I love running the Petit 5K.  It is what road racing is all about.  A group of like minded people coming together for a good run, but more importantly a good cause.  The start of the race is always emotional.  Dr. Petit makes his remarks, and we all remember the tragedy that befell his young family.  I know that each time I think of what he and his family went through I can’t help but think of my own family, and how difficult it would be to have lived through something like that.  During that moment of silence before the race, you can hear sniffles through the crowd as every parent in the crowd shares in the pain that only someone who gives so much of themselves to their children can ever really fathom.

Of course, we were all here to race, and soon enough the gun went off and we were running.  I was running with my sister-in-law and we positioned ourselves near the front.  When gun went off I ran.  My goal was twofold.  First, I really wanted to qualify for a corral at the Manchester Road Race.  That means I needed a time of at least 25:26.  That’s roughly an 8:12 or so pace.  That my friends is a lofty goal for 2 reasons.  The first is that it was hot and humid on race day.  The second is that even under the best conditions I had never ever been close to that pace.  My fastest 5K was slower than 10 minute miles.   Having said that, due to injuries and other issues from last year, I haven’t done many 5k’s so it had been more than a year since the last real 5K that I had done.  Oh, and one other issue is that I have been really lazy, and haven’t done much in the way of training, so really, the deck was stacked against me from the start.  But I had to push myself, right?

The second, and much more achievable goal, was to be hurting during this race.  I have never really pushed myself on a “real” race before, so I wanted to leave everything out there.

When the gun went off I took off at a steady pace.  I had no watch so I didn’t know my pace, nor did I know my heart rate.  (I know, what a loser right?)  I do know that at some point I felt like I was dying.  I said to myself, wow, you are really out of shape, we aren’t even at a mile yet and you are already fading.  I felt hot, and extremely thirsty all of a sudden.  Thankfully there was someone handing out bottle water on the side of the road, I don’t think they were race volunteers, I don’t really know, but the water was cold and it was amazing (thank you).  Soon after that I approached the mile marker and the clock.  From a distance I heard someone shout “7:40. ”  It didn’t dawn on me what that meant until I got closer and looked at the clock.  It said 7:55.  I did a double take.  Huh?  With the delayed start due to congestion taken into account I had run a sub 7:45 minute mile.  How is that possible?  It didn’t feel like I was running fast, but that would certainly explain why I was so darn “out of shape.”  That was just crazy.  I kept going, but I could feel myself fading.  I just didn’t have the fitness to maintain that pace.

Just as an aside, one more thing I didn’t quite prepare for was just how fast I was going to have to run to make the road race seeding.  I never actually calculated it out, nor did I look it up, so I thought my target was sub 8:30.  Before you blame me too much, this race ended up happening the morning after we got back from vacation, so I wasn’t sure that I would even do it.  It was literally a last minute decision, so the prep just wasn’t there.

As I started fading people began passing me in large numbers.  I would guess that my pace dropped to around 9 minutes miles or so, so I was really dropping off.  As always, I saw people who were taking very different approaches to the race.  There was one woman in particular who would run like crazy for 200 yards or so, and then walk, completely out of breath for 100 yards.  It seems to me that a steady effort in between those two speeds would be better, or at least less demoralizing.  I know that I was intent on not walking at all during this race.  Having said that, she never let me pass her, so ultimately, her pace was just fine.

I was really hurting by the two mile mark, and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to keep even this slower pace up the rest of the way.  But my goal was to hurt, so I can scratch that one off the list.  I don’t remember the time at the second mile marker, I think averaged out to the 8’s or so.  I decided then and there that when I saw the finish line I would gun it, just lay it all out there.  The race ends with probably a quarter of a mile or so straight away, with the finish line right at the crest of a small slope.  As soon as you turn onto that road you can see the finish line, and as soon as I saw it I took off running as fast as I could.

I passed so many people in that last stretch, it felt amazing to just throw everything into that last sprint.  It was however, very hard to keep that sprint going, I felt myself slow down, and then forced my feet faster again several times.  When I finally crossed the line I felt like I was close to hyperventilating.  I was sooo hot, and I just couldn’t catch my breath.  I bit of walking around and a cold bottle of water later, I was able to join the crowd and welcome the runners in.

So I ended up with a finish time of 26:21, an 8:25 pace, and just missed the seeding :(.  But, I did easily meet my second goal.  My sister-in-law was nursing a foot injury, and came in with a respectable 10 minute mile with some walking in the middle.  Well done!

In the end I can’t complain.  I got a new 5K PR, and I had no right to shoot for such a fast pace with little to no training.  I’m actually quite lucky that I didn’t injure myself.