My legs keep no pace with my desire
. . .such was the motto of Toronto’s A Midsummer Night’s Run, held in the waning daylight hours of a recent Saturday in August. Dale and I signed up because of the timing, the location, and the 15K distance. Nine+ miles qualifies, for me, as a serious run that requires training, but not so much training as to become my part-time job.
One could also sign up because of the fairies, though. There were lots of them, in costume, including the Pace Fairies who did great jobs keeping their groups of runners on target for their race time goals.
I had not been particularly happy with my race preparation. I did almost all of the runs dictated by my race training schedule, though I felt that–for me–running 5x/week was just too much for the ole body to take for weeks and weeks on end. I feel better when running 4x/week: less fatigue, more spring in my step. So I cut out a few planned runs in the last two or three weeks of my training program. But whether I was running four or five times a week, I just felt SLOW. It’s been hot here (Canada? Who knew?) and kind of muggy, which probably affected my pace a bit. Really, though, I have just felt that I’ve hit the wall in my running. I can, when pressed, run a 10 minute mile. I’m just not going to get much faster, I think. Dale insists that I am wrong and, should I decide to dedicate myself to speed, I could certainly shave a good minute off my average per-mile pace. I think he thinks too highly of my athletic prowess.
But he could be on to something. My longest run during training was a 9-mile jaunt on August 8th. I ran that bad boy in 1:40 and change, which is an average of 11.01 minutes/mile. Whooopdie hoo, right? At 15K, A Midsummer Night’s Run is 9.32 miles, so I figured that I could run it in 1:42 or 1:43. This did not make me happy, as I really wanted to be able to run the distance in 1:30. So I gave myself two different pep talks. The first talk went something like this: dude, you’re 40 years old and you can run 15K, or 20K, or 40K. This pretty much makes you a stud, regardless of how slow your times are, relative to those who are naturally talented or willing to invest more into training than you. Just enjoy being out there and running your race and don’t worry about your time. The second talk was a bit more aggressive and sounded like this: Jennifer, my dear, it is a race. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you leave everything out on the course and fall down in a crumpled heap somewhere near the end, perhaps puking your guts out. How would you know this is the worst possibility, though, since you’ve NEVER left everything out on the course before? (well–maybe the marathon in Dallas. It’s all such a blur now.) And if you do crash and burn on the course, the running gods will not descend from the heavens to smite you; nobody will be disappointed in you (except perhaps yourself) and life will go on. With that in mind, just head out there and run your guts out and see what happens.
I joined the 1:30 Pace Fairy group, right next to the Fairy himself (with a wreath of laurels and a blue tutu). In the first few kilometers of the race, I stayed right next to him. But after four or so, I felt I could go a little faster. So I did. Just out in front of him, with a man named Ravin next to me. We kept a steady pace right in front of the 1:30 group for about five kilometers. The other 1:30 pace group–a group that had a run/walk plan–was also nearby and they were a weird bunch to run close to. We would be out in front of them, because they had slowed to a walk, and then they would surge and catch up to us, since their per kilometer pace was slightly higher than that of the continuously running 1:30 pace group. Their surge was audible, too. It sounded all of a sudden as if there was a large predator gaining speed on you from behind. Quite motivational in a way: RUN OR BE EATEN! After a few kilometers of finding a pace that kept me steadily in front of the surging beast, we were near the end of the race. I knew I was in front of both 1:30 groups and felt I could hang on and come in before them.
It was hot and muggy and threatening to rain. My right piriformis hurt, as per usual, and I could feel a blister forming on the outside of my left food. I focussed on form (hands down, arms swinging, hips forward, shoulders erect) and knew it was all doable. Whether it was the energy of 1500 runners, the initial motivation of the Pace Fairy and my buddy Ravin, or the threat of the surging run/walkers gaining on me, the race environment was a good one for me and I ran the best time I would have allowed myself to think of: 1:28:13.
(Dale ran it in 1:06:51 with a stomach ache. And had the nerve to be bummed about it!)