I'm getting ready for a 5k this morning. This is a little one that our club provides finish line services for. The race course runs through Sand Run park where I've run a million times before, but I'm nervous as always. Running fast is very unpleasant to me, but I'm trying to hold on to the words of another fellow club runner and board member that wrote about his 2:12 finish at Boston. But this wasn't the Boston Marathon, but rather the 800 M race of the USA Track and Field Association's Indoor Master's Track Meet. Paul is about my age, has an inordinate amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers to run sub 5 minute paces over short distances. He likes the really short races where the pain is searing and intense, but over in 40 seconds, as opposed to the pain endured by the long-distance athlete which lasts hours and with delayed onset muscle soreness that can linger for days. Paul has never run a marathon, and is perplexed by the distance runner that says he can't run fast because of the pain. Paul kind of apologized for philosophizing a bit and went on to say the following: "Short term pain can be endured if there is a goal worth reaching. Slowing down right at the end is not a good plan in a race or in an important phase in your life. Preparing to yourself to deal with pain without losing your running form is essential in a short race. Preparing yourself to maintain integrity even when life plays rough is far more essential".
I'm glad he went on to philosophize. I'm going to try to keep this mind this morning when I start my race with characteristic Irish Setter puppy enthusiasm, fast as the wind, but need to keep Paul's words in my head as I near the finish, searing pain building in my legs, lungs heaving, that I can keep going...fast...till I cross that finish line.
What a fabulous race. I have a fun story to tell for this one. I arrived about an hour early to chit-chat with the running club volunteers setting up the race course. The the staid stoic Norwegian farmer man is working the finish, so he'll be a nice little incentive to kick it up in the end. I asked him if I could pay him to clock me in at 24 minutes, but no deal. I'll use whatever little incentive I can get on race day! I mentioned to my friend Mary that I like to run this one, cause it's small and not so fiercely competitive--where I'm the fast girl that you better keep your eye on. So, I'm surveying the playing field getting a feel for my competition when a bus arrives on scene, emitting a stream of women clad in matching purple t-shirts approximately in the 40-44 age group category. Mary said, "Well, I think they heard you were going to be here, so now you've got to run your butt off." Hmmmm...at first I thought it might be a bus load of cross-country runners, but no--these were decidedly middle-aged women. I wonder if they're fast? Where the heck did they come from? The answers to the mystery were quickly revealed when I ran into an old friend, and formidable running rival. I used to hang out with this woman when our kids were babies and I was fat. At the time, she was starting to get into this physical fitness craze...I admired her like crazy but didn't find my own motivation for a few years to come. We went different ways and I happened upon her at a race. We trained together one summer for the Akron Road Runner a few years back. She's a few years younger than me, but we were well matched in terms of pace. She's a mover and shaker in her particular running community, but I felt she was getting excessively competitive with me, ultimately affecting the friendship. Really, the only time I seem to be seized with fits of competitiveness is on race day and race day only, but during training I prefer supportive running friendships that recognizes that not every day is going to be a great day. We drifted again, yet here she was. I figured she'd be here. She runs this particular race every year as it holds sentimental value for her. After talking to her a bit, she explained that the purple clad women are from the recreation center she works out at; this group of women is at the culminating point of the challenge from transcending the couch potato life and running a 5k. She was a very instrumental force in forming this group and getting to them to this point, so she has all my admiration for getting these women active. Their t-shirts said exactly that...couch potato to 5k. So, this is going to be a first race for this group of thirty to thirty-five women. Well...that made me feel better. I don't think they'll be passing me on this course which is gently hilly. It's a good race for a beginning group, however, cause the intimidation of the speed demons is lessened. OK...they need to deal with me and the raving red locks whipping them as I pass by, but they need to get used to it.
Now, my old friend and I run very similar 5K times, so I really really wanted to beat her on this one. Debbie and I started jogging the half mile to the race start. Debi gets insanely nervous before 5k's--to the point where she swears she's giving up racing for good. "Debi, you're going to smoke em all. Don't worry!" The whistle went off and out I went...fast but not too fast, I felt. I was third women from the front until the daughter of a club member passed me. She's a young thing, so I tried not to let it bug me. No one else and I mean no one else was going to pass me...especially a woman. My friend Chris has the loudest running gait of anyone I know. She must wear motion control shoes or something, cause I could hear the slap-slap of her footfalls behind me at mile 2, but then they faded for awhile as she fell behind. I really felt like an Irish Setter cause I had uncontrollable drool coming out my mouth. I wasn't going to waste the energy bringing my hands to my mouth to wipe it away. Not yet. I had to hold my place. I was really getting tired, but I kept thinking about Paul's article, to hold my form and my pace even though it hurt. The last mile was endless uphill stretch. I heard Chris slapping up on me again, trying like hell to pass me, but it wasn't going to happen...I picked it up even more. I flew through the finish at 25:38 I think. I was the fourth woman in, Chris was the 5th, so I knew I had a first place finish in my age group, since the first three women will get overall trophies. I was soooo close to that overall trophy, but I was beaming at my first place finish on this not so easy course. My PR on a flat course is 25:25, so I was very close to this.
Debi came in at 27 something, which she said is much better than her last year's time, but Debi, so full of doubt, didn't think she'd win her age group. "What...you were 12th woman in....of course you won your age group." We posed for a couple picks and waited while they called out names for door prizes. We didn't win a thing and didn't give a hoot, cause I was waiting for my first place trophy. Debi did, in fact, place in her age group. I knew she would. She's a running machine. I noticed a pair of dogs in the crowd of runners. And guess what one of those dogs was? An Irish Setter...we had the same exact color hair! I haven't seen an Irish Setter in ages, and here she is...it was kind of strange.
I finally got my first place trophy but they screwed up the age group. They had me and the second place winner of the 40-44 age group in the 45-49 group. Whoa....this is not good. The Fair Housing People were great, though, they checked out my card; I had properly filled it in with the correct info. and put it into the 40-44 year old box. Since this is a small race, they use a numbered card system to track your place. Later the times are matched to the cards and they mail you your official results. I should know in a month exactly what my time was. I was too prostrated from running to notice my exact time as I flung myself over the finish line, swiping away the drool before the club volunteers could see the shameless evidence of my supreme running effort. I gave it all ...even when it hurt.