It’s not that this was one of those races where I was scared to run the distance. I train for marathons now so running a 10k, while it can be exhausting depending on the weather, does not ruffle my feathers the way it used too.
Now I run 6+ miles multiple times per week and if I can get my ass to stay outside long enough during this most God awful humidity (I thought running in below zero temperatures was) I’m usually running 13+ miles on the weekends. So I wasn’t scared of the distance…
I haven’t given much thought to this race even though we signed up for it weeks before hand. That’s right I said “we”. Even though Meegan is still recovering from her injuries she never ceases to amaze me with her tenacity to Just. Keep. Trying. Dammit. As race day got closer we started talking more about what would be best for her to make sure it would be as successful as possible and that maybe instead of trying to run it, she would just try to walk as fast as she was comfortable doing and finish. Even though there was a time limit of ninety minutes we were both feeling pretty good about her being able to come in before the clock stopped. As the race got closer I started thinking about my own running. I haven’t been very happy with it. It’s felt sluggish and much slower than I would like it to be. I know it’s because of the humidity. Much like in the winter I started out slow because I’d never experienced sub zero temperature like it was when I first moved to Halifax and I certainly had never run in such cold weather. As Spring rolled around and the marathon got closer I got back to my usual pace…
Then it got too hot.
My attempts at running longer distances are usually cut short because of the sun beating down on me or because the 100% humidity makes it impossible to be out on the road for 4 hours at a time. I’ve resorted to getting up before the sun rises and that’s been a big help but in case people didn’t notice the sun still comes out pretty freaking early and humidity doesn’t wait for the morning. It just sticks around all the freaking time so even at 5:30a I’m soaked by the time I reach the first mile.
As the race got closer I started thinking about what I wanted more than anything:
it was to run fast
In order for that too happen I was going to need to come to terms with a few things. The first being was that I was going to have to leave Meegan at the starting line. We’ve run a few races together and we’ve always started and finished together which means we are running at whatever pace she is comfortable with. I had to work through the guilt I felt that I would leave her all on her own to do something that would be scary for her. It sounds silly but never in my life have I felt so protective over another person. I was worried that she would get tired or panic or feel pain while trying to do her 10k and to run without her meant I couldn’t protect her, motivate her or tell her it was okay if she couldn’t finish.
I know lots of couples start races together and then split up so that each can go out there and do what they came to do but this was the first time for me and it felt heavy on my conscious.
The second thing I was going to have to do was set an expectation on myself and in order to set that expectation I would need to put it out to the universe what I wanted to do. As I set my running clothes out the night before I thought about time. In order to come in under an hour I would need to push myself to stay under a 10 min/mile. If you look over my runs the last couple of weeks they’ve been in the 10:30 – 11:30 pace even for shorter distances and of course as the distances get longer the pace creeps up to something closer to 12 min/mile. What I wanted more than anything was to finish under an hour. I wouldn’t care if it was 59 minutes and 59 seconds I did not want to see my time come in three sections (hours:minutes:seconds). So right before I went to bed I sent out the expectation to the universe…
When we got to the starting line Meegan and I both were sort of in our own thought processes. She’s wondering whether she’ll come across the finish line in time and could she do a walk/run interval instead of just walking and I’m wondering if I’ll come across fast enough. We agree that we’ll walk up to the timing mat together but as soon as we cross over we’re on our own. I tell her not to push too hard and that it didn’t matter when she was done I’d be at the finish line waiting for her. She tells me to run fast. We hold hands and the air horn blows for the start of the race…
“I love you”
“See you at the end”
One last kiss, One last squeeze of the hand.
And I run.
