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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

River Trail 15K Recap

Another race today, but not a marathon. This was the River Trail 15K, the second race on the Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix Series of 2014, but the first one of the series that I ran. It's the third race weekend in a row for me, and next weekend will be the fourth. But this 9.3 miles was a lot shorter than the marathons on those other three weekends.

Because I'd run a marathon in each of the previous two weekends and have another marathon to run next weekend, I left the house this morning unsure how hard I wanted to run this race. When I met the Cabot Country Cruisers to caravan to the race, I told a friend that I'd make a decision on how hard to run after the first mile of the race.

Since I needed 10 miles today to meet my weekly 40 mile goal, I got in 0.7 miles before the race start. I knew I wouldn't do it if I waited until after the race, so I decided to use it as a warm-up/test to see how my legs were going to feel today. It actually went better than I'd expected. When I finished, my Garmin showed me I'd run that short distance in an average 7:48 pace. And it really felt pretty good! Now, I knew I couldn't hold that pace for 9+ miles, so I decided to try and make the first mile of the race at an 8:30 pace and decide how to proceed from there.

That first mile went well and I decided to see how long I could hold the pace. I finished mile two in 8:24. Just past the two mile mark, I passed a young boy who mentioned my poster I wear pinned to my race shirt. It gave me an opportunity to tell Amanda's story. I ran with him a quarter of a mile or so, telling the whole story of how she died, and the role that teen substance abuse played in her death. He seemed extremely receptive and I felt blessed to have the opportunity to talk with him about it. When the race was over, I saw him again and spoke with him a while. I learned that he was 11 years old and his parents both run too.

About two and a half miles in, a good friend I met a couple of years ago and her young daughter were working the aid station. It's always great to have folks cheer you on in a race, calling your name and knowing you by sight, but today I learned that even water tastes better in a race when it's handed to you by a friend. So thanks Nancy to you and your beautiful young daughter for supporting us at the race today!

Around mile three, I passed a couple of men I'd had in sight for quite a while. We were off the road and on the paved trail going up a slight incline. As I passed one of them, he told me he appreciated me sharing Amanda's story with the young man back there. He'd been just ahead of us when I was telling it and evidently heard it all. This guy ended up passing me later and finishing somewhere ahead of me, but I was grateful for yet another person hearing Amanda's story.

I'd covered mile three in 8:22, but was beginning to realize that I wouldn't be able to hold that pace for the entire race. I pushed on through mile four, covering that one in 8:24. But when I came to the aid station around the halfway point, I took the water offered me and slowed to a walk to drink it. I only walked about 30 yards, but the need to walk was a sure sign that the rest of the race would be slower.

Mile five went by in 8:51, not quite 30 seconds off my pace for the first four miles, but still pretty good I thought. I kept pushing, knowing that up ahead at the turnaround there was a short but very steep incline I'd be walking up. When I arrived there, I made no attempt to run up it, but picked up the pace when I reached the top and made the turn. We were less than four miles from the finish now.

The next aid station was at mile six and I planned to walk through that one too. When I reached it, I did just that. I managed that sixth mile in 9:06, the slowest of the race yet. There was only one more hill between the seventh and eighth mile markers, and I decided I'd be walking it too. The seventh mile went down in 8:41. Only 2.3 miles were left, but I knew my pace was going to slow.

By the time I reached the sign marking the eighth mile, I'd slowed down quite a bit. The Garmin showed I finished it in 9:36. But just past that eight mile marker was the aid station where my friend and her daughter were working. So again I got a little boost as I took water and walked again to drink it. Now only 1.3 miles to go.

Just past the water stop, as I started to run again, a lady passed me who asked about the poster on my back. So I was blessed again with an opportunity to share the story. She slowed down to run alongside while I shared, giving me time to tell the whole story, before she picked it up and pushed on.

I reached that last hill and slowed to a walk as I climbed. It was slowing me down, but I didn't feel the least bit guilty. I'd pushed harder than I should have at the beginning, and was just wanting to finish well by this point in the race. At the top of the hill, I picked it back up again. My goal now was to keep running all the way in, even if it was a slow run, I wanted to run it on in.

Another guy and I had gone back and forth several times in the last half of the race and he was ahead of me at this point. But just before mile nine, I passed him again. He picked up his pace and asked me if I'd gotten faster since last year. He remembered my poster from the 2013 race and said he didn't have as much trouble beating me that year. We talked a little as we ran past the ninth mile marker and continued conversing as we made the last turn. At that point, with a couple hundred yards to the finish, I told him I was going to ease it in, and that he was definitely going to beat me. He took off and finished several seconds ahead of me.

I crossed the finish line in 1:21:55. I knew I'd PR'd the 15K distance here last year, but I couldn't remember what my time was. I was pretty sure it was somewhere close to today's finish, but I just couldn't remember. When I got home and looked it up, I learned that I didn't get a new PR this year, but that I did tie last year's time. I don't know what the odds are of running 9.3 miles in exactly the same time a year apart, but I figure they've got to be pretty long. Even so, that's what happened today. Last year I set a PR for the distance at 1:21:55 and this year I ran it again in exactly 1:21:55.

. After the race, as I was walking away from the water and food table, a man came trotting after me asking me what my poster said. So I had another opportunity to share Amanda's story. He said he'd seen me at the race last year but never got an opportunity to read it or ask me about it. But this time he got to hear and I got to tell him.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. ~ 1 Peter 2:9

Every time I told Amanda's story at the race today, I told them, "This is why we're out here." I firmly believe that God lets me run so that I can share the story of Amanda's death and what He has done for me to keep me going through our tragedy. I've said it many times before, but I just can't say it enough, every step I take, every mile I run, every race I finish is only by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

I'm not strong enough. I'm not good enough. I'm simply not enough to do any of this without Jesus. He keeps me going. He gives me strength. He keeps me motivate. Without Him I'd be nothing and I'd accomplish nothing. I am so grateful for this opportunity to run and to share. And I'll keep running as long as He lets me.

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.

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