By now, everyone locally has heard about my 1:26 finishing time in the Brooklyn Half over the weekend. Part of it was because of word of mouth. Most of it was because I decided to post my race report on the Flyers discussion forum when someone in the club asked for feedback on the race. I decided to chime in not because I wanted people to know about my race. It was more because I wanted to point out some logistical things that detracted from my experience in hopes that the powers that be can bring it to the attention of the NYRR. At any rate, the response has been almost universal. “Good job, Lam. You walked and still finished with a great time. Congrats!” Although I’d sheepishly grin and modestly accepted the praise, in my head all I could hear are the words…” You walked…YOU WALKED…yes…YOU WALKED!” and nothing else. And although there were a bunch of mitigating circumstances working against me on race day (sunny, humid, lack of water being the most obvious), I still can’t get over the fact that I found myself walking again in the middle of a half-marathon. You see people, before I became the Running Laminator, when I didn’t know my own ass from my elbow in terms of running and only went to races because my best friend disguised as my running coach dragged me with him, I had a habit of walking in races. I’d walk in some of the 5-milers, a few of the 10Ks, and almost all the half-marathons I was entered in. It used to get so ridiculously bad that I’d consider it a success if I took only one walking break in the middle of the 13.1 miles. As a result, it took me forever (a year and a half) before I was able to break 1:30, even though I was hitting 1:31 pretty consistently. Eventually, at the Queens Half two years ago, I was finally able to run the full distance without walking and sure enough broke 1:30 for the first time (1:28:06). Fast forward two years, and I have managed to remain walk-free ever since. That’s why it was so horrifying when I succumbed to the heat/exhaustion/fatigue and reverted to an old habit that was so hard to kick. I can’t help but feel like I failed and regressed a bit as a runner – somewhat like an old alcoholic returning to the flask. It may be irrational, it may be far-fetched, but I cannot shake the image of me taking steps in every long distance race from here on out.
And it’s not like I haven’t tried. I took two days off running and went back to the track today to refine my form, practice my stride and regain the speed and confidence that I feel I’ve lost in the past six weeks since Boston. I looked back at my schedule and saw that my last successful interval run was 4 x 1 mile at 5:52 pace in the middle of March while training for Boston. In order not to be overwhelmed, I purposely set a softer goal for today: 3 x 1 mile at 5:55 pace. But even after the first mile, I found everything a complete struggle. I was so winded and tired after each one that I had to “cheat” and take complete rest for a minute or two before even doing the recovery half-mile jog. It was against protocol, but it was all I could do to not drop dead or jump into the East River (my track runs right next to it). In the end, my grade was still a giant FAIL because my three interval mile times were only 5:52, 5:58 and 6:03. And because it was now a possibility, the thoughts of stopping/resting gnawed at me in the middle of every interval as I was getting tired. Before this Saturday, it would never even have crossed my mind to ask the question.
In my mind, walking in middle of a race is completely inexcusable…regardless of the conditions. Before I regard myself as a runner again, never mind training for another marathon, I have to have to HAVE TO bury the hacket on this walking thing and not entertain it as a possibility. It is actually quite humiliating when you start with the fast group in the first corral and walk in the middle miles of the race. Believe me, I know. I secretly used to make fun of those people. Can you imagine Kara, or Ryan or other running elites taking steps in the middle of their races (unless they were severely injured)? Yeah, me neither. I rest my case.
Thanks for reading my semi-rant. Remember tomorrow is National Running (not Walking) Day! Make sure you do your part to promote the cause and celebrate!