Thursday night, I had a dream.
I was at the start of the Runners on Parade 5K, anxiously awaiting the race to begin. An employee from the local running store came to get me and ushered me to the start. When the gun off, I went. I started to run. Grass beneath my feet and nylon tape marking the course, I stumbled around nervous and confused. Where was everyone? How could I run hard without the race environment to push me? I tried to persevere but, at some point, resorted to an almost gorilla like run to help me keep speed. It did not work.
When I woke up almost frantic Friday morning, I knew that ROP was not just another local 5K. Not for me, anyway. This race was going to be my first real chance in four years to try to break my PR, which I set at the same race in 2010. The other 5Ks I've ran have either been in cold, icy conditions (HERE and HERE) or hours after a long run or pacing a friend.
This race, it was my time.
I showed up Saturday morning with grand dreams. I knew that I wanted to PR. I knew that it would be nice to come in under 25 minutes. I thought it would be really awesome to see how close I could get to 23:XX. So I tried to do everything right. I ran a very slow warmup of 1.35 miles, did some stretching and dynamic drills.
I found some of the running group, and we began to meander a bit closer to the starting line. This year, there was a bit of corralling with a Saucony tape marking off a section for the fasties - women who anticipated going under 24 minutes and men under the 21-minute mark. I lined up behind the line, as I definitely knew a 23:xx would take a miracle. But, with the tap of the butt and a tug on the arm, I found myself being encouraged to go with the group.
With two minutes to go, I put in my ear buds - something I never do - and tried to get in the zone, shaking out the zoomies.
The gun went off and I bolted. My 5K MO is to go as hard as you can for as long as you can. It's not the smartest, I acknowledge, but I usually I take off and settle in. On Saturday, I took off and kept going. I wasn't sure how fast I was going - a first I had the display on my watch reading just a clock and when I switched it to see current pace, the downtown buildings had me doing sub-5. Because, you know, I'm Kenyan.
But I was going fast - very fast for me - and I was surprised that I was able to see the fasties with whom I had started. I figured they would be long gone by the time we made the first turn but they weren't. Actually, I had them in my sights for more than a mile.
Why? The first clicked off in 7:14. It's the fastest mile I can remember logging and definitely the speediest split I've seen in a long, long time. I knew that I was going to be in for a surprise - I just didn't know whether it would be good or bad.
I tried to hold on through the second mile but by 1.5, I had hit the puke threshold and was more than glad to see the water stop. I quickly walked through and soldiered on but I was fading. I tried to dig and push, embrace the suck and move. Alas, my body had different ideas. I felt like I was crawling as I ran the streets lined with people waiting for the festival parade that started at 10 a.m.
The course, which is flat, features a lot of turns though most in the front half. When the last one came, I was excited and frustrated. The straightaway seemed so long and my body was so tired. I just tried to keep moving forward because after such a stellar start, did not want to lose this race. Not another one.
As I came toward the line, the clock read 25 minutes, and the seconds were in the teens. I knew I had my PR. But, I wanted to beat 25:25 - a time that Mark predicted. Coming in under that would win me a running product of choice in Boulder when we go later this month.
It read exactly 25:25 when I crossed. My watch, which I had started at the gun and no crossing the mat, had 25:24.
Official : 25:15. It was good enough for a 21-second PR and beating Mark by 10 seconds. I did it. I finally did it.
And, the best part, I know I have a faster 5K in me if I don't run like an asshole. I'm not trained to run low 7 splits for a 5K, and it's why the race was so hard. I think with a bit of control, I can come under 25 minutes. It might bum some people out to know that but I got to run fast and hard. I proved to myself that there is still something in me and somewhere to work toward.