It was a 10K that I was woefully unprepared for, having not completed that distance since November (when I began my medicine and went on a wretched running decline). It also didn't help that I signed up for the race that week.
At the start, two friends expressed the hope of finishing in under an hour. I shared my goal of hoping to not throw-up into my hands, but I said I'd try to keep them in my sights.
For the first three miles I was able to hang-in with them. This was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they are fun to run with and we hit the 3 mile mark at just under 27 minutes. A curse because a 9 minute mile is not my pace for a 10K (or anything) and I knew I would crawl to the finish. So I let them go ahead, still holding out hope I would met my original no-vomit goal and trudged on.
The course for the Genesis Riverside Run is gorgeous, by the way. Someone recently pointed out the novelty of having a stadium IN our city - so the beauty of beginning at Heinz Field was not lost on me. The path then goes along the river walk, past PNC Park, under bridges, along bike trails, and up to Washington's Landing. It loops through more trails and then back along the river to finish.
If you are prepared for it - its a great, flat, 6.2 miles. And there's nothing like having Pittsburgh flirt with you on a breezy Saturday morning.
Just check out Neil, coasting into the finish
But as I approached the end, I heard people throw a phrase around...
"At this pace, we can get Sub 60"
or "Come, pick it up, we want to Sub 60"
In my imagination, this was a new type of hoagie Subway was rolling out. A really awesome one they were revealing at the end party.
It showed yet again how I am distinctly a "non-athlete" because someone had to tell me it means you finish in under an hour.
My finishing time 59:02!
I beat my personal best by 5 minutes
and I didn't even know it was a thing at the start of the race, but by the end I got it:
(you can tell by my face, a hoagie would have been better)
Now I know that for most people who run this is the speed of a barge. I also know for people that don't run this whole post might not connect. Please stick with me a little longer...
After we run our races we have a lovely habit of going for bunch together. It ends up being about twelve of us around a table. We begin talking about our goals and our running. I am surrounded by runners at many different stages - some running their second race ever, some getting over injury, some training for their first half marathon.
We all finished at different times, and yet, everyone pushed themselves to the absolute edge of what they could do.
So that now we all have new limits.
In a month we'll run a new race, and we'll sit down at brunch and we'll have pushed through to a new barrier. It won't matter that we're 'middle of the pack' or 'slow' or any of that if we're still chipping away, right?
I read a lot of great running blogs and they almost alway have a tab at the top with a list of their races and times. At first I wondered why - because even the 'slower' runners did this. But its beginning to make sense to me. Because running is about going to the edge of yourself and then going further. Its about having nothing left in the tank, then running another 2 miles. And that shows up slowly, over time, in minutes and seconds. And it feels good to be able to measure progress.
Healing from a concussion is similar - I'm always at my limit and I'm always thinking I can't go on any more with this. But I know (at a glacial speed), I'm getting better. It would be nice if I could measure it down to the second and look back to see how far I've come.
Thanks for reading (sorry there's no hoagie at the end)