This race was a tradition for me in high school. It was about a month after cross country season ended and I stopped running, so I was very much out of running shape and also my excuse to relax and miss out on most Thanksgiving Day prep and clean-up. [Mom, I swear I never avoided helping out on Thanksgiving… you read that wrong!]
I’ve run this race three times (thanks athlinks.com) during high school.
2003 (15 years old) – 45:00 (9:03)
2004 (16) – 43:46 (8:48)
2005 (17) – 44:27 (8:57)
I planned to run this race easy but that all changed when I was offended (twice actually) this week in regards to running. So then I decided to Revenge Run (term coined from a local runner friend on Twitter.) I figured that doing well was entirely plausible considering I beasted a PR at the Shamrock Run in March after a week off due to injury and after taking all of November through January off of running completely.
I woke up tired, quickly got ready and headed out the door around 6:45am. I prefer to park at the finish so I don’t have to rely on anything to get me back so I can go home. When I want to go, I want to go. This way I take a shuttle to the start and that’s the only thing I actually need to worry about. I slowly ran to the convention center about a half mile away as my warm-up. Once at the start, I had about 90 minutes to kill (the race sells out around 14,000 people so doing everything as soon as you can is key) which was largely spent waiting for the bathrooms inside the Y, then I saw a college friend who I happen to see at every single race I do, we chatted, and split up before the start.
I don’t know when they started including pace banners, but they had them lined up all along the start. Nobody ever listens to pace banners or lines up according to ability so I put myself between the 6 and 7 minute miles. I just wanted to ensure that when the race started, I wasn’t waiting for 5 minutes to actually start and I wasn’t dodging walkers. It didn’t matter, I still had walkers and families in front of me. I even had a Dad look at his young son when I was standing behind them, “Remember, we are going really slow.” and look at me afterwards as though to tell me to get out. Hey bonehead, you’re 50 feet from the start, directly next to the 6:00/mile banner.
I lined up about 25 minutes before gun time to adjust to the cold and get my blood flowing. It went really quickly though because my ex was actually behind me, so we casually chatted and caught up to pass the time. Thankfully it was not uncomfortable even though we haven’t had a real conversation since it happened almost exactly a year ago. Once the race started, my only goal was to avoid dodging people, run the tangents, and not start off too slowly because I knew I wouldn’t be capable of making up any time if I started off at 9:xx miles because I’m not in 7:xx shape.
My toes were numb for the majority of the race, despite keeping hand warmers in my sneakers until I started. I finished the first mile in 8:06 with minimal dodging and only getting elbowed once by somebody who did not need to cut that close to me and they didn’t even apologize! (Hi, you’re a jerk!) Miles 2 and 3 were uphill so I told myself to take it easy and don’t try to push it. This is where I started thinking I’d rather run slow and screw the Revenge Run. I had a side stitch, I still couldn’t feel my toes, my calves began to cramp, and I was cold in my hands but hot in my body. Miles two and three were an even 8:30 for both and I didn’t feel like I pushed beyond my limit — I stayed comfortable, my breathing didn’t get huffy and out of control, I just cruised about 80% effort.
Everything started to go into the downhill here (literal elevation downhill). I didn’t want to push it too hard, but I wanted to use the downhills to my advantage. My calves were so tight and cramping at this point, which I have never experienced in a race. I know Chris told me to expect to be sore, but I had run up to 8 miles before taking those weeks off using this same running form, and I never experienced this cramping, even if the pace was 3:00 and 4:00/mile slower. I just kept reminding myself that I was halfway finished and found myself thinking about Michele’s recent Philadelphia Marathon experience with cramping. If she could finish a marathon, likely feeling worse than I did, I could hang into there for 2.5 more miles. So I ran the rest of the race wondering how she did it, and ticking off every banner I saw; they were placed every half mile reminding you how much further you didn’t have to go.
Finally I was back in Revenge Run mode. I upped my pace to about 85% of my max and concentrated on form. My torso kept wanting to lean back and I kept reminding myself that I should lean into the downhill. I kept wanting to heel strike and I kept telling myself I wouldn’t do it. I started to look at people with terrible running form, heavy feet, and costumes … and concentrated on picking them off. It was a little like “You? I heard you when you were half a mile away. You’re killing your joints. And you will not beat me. You? That costume is not aerodynamic at all. You will not beat me. You? You’re running in Sperries, you certainly will not beat me!” and that kind of motivated me to the finish. I finished mile 4 in 8:06 – back on track with the first mile.
The last mile I tried to go for it, I think. I felt like I picked it up a little bit, but didn’t want to full out sprint, not even when I came to the lats 100m. I always kick the last 100m, it’s my thing. I don’t know if I chose not to or I just couldn’t, but it’s probably the latter. I haven’t done any speed work since June. I’ve barely run since June. I upped it to about 90% my max the last mile and cruised in comfortably hard. The pace was 8:01, so I didn’t actually pick it up too much even though my body felt otherwise.
I finished in 40:59, chip time. I can’t be mad at that; I was successful in the Revenge Run! I’m coming off the IR (ha) and I wasn’t training, but it did leave me feeling pretty confident in my abilities for the future. Sadly, it also put an end to my PR streak — I’ve PR’d every race I’ve run since I started training for my first half marathon about 18 months ago. Hell, that’s an accomplishment in itself!
The after party was full of beer (okay, just one), a little stretching and trying to get warm. I met up with my college friend again, tried to find other people I knew were at the race unsuccessfully, then ran into the ex again. We caught up some more and it was surprisingly not awkward until a local photographer said he wanted our picture. We didn’t stand any closer together, just turned towards the camera and the photographer was not happy with that, “Come on, act like you know each other and like each other!” so we just laughed it off. Sir, if only you knew.
In all, it was a nice end to Thanksgiving morning and really put things into perspective. I am so thankful that last year I took a risk I was not 100% sure of for nobody else by myself. I take after my Mom — I do things for other people and I’d rather suffer a little to make somebody else happier, more comfortable, or make things easier on someone. It’s not a bad trait to have but sometimes you need to put others on the back burner and do what’s right for you. I still hear from people who haven’t seen me in a long time that I’m different/back to the way I “used” to be/obviously happy and that feels good, while making me wonder what I was like during the time I wasn’t myself. And it was nice to find out that now it wasn’t only the best thing for me; everyone is genuinely happier. Plus, I ran 5 miles at a really decent pace considering all the running I haven’t been able to do. I was able to share Thanksgiving surrounded by a wonderful family and J, with a roof over our heads, delicious food on the table, and then able to see my Mom and sister for holiday shopping. It’s so much that people take for granted, but so many people can’t even have half of that… but I get it all. And there I was an hour earlier complaining to myself about calf cramps… that I got because I was able to do something I love. Perspective.
Today, my calves are still unbelievably tight and my arches are so sore. My cool down after the race was walking to my car and napping on the couch, but later into the night spending 6 hours walking/driving/standing during Black Friday shopping. You would think that’d help my calves, but all day today I was on the couch only to limp to the bathroom or kitchen, and roll onto my foam roller. It nearly brings me to tears to walk normally and foam roll; all I really need is a tough-love massage, but that’s not happening tonight. Hopefully tomorrow I can bring myself to do a little elliptical or biking, but I don’t even want to look at my running sneakers or a treadmill until sometime next week!