Minuteman 10K Race Recap
So this was what greeted me when I arrived for my 10K this morning. The photo is a bit deceiving, I’ll admit. It was chilly this morning and those pretty clouds let out a bit of a drizzle as I pulled into the parking lot and waited for my friends to arrive this morning.
The drizzle led to this rainbow, a good omen. As I was driving down to the race course this morning, I got nervous. I haven’t run a 10K in almost exactly a year. I haven’t done very well in the three I’ve run in the past. The first was a total disaster, I hated it and didn’t run one for months after. That first one took me 1:26 to finish, I think. I walked significant parts of it and it was hilly. The second was much better, I ran it in Central Park in January of 2013. My time was 1:19:22, and I felt decent the whole race (well, the last mile was hard). My third was last Mother’s Day, and I hadn’t trained as much for it as I had my second. The last two miles of that race were very hard for me, and I felt awful during them. But because the course was flatter than Central Park, I finished in 1:19:10, just a few seconds faster than my previous one.
I felt reasonably sure I could beat 79 minutes, but I didn’t know by how much. I have been running 6+ miles for a few weeks now in my training so I felt confident that I was prepared enough to not hate most of the race, unless the course was super challenging. Was it? I didn’t really know.
I hung out with my friend and her husband killing time before the race. It was so nice to have them both there. She agreed to stay after they finished their 5K to wait for me. After my first 10K, which was also combined with a 5K, the food and water were so depleted after I finished the race that there was literally nothing more than a small paper cup and a jug of water left. I refilled it about eighteen times. It was so demoralizing. I mean, I already knew I was slow, but did they really have to pack it all in before I was even done? My friend agreed to grab a few things for me after she finished in case supplies ran low.
Finally, it was time to send them off on their race, which started near mine but ended up being a totally different course, not even a shared part of ours. They started ten minutes before me. As I saw the crowd thin out to just us 10Kers, I got nervous again. Everyone looked like a serious runner. I was probably one of the heaviest people there. I lined up at the very back of the pack and tried not to let it get to me. I was here to run my race, not anyone else’s. All I had to do was beat my last time. Even if that made me last. I just had to beat myself.
Finally, they started us out. I was immediately glad I’d changed out of my jacket and into a t shirt. The sun made it warm as I started to move and I knew I would have hated the extra layer. Before we even made the first turn I realized I was the last runner. The police guys on bikes rode near me for a while as the herd advanced onward.
I tried not to let it get to me. I needed to run my own race and feel strong, conserve my energy. At the five minute mark I heard RunKeeper tell me I was below a 12 minute mile. I had hoped to end around 12:30 min/miles, so I figured this would give me some cushion.
Finally I did see one woman, in pink, slowing down ahead of me. Thank God, I thought. If I pass her, I won’t be last. Sure enough, I passed her. Not long after her, near the one mile mark, I picked off someone else. I wanted to be sure they stayed behind me. I knew I was slower than the pack here, but I really, really didn’t want to be last.
By mile 2 the herd was well ahead of me, with a few stragglers, and I was mostly alone. I resolved to enjoy the amazing seaside views and run at the edge of comfort. I sailed through mile 2 and the water stop feeling really good. I even passed two more women who were running together. Unfortunately they caught up to me as we ran under I 95, but they stayed close for a while.
Around the 5K mark we encountered some rolling hills, nothing terrible. I had only stopped to walk during the water station and was feeling good. But then we got to the one big hill I’d heard people talking about before the race. I saw the two girls just ahead slow to a walk and I followed. I needed to have enough energy to get through the next few miles.
There were a few more hills during the fourth mile, one that slowed me to a walk again, and I watched the two women that were just ahead gain more distance between themselves and me. I realized they had really worked to be slow for the first half and were kicking it up for the second half.
I didn’t have enough energy to speed up by mile 5, but I did manage to pick off all of the hills, including the highway overpass back over 95, without walking. I felt stronger than I had ever felt at this point in a 10K, and I marveled at it. I honestly felt pretty good going into the last mile.
Somewhere around the one hour mark I realized that I was pacing well enough to more than beat 79 minutes. In fact, if I kept up the pace I was at, I had a chance of beating 75 minutes, which was a goal I hadn’t dare set for myself. I never thought I would be able to keep up a 12 minute pace for the whole race, but as I closed in on the last half mile I realized I had done just that, and I still had energy to keep going. Don’t get me wrong, I was tired and ready for the race to end, but the course was flat by that point and I knew I wasn’t going to have to slow down to make it.
The last bit of the race was right along Long Island Sound, very picturesque and peaceful. I saw a few people well ahead of me but no one close. There were lots of people leaving in cars and on foot. A voice in my head started niggling me about it, how slow I was that the race was practically over. I forced myself to stop thinking that way. I was running the fastest 10K I’d ever done and I was going to enjoy it, dammit!
As I rounded the final bend I could see the race clock. 1:23:xx. Shit! How had that happened?
And then I remembered there were two clocks. One for the 5K and one for the 10K. Sure enough, the 10K clock was ten minutes behind, reading 1:13:xx. Holy smokes! I was going to beat 75 minutes! I ran as fast as I could towards the finish, all alone, feeling like a million bucks.
And as it turns out, my friend and her husband had waited for me at the finish, with snacks and water and fruit. I was so grateful to see them. If I had been alone I might have given into the snarky voice in my head telling me how I was probably last or close to it. But they were there, full of congratulations and excitement, and we all ate and talked for a few minutes before we headed back home.
A text from the race told me before I even left that I had run the race in 1:13:44, over 5 minutes faster than my previous 10K PR (5:26 to be exact). The thrill of that makes the sting of knowing I was 385th of 387 people running that 10K today (ironically, my bib is also 385. This must be some cosmic good omen. Maybe I should play the lottery today).
I’m going to savor my PR and not let the third from last finish get to me. I swear, I am. For now, the first 10K of the year is done (my goal was two for the year). I’m already thinking about the next one.