This article was originally posted on 10K and Beyond by John Fischer. It recounts a perfect race. We thought this post worth sharing because it wonderfully captures the excitement of a well executed race both before, during, and after the event.
I heard Napoleon bark once. And then a second time. It was time for me to get up. It was 4:50, but my alarm had been set for 5 AM anyway, so I was about ready. It’s Race Day and I knew it before my feet had even hit the floor. I was ready to go today, in every way. My legs felt great, my spirits were soaring, my mental focus was laser sharp. I came downstairs and my Garmin watch was fully charged. And so was I.
I still had 5 hours to race time, but that was OK. I started off with a couple cups of coffee, which is very effective at, well, pre race function kind of stuff. And it worked just right. I had a light breakfast spread out over a couple of hours – toast, a banana, and then a Cliff Bar. I was saving a GU for pre-race.
Today was beautiful here. It was about 50 degrees at the race start, with bright sunshine, and very little wind. Under my sweats, I was dressed in a light short sleeve running shirt and shorts. A perfect day to run in shorts and a t-shirt. I got over to the race early and drove the course, so it was clear in my mind. (Although there was one section that I discovered was changed when I viewed the course map at the start. But, while that added a few turns, it cut out a tough hill, so I was good with that.)
I had plenty of time to warm up, and had brought a small foam roller and The Stick to massage my muscles pre race. Plenty of time to use the porta pot, warm up, do calisthenics, and stretch. Just the way I like it. I was in my comfort zone today and everything felt right.
In football, they talk about a quarterback who manages a game. They don’t play a flashy game, but they run the offense well, call the right plays, execute at the key moment, and don’t make mistakes. Today I was planning to manage this race in that same kind of way. I knew I was getting a PR today and I didn’t want to jeopardize that by running foolishly. So I had a plan. I planned to start the first few miles at between 6:50 and 7:00 pace. Then, my plan was to pick it up for the second half of the race. And, if all went well, to get down to around a 6:45 pace late in the race. If I felt really good. But, even if I didn’t, my PR pace was around 7:15, so I knew I would be just fine sticking at 7:00. So that was the plan. And I just knew I was going to execute it today. So here’s how it actually went.
Mile 1: I’ve been running 5Ks recently, so it felt VERY SLOW to go out at 7:00 pace. I started around 6:25 and it felt awkwardly slow to drop my pace down to 7:00. But I literally forced myself to do it. I was running with purpose and a plan today and I was determined to stick to it. I finished mile 1 in 6:56 and I almost literally patted myself on the back. PERFECT first mile.
Mile 2: Now I’m more comfortable at this pace and I’ve got the feel for it. There are several steady, gradual uphill stretches in miles 2 and 3. But I’m handling them without any issue. 6:50 pace for mile 2. And I’m feeling good. Two perfect miles down, 4.2 to go.
Mile 3: I slowed a bit more up this hill, but I found I could easily pick up my pace as it slipped, so I felt OK. I finished mile 3 in 7:02. It turns out that this would be my slowest mile of the race, because I was about to pick it up, right according to plan.
Mile 4: This is a bit of a gentle rolling hills stretch on Liberty Street, but I like it. I am attacking the up hills and recovering on the down hills. I am running smooth and strong. And I know the question is not whether I will get a PR, but rather by how much. I finished mile 4 in 6:48 and I am feeling great now.
Mile 5: I am heartened by Erika and her kids Madison and Carter cheering me on by the side of the road, at the bottom of a hill, and I just flew up that hill, hitting 6:20 pace at one point, going up the hill. I feel so strong and steady now, just like I’m out on a tempo run. I finished mile 5 in 6:47. Just what I wanted.
Mile 6: I turned left onto Grove Street, and I am flying now. I can sense the finish nearing and I am starting to open up, pushing my pace hard for the first time in this race. Midway in mile 6, I feel a nasty stomach cramp, but I’m ignoring that, because I am on the precipice of a great race. And that will not stand in my way. We merged with 5K walkers, but fortunately, we were able to stick to the middle of the road, and largely steer clear of them. As I neared the turn to the finish, I hit mile 6 in 6:41. Did I mention that this was a perfect race?
The finish – I kicked. HARD. Anne, Eliza, and Kevin were there near the finish cheering me on, and I was pumped. I finished that last 0.2 miles or so in 1:25, flying around 5K walkers to the finish. I actually didn’t get the time for certain until after I had gotten home (because I had messed up my watch and they took a long time to get the results out). But I’ll spare you the two hours of suspense. I finished in 42:29, a PR by exactly 2:30, a HUGE PR. But, just as important as that is that I ran this race exactly how I had planned it. I mean down to the second. And that makes me feel really proud.
One of my final pieces of advice for Erika prior to Boston was to run with pride and to run with joy. And I took those words to heart myself today. I had a great time out there, enjoying the day, enjoying the race, and enjoying being at the top of my game. I worked really hard for this accomplishment, for a long time, so it is tremendously gratifying to see this result. You don’t run a race like this by luck. It doesn’t just happen. It happens because you work for it. Because you bust your butt for months. Because you train relentlessly and never, ever, ever miss a workout. Because you change your diet. Because you focus on rest and cut out distractions. But, when you run the perfect race, it is all worth it. Oh man, is it worth it!
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