A little background: After doing tons of races over the last 3.5 years, including 3 marathons and 8 ultramarathons, I decided to take a different approach. I’ve learned that running is largely mental and that I can complete almost any race with very little running (and no real training). However, I recently came across this quote and it made me reevaluate what I was doing… “No one has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for one to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which their body is capable” (Socrates). It made me wonder what I’d actually be capable of if I actually put some time and effort into my training. Along with that quote, a bunch of different events over the last several months all sort of pieced themselves together and motivated me to pursue a different strategy. I nixed my packed race schedule I’d tentatively planned, picked 2 goal races next year (a 50-miler in April and a 24-hour in September), and also got a running coach. He’s online, which I was a bit hesitant about, but we Skype every week, we correspond via email after each of my runs, and he tailors my future training to how each week of running goes. I’ve been extremely pleased with the feedback I’ve gotten. Not only do I have someone who is knowledgeable about running guiding me, but it gives me accountability.
Prior to getting my coach, I really didn’t have any direction with my running. I’d become so focused on just completing races (particularly ultras) with a combination of running and walking that I’d really forgotten what it was like to just go out and run non-stop for even just a few miles. I’d go out for a running and walking session, but I wouldn’t have any goal of what portion I’d run. Instead, I’d run maybe half a mile and then just start walking for no reason. However, I’d justify it by saying I didn’t have to be out even walking and that since I hadn’t set a running goal that I wasn’t failing at it. I’d just become complacent. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d run for more than 2.5 miles non-stop without walking, not necessarily because I couldn’t but because I just hadn’t tried.
I had my first benchmark race this past Friday: an 11k (6.85 miles). My coach asked what pace I thought I could run it at. I said *maybe* a little over 10 minutes a mile. He told me to try to keep my pace a little faster than 10 minutes a mile and also to try to run the second half faster than the first half. This seemed unrealistic, but I told him I’d at least try, despite that my 4-mile, 5-mile, and 10k PRs were all slower than that pace…
The course consisted of a couple laps on pavement around some lacrosse fields at a park, through a dual-purpose recreation/drainage tunnel, on an out-and-back section in back of a shopping complex, back past the fields and up onto this overlook area, and then back down to the finish.
I started off faster than a 10-minute mile pace, but then my shoe came untied about .9 miles into the race, a race-time first(!), so I had to go off to the side and re-tie it. As I was running, I noted that most of the first few miles seemed to be either flat or downhill. This was nice at the time, but I knew it would NOT be fun going the other direction! My first 3 miles were all in the 9:42-9:57 pace range. At the 3-mile point, I started actually paying attention to the people around me and made it a game to catch up to other people and pass them. I noted that my pace had slowed but that NO one was passing me, so this was of some consolation.
Right after the 5-mile point, two people passed me; they’d been ahead of me, walked through a water station, and then started running again right after I passed them’ I never caught up to them, but no one else passed me the rest of the race. The last section of the course was all downhill, which I looked forward to as I was running up to the turn-around point (which seemed way farther than I thought it would be, haha). Running almost entirely uphill for 2 miles made me breathe harder than I had in a while, but I noticed that when I consciously focused on my form, I would naturally run faster. I also kept assessing my situation, asking if I was injured or hurting which I wasn’t, which signaled I had no reason not to speed up.
The last mile or so of the course was almost completely downhill and I felt like I was flying! It turns out that the last .85 mile was at an 8:24 pace, which was CRAZY since my 1-mile PR is 8:15 (which I ran on a day where I only did a slow jog before doing the 1-mile run, not 6 miles). My finish time was 1:06:53 according to my Garmin, which registered 6.85 miles exactly, for a pace of 9:46. During the race that day, I unofficially beat my 4-mile PR by over 2 minutes, my 5-mile PR by over a minute, and my 10k PR by about 3 minutes.
Evidently running more frequently and putting in more miles actually makes me run faster. Shocking revelation, haha. That race gave me hope that I made the right choice to pursue running in a different way and I feel like I’m finally on the right path. I’m so excited to see what my running future holds. I’ve also rediscovered my love for running and I look forward to my runs again. The timing on this is funny too because I completed my first marathon, the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, exactly 3 years ago (it took place today). I trained for that marathon because running a marathon was on my bucket list. Until I actually crossed the finish line, I had every intention in the world of checking that item off my bucket list and leaving running in my past. Haha……