A lot of readers and people in my life reach out to me to share the exciting news that they are getting ready to run their first race and to ask if I have any advice to offer them. And though I haven’t always been a runner by any stretch of the imagination, Saturday marked my 20th race – The Run For Shelter 10k, so I have quite a few races under my belt and consider myself relatively experienced when it comes to running races.
The first bit of advice I always give hands down is to pace yourself. It’s the traditional rookie mistake because it is SO easy to get caught up in the energy of the race itself and the people around you and excitedly start out too fast. The trouble with this is you can lose steam while you still have quite a ways to go, so it backfires.
I guess I should take my own advice.
On Saturday morning, I participated in my 4th 10k, and my goal was just to enjoy it without any particular pace in mind. I signed up for the race sort of randomly because there was a deal online for $24 registration and everyone should know that I can’t resist a bargain. Normally, I allow myself enough time to prepare mentally for races and get excited about them, but this one just sort of snuck up on me since I signed up for it so last minute.
On Friday night, I was freaking out about regular race stuff that I don’t worry about too much – what to wear, what to eat, what time to leave, where to park – and realized I just needed to calm down, set some clothes out, and go to bed. So, I did.
The 6am wakeup call was made better by reminding myself I could take a nap in the afternoon, so I got up and got dressed almost immediately.
I made some pre-race fuel, which looks pretty disgusting but was actually delicious.
A toasted English Muffin topped with mashed banana with Chocolate PB2. After eating it, I made myself some coffee, and then was out the door and in my car by 6:50am.
The drive to the race was about 25 minutes, so I made it to registration by 7:15.
This race was on the small side, with just about 400 runners, so registration was a breeze. It was pretty chilly out that early in the day, so I was happy to be able to wait inside until go time, which was 8am.
Once we made our way outside, it was the least crowded I’ve ever seen a start line of a race.
People eventually moved up after some convincing, and before I knew it, we were off.
I guess I got really excited to not have to dodge people like I have in most races lately with so many runners, so I set off rather quickly. There was a pretty steep hill at the beginning (and consequently at the end since it was an out-and-back race), and I breezed over the hill and before I knew it, I was at the Mile 1 mark. I looked down at my phone, and saw that my pace was 8:02 for the first mile – way too fast for me.
I slowed down quite a bit, and I’m not sure whether realizing I went too fast for Mile 1 was affecting me more mentally or physically, but I felt like I ran out of steam right after that first mile. I decided to slow down a bit, and though the next couple miles were hard, I was able to get through them at a good pace.
- Mile 2: 9:03
- Mile 3: 9:17
- Mile 4: 8:57
The turnaround was at the 5k mark, and it was a bit downhill at that point which is the reason for the 8:57 mile. After mile 4 though, I started crashing pretty hard. For the first time ever in a race (not at a water stop), I stopped to walk. I kept powerwalking and picked a landmark when I would start running again, but it was a real battle through those last 2.2 miles. I ended up taking 3 walking breaks in total and feeling like crap during the last part of the race. When I hit the hill on the way back towards the finish, I walked up it, and vowed to run the rest of the way when I reached the top, no matter what.
I was able to keep up a pretty good pace for the last part of the race despite the walking breaks, and the last miles looked like this:
- Mile 5: 9:35
- Mile 6: 9:26
- Last .36: 3:16 (8:44pace)
Seeing the finish line never felt so good. As soon as I crossed it, I basically collapsed into the grass and sat there coughing, sweating, and feeling like ass. Not sure what I was going for with this post-race photo… Maybe “Thank God this is over?”
The one redeeming thing was that everyone who ran the race got a free cake pop at the end, and I love me some free stuff, so it made me.. ecstatic.
So while this was definitely NOT my best race, I managed to finish with a really respectable time of 57:24, or a 9:15 pace, which is especially great considering I took 3 walking breaks. I truly do appreciate how humbling running can be, no matter how long I’ve been doing it for or how much I don’t sweat a particular race. I appreciate how much my body does for me and the fact that I was able to complete 6.2 miles in under an hour. I am never going to master racing – there will always something new to learn (or relearn) about myself.
And this time, it’s stick to the basics – pace myself.