September 2, 2008 - 7:19 AM
The doubt was growing in my mind as race time approached.
What the heck did I think I was doing? Running a 5K is one thing. Heck, even a sprint-distance triathlon is one thing. But running a 15K? All at once?
Once again, I found myself asking exactly when, where and why I thought it would be a good idea to sign up fro the Fleet Feet 15K Run into Buffalo.
It was the last day of my vacation and the official end to summer. And I decided to slightly torture myself.
A 15K is about 9.3 miles and I was told to think of it as running three 5Ks ... all in a row.
Somehow that thought didn't soothe my mind.
I had never run this distance before. Not even in a training run. So I had no idea what to expect.
My plan from my coach: Take a nutrition gel about 45 minutes into the run.
That was the grand plan.
The idea for me was to go out at a really easy pace. Typically, I do warm up before I run a 5K, usually with a light 10 minute jog. This was a 9.3 mile run which I wasn't exactly racing, so I used the first two miles as my warm up. I started out slow. By the time I got to the third mile, I just wanted to try and hold my pace.
An option available to me was to walk when I needed to. In fact, one of the suggestions was to walk for about a quarter mile after each water stop. Of course, I didn't do that. I did walk through each water stop, coming to slow/stop to take a few sips of water then dump the rest over my head. But my walk breaks were probably about 30 seconds each. In hindsight, I probably could have picked up my pace at the end and finished with a better time if I had taken a longer walk break, but I wanted to prove to myself that yes, indeed, I could run this distance with minimal interruption.
By the time I hit the sixth mile the math finally computed in my brain -- I was on my last 5K of the day and much more than halfway through with the run. I began to realize that not only could I do it but I was doing it. And I think I smiled for the rest of the run.
I felt great with my slow but steady pace. It wasn't until the final mile when I started to feel a bit of discomfort, but that's perhaps the best time to get that feeling since the cheers of other competitors and onlookers gets you through the finish line.
In my first 15K, I finished in 1 hour, 35 minutes and 22 seconds. I ran 10 minute, 15 second miles which, considering my 5K pace is usually around 9:40 or so, isn't all that bad.
I met a woman once who told me that if you can run a mile comfortably, you can run any distance.
It all goes back to the basic truth that biggest distance to conquer is the one between your ears.
My coach closes all her emails with a quote that reads, "She believed she could ... so she did."
It's amazing what you can do when you tell that little nagging voice of doubt in your head to just shut up.