I know I said this back in December when I set my half marathon PR, but this is the post I’ve been waiting to write for a long time. 8.5 years to be exact.
To put some background behind this: I set my 5K PR of 27:27 back in October of 2008 on a XC course that is deemed to be one of the most challenging on the East Coast/Northeast. I have come within 10 seconds of it at least 8 times since then, on far easier courses. I tied it once and was 1 second behind it twice (once in high school on the same course, and one was my first 5K when I started running again). In terms of the state championship race, I was slow AF, but it was a great race for me.
On Sunday morning I awoke knowing I would “run” a 5K, but not “RUN” a 5K. Jake and I were on a skee-ball team that was in the city finals and I also ran a half marathon the day beforehand. This race was not meant to be a fast day. My meal before the race was a Red Bull and a few french fries (with a DELICIOUS ranch dressing from Mother’s). I played our first round of skee-ball the best I could (I SUCKED and we lost 4-3 in a best of 7 match, in overtime), and ran up the street (just over a mile, uphill) to the race. I made it to the race with 13 minutes to spare – PHEW! I picked a random spot, as there were no “pace areas” and I could tell that the crowd was very scattered. I was too stressed to reach out to my few friends that were there to try to find them.
I got to my spot and got talking with these two random guys, who said they planned to run around 8:00. We had a great conversation about different area races and the B3 Challenge (which I’m doing this year). I immediately felt intimidated by their pace, but I wasn’t about to move back, behind (visable) large groups of friends, and charity groups that I knew would take up at least half of the narrow running area at the start (#sorrynotsorry). I felt awesome on my run up the hill to the start. With a downhill start, I knew I could put up a decent time with the way I was feeling. I knew, deep down, I was dumb to try to PR after running 15 miles, with 13 “fast” the day before. But my 8.5 year old PR freaking owned me, and I was over it. I knew I couldn’t beat it, but yet I’ve been dying to do so. I HATE 5K’s because I don’t feel good until about 5 miles into a run. Seriously, HOW could I ever beat that time?
Mile 1: I started down the hill. The first .25 mile I was stuck behind this guy that would.not.move.out.of.my.way. I started weaving and got past him, but knew I lost a lot of time/distance running all over the road. By about .75 miles, the road evened out and I started getting stuck behind everyone and their mom again. (split: 8:23 (moving time of 8:19)).
Mile 2: I started to become slightly competitive with myself. I realized I set myself up well with a good first mile to have a cushion for a PR. I started passing people, but for every person I passed, 4 seemed to pass me. Around mile 1.4 I realized my hair felt weird, and when I checked, my hair elastic had fallen out. My massive red mane was going to be loose and I was going to look like a moron. I felt horrible and uncomfortable. GREAT. KEEP RUNNING SAM. I started to struggle around the mile 1.5ish turnaround, but I wasn’t giving up on a potential, random, PR. (split: 8:39)
Mile 3: At the beginning of the mile, I was struggling to keep it together. I was overheating from wearing too many layers in the sun and my hair was straight up pi$$ing me off. I stopped to walk for approximately 15 seconds to re-acquaint myself and calm the EFF down. Seriously — running for 8ish minutes with hair everywhere was WORTH the discomfort. And if I ran HARD, 8-9 minutes was ALL I had left. I started running again, and lived to stare at my watch until we turned right on Pratt Street. Then I just RAN. I knew it was finally possible to beat that PR. Know matter how weak I felt on a daily basis, I was going to do it.My watch rang to hit 3 miles about a block before the Charm City Run sign with an 8:54 mile. Did I set enough of a cushion?
The finish: All I remember of the last .2 miles-ish is panting and pushing harder than I ever have before. I was close to a big PR, SOMEHOW, and was NOT losing it. When I crossed the finish line and saw 27:00 on my watch I almost couldn’t move. I wanted to puke, fall on the ground, scream, cry, you name it. But I just put my hands behind my head and kept moving calmly-ish (WHERE WAS MY BEER?!?!). I ran a hard (for me) half marathon the day before and just set a 27 second PR. For a 5K, I seem to understand that that’s a pretty big PR. And this one meant a lot. A whole lot. A lot a lot.
You see, when I set my previous 5K PR, it shouldn’t have happened. I was at a place in my life where I severely restricted my calories and probably shouldn’t have been running. I remember clear as day – the cold and early morning (5:30ish bus from school), eating not even half a serving of home fries and one piece of bacon that morning a the Tilton Diner at the way to the State Championship race. The course had been built up the whole season as the hardest we would run. I ran most of the race next to a girl I battled with all season long, and beat her as she cut a corner and landed in the mud to get stuck, leading me to pass her, and finished with a 27:27. Despite my new, about a minute PR, I didn’t ride home with my team to avoid eating out at a fast-food restaurant.
Since then, I came close to my PR multiple times. But in the last few years when I “fully recovered” from my eating disorder, I came within a minute of that time only 2-3 times. I stopped signing up for 5K’s more than 2-3 times a year because I didn’t think I’d ever beat that time. While I loved my life eating and feeling like a ‘normal’ person, I couldn’t help but think I’d break my PR until I lost a substantial amount of weight (again) and killed myself running.
Sunday’s PR feels like so much more than a time on a clock. While I’ve shared on here, and with some of my closest friends that that part of my life is behind me, that PR bogged me down in terms of running. That PR is now GONE. It’s no more. I don’t feel like I have that part of my life (coughcough 7-8 years coughcough) weighing me down anymore. I may not run “fast” often. And for a lot of runners, 8:30 is an easy pace. But I worked damn hard for Sunday’s time and I’m so very happy about it. I only know if the crowd was smaller, I could have beat that 27:00 mark. (And if the snow storm had hit a day earlier, I would have had more beer).
I am fully aware that a sub 27 may not come any time soon – but, hell, I worked 8.5 years to beat 27:27, in more ways than one. I say this often, but I am (and everyone is) so much stronger than they believe – it just takes time and strength to believe it, and make the prophecy come true. You can truly do ANYTHING if you believe and work towards it. While I hope I don’t spend another 8.5 years working for another 5K PR, I’ll risk it for the feeling I’ve had for the past few days.
ANYWAYS, POST-RACE: I joined the beer line, which moved quickly, thank goodness. 2 Linenkuegel Summer Shandy’s later, I was back in Federal Hill with my boyfriend, skee-ball team, beer, and a pizza (all) to myself. I shared my victory, but didn’t truly share why I felt SO happy. That part of my life finally felt over. My teammates and I headed back to the bar for the “free beer party” and to watch the final rounds of the Skee Ball championship. On Monday, I felt surprisingly great, with the least amount of quad pain/discomfort/tightness I’ve felt in the last 7 weeks.
5K’s suck. You have to start running hard and don’t have any time to ease off the whole way. I hate them. Can the shortest race allowed be a 10K? Or at least an 8K? But seriously – I’ve been riding a huge high the last few days in more than one way. I’d love to hear the ways new PR’s have helped you realized growth within yourself.