“Telesphore spoke about running barefoot up and down Rwanda’s hills. ‘We call our country the land of a thousand hills,’ he said, his face lit from the inside as if by a flame, ‘and I believe I have conquered every one.’ He talked about the lure of the Olympics and a feeling like flying that sometimes filled his body when he ran.
“Jean Patrick raised his hand. ‘Did you say sometimes?’ he wanted to know. ‘What about the rest of the time?’
“‘Smart boy,’ Telesphore said, and he chuckled. ‘I will tell you a secret. Sometimes it is all I can do to go from one footstep to the next, but for each such moment, I make myself remember how it feels to win.’”
from Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
As I mentioned last week, this past Saturday I ran the Indian Summer Half-Marathon along the Columbia River in Richland, Washington. This was my second time to run a half (the first was in China, and you can read about it here).
Per my usual, I wasn’t in it to compete with others in my age category. But for the first time in a race, I was dead set to beat my previous time. Usually when I’m running 5k or 10k, I go into it somewhat hoping I’ll miraculously be faster than before — but I don’t really work at getting faster during my training, so I don’t know why I expect a different outcome. This time, though, I’ve worked hard to get faster over the past few weeks.
Over and over, other runners will ask me my pace, and they’re shocked (or at least mildly surprised) to hear how slow I am. Some people are polite in their reaction. Others have outright told me that it’s ridiculous for someone my height, weight, and body shape to be that slow. But I’m a naturally lazy runner, so slow is to be expected.
During the lead up to the Badger Mountain Challenge this past March (read about that here), my friend Erin encouraged me to pick up the pace a bit and gave me a few tips for running faster. That change in mentality has stuck with me, and this time in preparing for the half-marathon, I did a better job at training for speed, not just distance.
I got off to a bad start a few moments after my friends dropped me at the starting line last Saturday morning. “I’m leaving my phone in your car, so I won’t be able to contact you ’til you get back,” I told Jane and Andy as I shut the door to their car. They were going garage-saling for the next couple of hours while I ran, and they planned to be at the finish line to greet me on my return.
Several minutes after they left, I realized my iPod was also with my phone in their car. So much for the playlist I’d worked on the night before. I would be running this race in quiet, with only my thoughts and the sound of my footsteps and breathing. Immediately, I determined not to let this mishap get to me. No headphones for 13.1 miles would be hard, but I would just have to buckle down and do it. No point in worrying about it or being frustrated with myself because of it.
It turned out not to be a big deal at all. It gave me a lot of time to think and pray and enjoy the morning, and my music might have distracted me from that opportunity.
As far as my performance goes, I still wasn’t competitive with the others in the race, but I won a huge victory by whittling down my time by 10 minutes. For the first time at a race, I saw a significant improvement in my ability to run faster. That’s what I’d hoped for, and it was an amazing feeling. I’m still elated at the thought of it. I’m not an emotional runner — I’ve never once cried before, during, or after a race. But on Saturday, I did. I’m not sure how I had the extra fluids to produce tears after 13.1 miles, but I did. My legs and feet had been cramping for the last 3 or 4 miles, and once I stopped running I couldn’t walk without a limp. But I felt amazing for sticking with the training schedule and running fast enough to lose more than 45 seconds per mile off my time. (Thank you, Jane, for crying with me — and with every other runner that crossed the finish line while you watched!)
A little more perspective on how much I’ve improved — I keep track of my runs on the Runner’s Log app on my computer, and when I entered the info for the Indian Summer Half-Marathon, the app notified me that it was my four year running anniversary. I looked back, and sure enough, four years earlier, on September 24, 2007, I started my journey as a runner. I ran one mile. And it took me 15 minutes. I think I could walk backwards faster than that now.
It’s been a long journey, but here’s to many more miles!
(Sorry about the Kickstarter widget in the sidebar — I don’t know why it suddenly started looking so weird. Only 4 more days for it to be on this page!)