Newtown Road Race Recap
I ran the Newtown Road Race last year for the first time. It was the first time I had simply woken up and just decided to run a race that day, without pre registering. The day was hot, humid and while I was glad I showed up and helped a great cause, I was very disappointed with my time.
I hoped to run it again this year and vindicate myself, but after my awful performance in the MADD Dash two weeks ago I wasn’t sure if I should. I had decided (and meant to post about it but haven’t) that after that race I was going to seriously concentrate on getting my 5K times down. I’ve done the distance goals I set myself for this year, and now I have a new goal: running a 5K under 35 minutes. I started a My ASICS training program towards that end two weeks ago, but I’m only two weeks in. I knew running this race, which is a hilly course, wouldn’t be anywhere close to that. Should I go or should I skip it, and get some more training in?
In the end, when I mentioned the race to my son who is visiting from DC this week, he wanted to run with me. We’ve talked a lot about my newfound running habit, and he had even started running a bit himself before the birth of his daughter. We’ve always talked about running a race together, and this seemed like a great time to do it.
After last year’s hot and humid day, they moved the start time up to 8am for this race. I was glad for it, and wish more summer races in this area would do the same. That hour on a summer day can mean the difference of five to eight degrees, and that can be a serious thing out running. So we got up at 6 and got to the race site by 7 to register and get ready for the race.
My son had asked me if we would see anyone I knew. I remembered last year that I hadn’t really known anyone at the race, which had been a surprise since Newtown is the town right next door. I told him I didn’t think I would, but sure enough we ran into a few people that I know from other races. We spent the wait time amiably chatting with them. It was nice to have someone there with me to pass the hour and it went very quickly.
Finally it was time to head out to the start line. I asked my son what his goal was and he said he wanted to run the race between 25 and 30 minutes. Wow! I was surprised at the ambitious goal for someone who doesn’t run regularly, but hoped he could do it. As for me, I had in my head last year’s time of 38:41, and last week’s time of 38:24, and hoped to beat them by at least a minute to feel better about both of them.
The race started right on time and we were off. There’s a hill in the first quarter mile; you can actually see it from the start line. It looks honestly bigger than it is. People who ran out hard were already stopping for a walk and we weren’t even that far in. I hardly noticed it because I spent most of the first few minutes trying to get my RunKeeper to find it’s GPS groove. I stayed with the pack and probably ran faster than I normally would have because I wasn’t paying so much attention. I felt it at the top of the hill, slowed a bit, but kept going.
It was a lot cooler for this race than the previous year, and the sun actually disappeared pretty quickly behind the clouds. This made all the difference for me. I had my hat on, but honestly didn’t need it to keep the sun off my face because the clouds took over. I spent most of the first mile just really trying to maintain a faster pace than I normally do. At some point I thought: let’s push and really see how long we can keep that up.
I kept it up for about a mile and a half before I really started feeling it. And then I started thinking about a training run my friend and I did this week. We ran/walked intervals and when it was over, I was surprised to find how fast our running intervals were. They were faster than I thought they felt, likely because we had the recovery of the intervals. So I told myself I was going to use some well timed intervals (aka hills) to try and see if I could gain some speed.
By mile two I was feeling tired because I was pushing hard, harder than I normally do. But in my head I knew if I kept it up, I could really score a much better time. I started using 30 minute walk breaks to keep my speed up for the runs. People were slowing all around me, and I started playing a passing game with several of them; we were all doing the same thing, using run and walk breaks to power through.
The last mile or so of this run is on a trail. You really have to watch your footing and be careful because it is rocky and not terribly smooth. I kept my head down and paid attention because I could easily see twisting an ankle or something. This portion of the race seemed long, but what was great about it was that once you hit the pavement, you were at the three mile mark. I was surprised, and grateful, that the finish line was right around the corner; not far at all.
I ran as fast as I could towards it, mustering below a 10:00 pace for that last bit and crossing at 36:34, well below last year’s time. I was honestly shocked at how much faster I’d run it. Even faster than my race two weeks ago, by nearly two minutes, and that was a flat course!
I know part of the reason for the speed was the weather. The cloudy, cooler day was definitely part of it. Even two weeks ago was warmer, sunny and I hadn’t remembered my hat, and I felt it. I also have been running regularly the last two weeks and I hadn’t before that last race, so that’s part of it too. But still. Part of it too was definitely my head space: I mentally pushed myself to run harder, faster, and it showed. Finally, I think allowing the intervals helped. I know Jeff Galloway is popular for a reason, but I think there’s something to well timed intervals that can help you power through.
When I crossed the finish line I saw my son and friends waiting for me, and was grateful that I’d scored a more respectable time. When I finally got to the food area and had water and a banana in me, I asked them all how they did. My son, who isn’t a regular runner, came in at 27:53. Wow! I guess that’s what being 25 and in good shape overall will get you. He of course wants to train now and see how much faster he can get. My other friends all were happy with their times too and we all took sweaty photos together to celebrate.