I normally drive myself to races, but this time rode with two friends whom I normally run with on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We arrived about 45 minutes before the race to pick up our packet, which consisted of a timing chip and race t-shirt. The fact there wasn't much in the packet doesn't bother me at all. In fact, most of the time, everything I get in a goody bag gets thrown away except for the t-shirt and timing chip. So we headed back to the vehicle to tie on our chips.
The lines were long for the restrooms near the start line, so we trotted off for a little warm up jog to a more distant bathroom. I don't usually do much warming up before a race, because it messed me up in 2012 at a 15K. That day I ran about 3/4 of a mile before the race with the idea I'd have an even 10 miles in when I finished. Well I was good and warmed up for the start, too good and warmed up. I started out too fast and crashed with about 5 miles to go. But today was different. We probably jogged about 3/4 of a mile before the start, but I still had a good race.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -- Jeremiah 29:11
I started with a plan to run the first mile at a 9 minute pace and see how I felt. From there I'd decide to pick it up or stay with that pace. As usual, the plan lasted until I crossed the start line. A few steps after I pushed the start button on my Garmin, it told me I was holding a 10:40 pace. But not long after that, I looked and saw we were clipping along at just over an 8 minute pace. I settled into what felt comfortable and finished the first mile in 7:51.
Not exactly what I'd planned, but I felt pretty good still. I was under no illusions that I'd be able to hold that pace the entire 5 miles, but decided on an approach for the rest of the race that still seemed pretty ambitious for me. My revised plan called for me to slow down for mile 2 and each mile thereafter, but I was going to see if I could step each mile down by only 5 seconds.
The new plan worked well for mile 2, though I did have to push a little harder toward the end to make it happen. There wasn't much uphill on the course, but the first of it was the last little bit of mile 2. The only water stop on the course was also just a bit before the 2 mile marker, but I passed it by to try and maintain my pace. All was going well as I passed the 2 mile mark at 7:56.
I began to tire a little in the 3rd mile and began to wonder if I hadn't really messed things up by starting out too fast. My target pace for this mile was an 8:01, but I missed it. I finished mile 3 in 8:03, 7 seconds longer than the previous mile. Still not far off, but I knew now that the spread between each mile would grow even more from this point on. Still, there were only 2 miles to go before the finish, so I knew I could still push and hopefully finish with a decent time.
We made the turnaround just past mile 3 and headed back toward the finish. Less than 2 miles to go and I was still pushing. This time it would be uphill to finish out mile 4 and it slowed me a little more than it did on the way out. I lost 12 seconds on my pace from miles 3 to 4, finishing the 4th mile in 8:15.
This time, I didn't pass the water stop. I grabbed the cup and slowed to a walk as I consumed the H2O. After walking about 20 yards, I tossed the cup aside and told myself we had less than a mile to go. I stepped off headed toward the finish. Several times I thought about stopping to walk, but that's as far as it went, just thinking about it. With about 3/4 of a mile to go, I reverted to the strategy I use on the River Trail portion of the Little Rock Marathon, trying to make it from power pole to power pole. I don't know how far apart they were, but breaking the distance up into manageable goals kept me going. When the finish line came into view, there were 3 of those poles between me and it. I kept going.
When I got close enough that the clock was in focus, it looked like I might be able to break 40:30. I didn't try to sprint the last bit though, not after injuring my knee doing that a couple of years ago at a 5K. I just maintained my pace and crossed the line. Didn't make the 40:30, but did manage to finish in 40:33. It might seem slow to some, but it's fast enough for me.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us," -- Hebrews 12:1
I am so thankful that Jesus Christ has given me this gift, this ability to run. I have met so many great people and it gives me so many opportunities to share my faith and Amanda's story. Today He blessed me with a great race in great weather with wonderful people. I will continue to run, for His glory, not mine. I know, without His blessing, His mercy, and His grace, I couldn't run one step, not one mile, not one race.
If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.