Thankfully Mother Nature didn’t bring the sun to beat down on us while we were running but she brought the humidity and right away I can feel it descend on me like a leaded vest. I started my Nike+ runkeeper but decided that I wouldn’t look at it once while running. How I knew I was running faster was looking at my heart rate output on my Polar. When I am running at a “comfortable” pace the heart rate is usually between 135 – 145 so I used that to gauge whether I was running faster and of course the time is on there but there isn’t a pace so I would have to keep doing math in order to figure out where I was on the race. I only focused on doing two things: Do the first 5k portion under 30 and then push like mad crazy to do the last 5k under 30…
I love shorter distances like 5k and 10k races. It’s a mad house at the beginning and for the most part you have to literally keep on your toes for the entire race. Finding your place among the other runners. Looking at your next move, finding your next open space and finding that next runner your aiming for.
I started out fast…Maybe a little too fast. The humidity hit me pretty hard pretty quickly and since I didn’t know how fast I was running I panicked a little that I couldn’t keep up that pace and I was in fact not going to come in under 60 minutes. I didn’t look down until I got to 4k mark and saw that my Polar put me at about 22 minutes into the run…
First 5k in under 30 minutes!
By the time I went through the split gate I was soaked to the bone because of the humidity. I had my own water bottle so every time I went through a water station I asked them to pour 2 glasses into my running hat but even the coolness of that only lasted a minute or two. I kept thinking about Meegan and wondering where she was on the course. I kept telling myself that I could do this for another 5k. I just kept running and watching my heart rate…155 – 165. I was running pretty fast even if I didn’t know what my pace was.
As I reached the 8k mark I knew I was coming up on the last mile and did a quick figure of time. I was at 47 minutes so even if I slowed down to a 12 minute mile for the last I would still come in under that much needed 60 minute mark. At the 9k mark I took a minute to walk and catch my breath and have a little talk with myself:
“You’re gonna do it”
“Catch your breath”
“This last 1/2 mile is gonna be strong”
“See that girl up there running?”
“GO GET HER”
I had accomplished what I set out to do and as soon as I was finished I immediately set my thoughts on Meegan. If she was going to come in under 90 minutes she would need to be coming to the finish line in 30 minutes or so. I planted myself a little up from the finish line to cheer other runners on (one of which was a 420 pound man walking a 5k in just over an hour. I know this because I stopped to walk with him for a few moments during the race to tell him a little about myself and to never give up).
As the runners started to get farther in between I decided to walk a little back towards Meegan to see if I could catch her before the finish line. I was talking with a fellow running club friend when all of a sudden I see her come around the corner…HOLY SHIT she’s way earlier than expected!
I go towards her and look down at my watch 1:17:00. She is blowing this race OUT OF THE WATER!!! She looks good as I run towards her and she’s running strong…running! I don’t even really remember much of our short conversation because I was so excited to see her. I knew she was okay and that was all I needed! We part again so that she can finish out the last 2 blocks and I run back to the finish line…
I’ve never seen her cross a finish line before.
She comes around the corner and I scream so loud I think I scared the announcer. All of a sudden I don’t care about my time. I don’t care that this was going to be my fastest 10k to date or that I feel strong after having run 12 miles the day before and just finished running 6 more. All of a sudden my running world comes to a focal point and that point is the most beautiful girl running toward a finish line we both wondered if she could cross…
Over the finish line.
Into my arms.
We both needed this 10k. We both needed to push ourselves and feel strong in our bodies. We both needed to start together but run separately because even though we fight this journey of struggles and frustrations together sometimes smaller battles are better fought on our own. I’m not too worried about pace now. I know I can run fast when I need too. To be able to keep a 9:16 pace (with walking breaks) for 6 miles is something I feel really good about. I’ll keep trying to plug away at the longer runs until my last marathon is run for the year but if I think I’m running too slow I’ll just come back to the Navy 10k and remember that I actually run kind of fast.
Meegan needed this for much more personal reasons and hopefully she’ll blog about it (hint hint) when it feels right for her. We both learned that it’s okay to start together and kiss as you cross over the starting line. That it’s okay to let go for a little while as we both, while going in the same direction, have different proverbial races we’re trying to run. Most importantly we learned that no matter what one of us will always be at the finish line waiting…
No matter how long it takes.