Although I mentioned previously that I am hating running by myself lately, I knew the situation was bad when I saw that I had 6 miles on my training schedule and decided to sign up for a local 10k rather than run by myself. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t know anyone at the race, but at least there would be people nearby. That’s how you know you’re desperate.
I decided to embrace my desperation and drove 20 minutes north to the cute little town of Camden, South Carolina, which also happens to be where I take yoga classes. I felt oddly nervous when I got to the starting area. I couldn’t figure out why – I mean, it’s a 10k, so I knew I could easily cover the distance. Then I realized it was because I did not know a single person there, which has NEVER happened to me at a race before. I’ve always had other friends I know that were running also, or I’ve had friends/family with me at the starting line. I was alone except for my own thoughts. You might be thinking “Danielle, what a perfect time to go out and meet some local runners to train with!” I thought that too. Then I hid in the back seat of my truck where the windows are tinted so dark that you can’t see in.
While I sat in my truck hiding, I tried to think about what my goal for the race should be. I had switched up my training schedule a little bit since Amanda would be in town on Sunday to do our long run together (YAY!), so instead of doing my long run Saturday and 6 mile recovery run Sunday, I was doing them backwards. That probably meant the 6 miles should be at an easy pace, right? Well, I kept thinking back to my training plan, where my coach, Justin Gillette, has my goal race paces for each distance listed. My goal race pace for a 10k is supposed to be 8:13, which would mean finishing in 51 minutes. I knew my fitness was not at that level yet since I just started really training again, but I figured under 55 minutes was reasonable and wouldn’t be such a grueling pace that it would sabotage my long run the next day.
Just before the race started, I decided to do some light warm up jogging, which was weird. I’ve never warmed up for a race before. No need when you’re a) running 26.2 miles, which is plenty of time to warm up and b) never running particularly fast. I felt a little ridiculous – what am I doing taking myself seriously? Nonetheless, I finished my warm up and headed over to the start line, and on the way there, a woman named Jamey introduced herself. We’ve spoken on Facebook a few times and talked about getting together to run, but it was nice to finally meet her. Now that I knew someone at the starting area, I wasn’t quite so nervous anymore. I remarked about how small the race was and said we had a chance of winning age group awards. Then it occurred to me that a small race means I have a much better chance of coming in last, and the nerves were back.
As the race began, I decided to set off at whatever pace felt comfortable and just go from there. Of course, I got caught up with all the 5k people and the fast 10k runners and looked down at my watch to see I was running 8 minute miles. Knowing that was not sustainable, I tried to back off a bit but still found myself passing people along the way. The first half of the course was uphill, so I didn’t want to wear myself out right away, but I couldn’t help it. I needed to find someone to help me run a sensible pace, so I caught up to a woman who was running about 8:30 and decided to run with her, hoping she wouldn’t mind. We started chatting about all different things, and I found that the pace was very comfortable for me. We were also running through Camden’s lovely historic residential area, which didn’t hurt.
The woman, whose name I did not know, was very good about checking the pace and making sure we weren’t running too fast. I really wanted to hold a consistent pace to the end, so I was grateful for her excellent pacing abilities. She lives in Camden, so she knew the course well and was able to tell me exactly when each hill would end and where we were turning, which was very helpful. We took a walk break at the only water stop along the course, and I felt like for once I didn’t really need to walk. I knew the rest of the course was mostly downhill, though, so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of energy to finish strong.
I stayed with my friend until mile 5, when I knew I had plenty left in the tank and I wanted to see what I could do. I picked up the pace to a little under 8 minutes per mile…and promptly got a side stitch that would not go away no matter what tricks I tried to use. I was really frustrated because I was SO close to the end and had felt so good and run so well. I decided there was no way I was stopping to walk and try to relieve it, so I did the only thing that seemed to help – ran as fast as I could with my hand squeezing my side really hard. There weren’t very many runners, but I managed to pass a guy who had been far in front of my friend and I early in the race. “I tried, but I couldn’t fight you off!” he said as I ran by. “That’s ok, you don’t have to – I’m not in your age group!” I replied. The last 0.2 miles of the course were on sand through the historic park where the race had started, and I was determined not to let it slow me down. I weaved around some 5k walkers who were three abreast across the narrow path (not cool!) and flew across the finish line in 53:21, a 10k PR of 13 minutes and good enough for 2nd in my age group!
If you’re marveling at my 13 minute PR, please don’t. This is only the 2nd 10k race I’ve ever run – the first one was my very first race ever, and I did it 4.5 years ago. Nonetheless, I was very excited about my time, especially because I felt so comfortable throughout the race and I know I could have run faster. I might not be ready for a shot at 51 minutes just yet, but it’s not too far away, and that is very gratifying knowing how hard it has been to get back into running at any kind of reasonable pace since my injury.
The best part is that Jamey and I now know each other and we can get together for runs! She also introduced me to the group she runs with, and the woman I ran most of the 10k with (whose name turned out to be Ann, by the way) told me about her group as well. So, things are looking up and I might not be such a lonely distance runner in the very near future! Now I can stop stalking the runners in my town and trying to befriend them.
LEAVE A COMMENT: What did you do this weekend? Any race or run triumphs?