Where It All Started

smallwood2013Two years ago I ran a neighborhood 5K with no training or real race preparation. I had just started running for health reasons and wanted to test my abilities in a relatively low pressure situation. The race bug bite me that day, I haven’t looked back since. However, that remained the only 5K I ever ran and my time has stood (as a rather poor) personal record. That is until the other day.

Jess and I were spending a few days with her family at their summer retreat in the Hudson Valley area and as is tradition, we gathered up a group to run the local fire company fundraiser 5k. Two years ago the conditions were not favorable, with rain showers throughout the run and a lot of standing water on the ground. This year we had the opposite, the sun was beating down by the time the race started at 9:30AM, melting everyone and everything around it. Combined with the high humidity and absence of any noticable breeze, everyone was suffering.

The course itself is pretty challenging, with a few short sharp hills mixed in with some lakeside flat sections. The last mile or so is mostly downhill, making for a quick finish to the race. The pack was small, so I started out near the front and set a solid pace up the first hill. By the time I reached the summit at the one mile mark in eight and a half minutes, my knee was already hurting and my legs felt like they were on fire. I guess six weeks away really set me back in terms of my levels of strength and stamina.

Admittedly, I had to stop and walk for 30 seconds to catch my breathe and give my legs a break. Following that brief respite I kicked off again and covered the next mile in a little under nine minutes. I took another walking break along the way, again to cool down and catch my breathe because of the heat. As I passed the two mile marker, I committed to finishing the race with no more breaks and ran through some labored breathing and heavy legs to finish in just under 27 minutes. For a first run in six weeks, an 8:40 per mile pace was not too bad. In fact, it was good enough for fifth place in my age group.

I definitely experienced some conflicting emotions during and after the run. At times I regretted my decision to participate, longing instead for my warm comfy bed or the pedal power of my bicycle while jogging up the sharp hills around the lake. At other times it felt good to be back running again after a month and a half. I guess what this run taught me is that I need to work on the mental side a little more, in addition to building strength in my leg and stretching more. I need to arm myself with some tools to fight the twin desires to walk or quit whenever they rear their ugly heads.

By the way, I have to give an honorable mention to Jess who also ran the race and finished third in her age group. Way to go Jess!