observe. I am a somewhat high-anxiety, high-energy person and running is a time where I reflect and slow my brain down a bit. The thud of my feet on the ground and the rhythm of my breathing consume my attention and I can feel that day’s concerns, frustrations, and worries sloughing off my shoulders step by step.
I’m currently training for my second half marathon and I’m actually finding that my slow and steady speed is beneficial in many races. I chug along and very often catch up to people who start off too fast. I ran my second 10K this past weekend, the Anacortes Art Dash, and found that in the last two miles I truly was the tortoise plodding by those who’d over-spent their energy in the first four miles. It was a 10K PR for me by a few minutes and that felt good. But more than that, I’d tacked on a mile before the run to make it my longest consecutive run to-date. I was surprised at the amount of energy and pep I still had at what was cumulatively miles 5-7.
I found this article several months ago and I occasionally go back to it to remind myself that my pace is my pace and that I’m a runner no matter what.
Won’t you join me? Embrace your pace and stop apologizing for being “slow”. You are holding no one else up, forcing no one who isn’t willing to join you, and most importantly, doing what is best for your body, mind, and heart.