Seems odd that I hadn't run a 10k sooner. I've tackled everything else from the 400 meter through the marathon, including a bunch of 5ks, a 7.5 miler, 16 miler, 4 miler, etc. Never the 6.2 mile distance. Super Sunday 10k on Boston's waterfront provided the perfect opportunity.
As I've increased my mileage over the past few weeks, I've come to love my 6/7/8 mile runs. That's my new fun run zone. Whenever I finish any of those runs, I feel terrific... like I could run 100 miles farther. I was looking forward to this 10k, knowing that I could run it well and maybe even fast. My only concern was my recent knee pain.
So I asked myself:
"Should I run this race all out?" (Maybe.)
"Should I take it easy?" (Not likely.)
"Should I skip it and give my knee a full week off?" (Not a chance.)
I decided: "I'm going to run this race smart." That for me entails:
1. Not going out too hard.
2. Negative splits.
3. A hard pace, but one I know I'm capable of running.
I set my sites on a 7:30 pace. My last 4 miler was about 7:15 pace, so I knew I could do another two miles at the slower speed.
I arrived at Super Sunday 10k to meet my friend Jeremy who was running the 5k distance. It was his first 5k ever - his first road race of any distance in fact - and I would be his privileged pacer. He was concerned about running a respectable 5k time, and just knowing him I figured he could handle about a 7:30 pace. Still, I wanted to be sure we started out easy so we could both adjust to the race and not get too caught up in sprinting out of the gate.
We walked up to the starting line and settled in about half way back in the mass of people. Unable to hear the announcer back there, we just waited and waited for everyone to start running. Luckily we could hear the starting horn.
The horn blared and we were off!!
Not really. We sort of shuffled for about 20-30 seconds before reaching the line.
Then we were off!
Kind of. We were confronted with a wall of people and fairly narrow streets. I hadn't run this race before, obviously, so I hadn't thought through the crowd issues.
Trotting along. Trotting along. This was way too slow, I kept thinking, but I didn't worry too much about it. My knee wouldn't hate me and Jeremy could start to find his race.
After about 1/2 mile, I was done with trotting. It was time to start picking people off.
We surged ahead single file as best we could.
Passed 5 people. Passed 10 people. Passed a whole bunch more.
Mile marker 1: 8:50ish.
YIKES. I'm never going to run a 7:30 pace. Time to GO.
I really started picking it up. Jeremy stuck with me the whole way, although often having to slip along side so we could fit through the groups of people.
Mile marker 2: 16:00ish
SWEET. We made up some time and we were both running strong. Keep on going.
About half mile later, I lost track of Jeremy. It was just too crowded and I was still surging ahead. I knew he was running strong close behind me, and would be able to finish strong. I just hoped he would know when the end of the race was near so he could kick it. This race was going by fast and I figured that 3.1 mile finish line would sneak up on him.
I found out later that it did. But he had a fantastic first 5k, finishing 25th in his age group! Woohoo! Way to go J!
Meanwhile I had another 3.1 miles to go. Another full loop. I usually dislike loop courses, but this race was ideal. In that second go-round, I knew exactly when to push it.
I decided to focus on the "pick offs" to keep me moving forward. No one was passing me, except for two guys toward the end, so I was feeling great that I could keep going strong.
I focused on a girl in green.
I focused on a dude in black.
We were on the last mile, running along fan pier, and I knew it was time to go. I started finding a bit of my kick in anticipation of the final stretch.
I set sights on two girls in different shades of blue, one slightly ahead of the other. I focused on the closer one, then decided to just gun for the girl in front. I caught them both at mile 6, right before the final .2.
I started pushing it, on the verge of puking at this point. Oh, and there it was - some guy stopped right ahead of me to puke. I could feel his pain.
Last stretch and there are my friends cheering me on. I let out everything I had left and crossed just under 47:00 on the clock.
First thought. Damn. I didn't make my goal. I could have gone faster.
I found out later that I netted 46:34. That's a 7:30 pace on the nose! Exactly what I set out to do. What shocks me more is that I clocked the first 5k in 23:41and the second in 22:53 -- that's only about 25 seconds slower than my best ever 5k time.
Hmm. Just how fast could I run now if I really let it all out?
Can't wait to find out. Until then, happy road running!