The idea right now in my training, my strength and base training phase, is to throw in 5Ks every once in a while. It's about getting performance indicators. It's about seeing where I'm at.
Well, if you can keep a secret, it's really about having fun. Because while sometimes I crave the solitary time of the early morning workout, it really is fun to take that 30 minute run to a race course, pin on a number and join a group of people on a marked course.
So with a 30-minute run on my training plan for Sunday and a 5K scheduled to benefit the Boys and Girls Club in Tonawanda it was a perfect excuse to break out my racing shoes.
The race was named in honor of long time Boys and Girls Club of the Northtowns director Robert "BobKat" Nowak with all proceeds going to support that organization. Since it was going up against the Niagara Falls International Marathon, the turnout was expected to be light. And while a small race, they had a solid walk-up on a beautiful autumn morning with about 90 participants in the 5K run, 5K walk and 1-mile walk. The course was a simple out-and-back on the Niagara River bike path.
My friends Jen and Greg ran with me, or more specifically in front of me. And thanks to them, and a stranger on the course, I was able to really work on my mental game while enjoying the run.
Jen and I are the same age but she is much faster than I am. Of course, she tells me I'm not that much slower than she is, despite my insistence on self-deprecating humor. As the race began and she took off, I kept her in my sight line for the first half mile. In fact, at the turnaround, I wasn't that far behind and she probably stayed about half a mile in front of me the entire race.
This is key. In a race, or heck even a training run, how many times do you think, "That person is so much faster than me?" or "I can't keep up with (insert name of friend or foe here)?" Thoughts become things and if you think something consistently enough, it will manifest itself in your existence. Granted, I didn't go so far as to think I would keep up with Jen, but I did think that I could keep her in my sight.
By the time I hit the turnaround the runners around me had thinned out. There was one woman who had passed me in the second mile but stayed a comfortable distance in front of me. In that final mile, we were running pretty close and once or twice I passed her. My thought actually was not that I wanted to beat this woman. Instead, I was grateful. She pulled along and gave me a reason to push myself, even as my core was starting to ache and I wanted the run to be over. She ended up beating me by probably 10 or 15 seconds. I found her afterward and thanked her. She said I helped her too, especially since it can get tough when you're running and there isn't anyone around.
Yes, maybe it's a female-thing that we find our "competition" inspiring rather than wanting to crush them.
In the final analysis, I was pleased with my run. When the running got hard I took a deep breath, and looked around at the beauty of the autumn morning light and the colorful trees. I thought about my friends running elsewhere today, particularly my friend Amy who was running her first 26.2 at the Marine Corps Marathon. And I pushed. When the running got hard, I kept going and kept going hard. An all-out effort 5K it was not, but it was a steady, solid, effort -- particularly a day after my first "big" workout in a long time with an hour endurance bike ride and an hour of running around Chestnut Ridge complete with hill bounding.
My final time was 28:43, well off my PR but still better than the last 5K I ran. And in the grand scheme, these 5K times are showing me improvement. When I started running, not even two years ago, my 5Ks were 30 minutes. Then, I consistently ran 5Ks in 29 minutes. Now, I'm solidly in the 28 minutes. There may be a huge breakthrough one day. Or it may just keep getting better bit by bit.
Regardless of how slow my 5K time may be (and the notion of "slow times" at races is coming in tomorrow's blog) racing is always about competing with yourself. You're competing for a better time, for a better quality of race, for a better execution and a better frame of mind.
I hit all of those markers on Sunday.
And based on that definition, Sunday's 5K was a smashing success.
--- Amy Moritz
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