Going into the race I had a lot of pressure. There was a lot of talk in my company that I could dethrone the long standing running champ of the company. This running king is a very talented individual who, in comparison to me, doesn’t train at all. Still he runs incredibly fast. I didn’t think I could beat him but I thought I might come close and maybe, just maybe, under perfect conditions beat him.
I didn’t prepare optimally for this race because this race isn’t all that important to me. It’s a strange distance (3.5 miles), it isn’t chip timed, and it’s crowded. Still, I don’t do short races often and I’ve been wanting to see what I’m capable of for the short stuff. …And of course the pressure of wanting to dethrone the king. Qualifying for Boston is a more important goal and I didn’t want to sacrifice my weekly mileage for this race so instead of resting properly I shifted around my miles. It was a decent compromise.
Instead of having two mid-length runs on Tuesday and Wednesday I ran a few extra miles on Tuesday and kept things short on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. The longer run on Tuesday (14.6 miles) tired me out. I could feel that my legs were tired for the rest of the week. On Thursday afternoon, hours before the race, my legs ached a bit — not a lot but it was noticeable. How much this impacted my performance I’ll never know. I suspect the worst it did was slow down my finishing kick.
I’ve been wanting to try out racing flats and decided to do so for this race. Racing flats are just lightweight running sneakers designed for racing. They are very light, don’t last long, and have very little support. The last thing you should do is use brand new sneakers for the first time in a race. It’s even worse to use sneakers that are completely different than you’ve ever worn. But that’s what I decided to do. Afterall it is only 3.5 miles. Plus I put 2 miles on the shoes during my warmup!
John and I did our warmup together which consisted of an easy mile, a faster mile, a pee break, and some short strides with some bounding. Much of this we learned about at the GRTC Spring Track Clinic this year. We lined up very close to the start line this year. I felt justified lining up close enough to see the winners because I expected to run a sub 6:30 paced race.
Before the race started it rained. During the race it poured. I didn’t even think about the rain except towards the end when it came down so hard that the streets started to flood and it was difficult to see. It never bothered me though — it was fun. For most of the race I could see the king about 30 yards in front of me. His majesty appeared to be running with no effort. How he ran kicking his legs up so high I’ll never know. Slowly, ever so slowly I closed the 30 yard gap. This was a new experience for me. This is the first time I was racing a bit more against a person than against the clock. I’ve run with Mark before but that’s a much more friendly sort of thing. This time I was considering strategy. Should I try to deal a mental blow by breezing past him and pray that I could hold on? Should I try to stay behind him secretly until the end and then sprint by hoping that he had nothing left? I chose for the second option tucking in behind his royal majesty but alas that plan failed. He must have heard the rain drops splashing on my bald head because, at about 2.5 miles, he peaked over his shoulder and said “I knew it!”
From that point we ran together until the last few hundred meters. I asked “Finish together or fight?” He said “together.” Knowing that I couldn’t possibly finish together I told him so. I didn’t want to say that we should finish together and then sprint to the finish. That’s not cool at all. In the last few hundred meters he took off but encouraged me to come with him. I couldn’t. I didn’t have enough left. As I rounded the corner I could see him and the finish. I gave it all that I had left and I almost caught him. We finished in the same official time, 21:13 but he finished a step in front of me. I ended up literally runnning into the heels of another runner at the finish.
This race gave me a big confidence boost. I nearly dethroned the king. I ran a 6:04 paced race! My sub 20 minute 5k goal seemed silly now (6:04 for 5k is in the 18:50 range). I did well in a race of many thousands of runners (with maybe hundreds of serious runners).
Although I’ve done only 4 track workouts I think they helped me with this short and fast stuff. I believe the track stuff shaved 5-15 seconds per mile off of my time. The track workouts taught me how to run fast. I know what it feels like to run fast. I wasn’t huffing and puffing. It wasn’t easy but I was running smoothly and quickly. The track sessions taught me that.
Maybe, just maybe, my goal to qualify for Boston this December isn’t so crazy. Maybe I can do this!