For a while I felt like I was stuck in the middle. I’m not a beginning runner any longer, still green where every longer distance is new and every race somehow becomes a personal best. Those are the golden days, when the shear excitement of beginning something new and finding out your capabilities propels you forward. It’s what gets you hooked and keeps you running.
However, I’m not a super insane runner, either. Many of you may argue otherwise, especially those I’ve sweet talked into running with me, like some scam artist. But, here’s the simple fact: I wasn’t a running prodigy in high school or college. I was mediocre, if anything. I did just enough to make me better than most. And while I love to run and always keep trying to improve, to challenge myself- it’s often times difficult. Training intensity waxes and wanes, injuries can happen, life may just get in the way, but worst of all, sometimes we get complacent.
I have decent times for the races I’ve run. Times that people who I first initiate into running think are ridiculous and out of the realm of possibility (trust me, friends, they aren’t). But, I’ve been hovering and I wanted to improve. I wanted to bust through some nearly imaginary mark and feel that feeling of “I can’t believe my I just did that!” again.
Last night I ran the fifth RACE Summer Series 5K. A pretty good crew came out. In addition to RaceMenu regulars, my sister, Peter, and my sister’s friend Alex and her boyfriend Rob came out as well. So, it promised to be a good night, no matter what.
Because I’m signed up for the BAA half in October, I’ve been training fairly consistently. And I’ve been doing different things. Hill work. Speed work at the track. I even had Lara and Angela do a 5 mile fartlek with me one night. I’ve also started running on a treadmill during my lunch time at work in order to guarantee I could get my run in and to break up the day. These past 4 times have been the only times in my life I’ve run on a treadmill. They’re straight up boring. I like being outside – changing scenery, changing season, hills, flats, reservoirs, ponds, people, dogs, the whole city of Boston passing by me and under my feet. But I also like knowing I can get a run in. So, I do what I have to do. Apparently I’ve already gotten a reputation at my work’s gym as the crazy runner guy on the treadmill who people don’t want to run next to. But, running on those treadmills the first few times indicated something: I could definitely go below 20 minutes in a 5K.
And last night, I did it! I ran 19:55 for a 16 second PR and my first time ever officially going under 20. When we started out, I characteristically went out too fast and ran 6:15 for the first mile. Usually, I’d see that and pull back. This time, I knew I could do it, just knew. I clocked the second mile at 6:28 and still felt good. I didn’t look at my watch when I ran past the third mile marker because I could see the clock and see that it was still in the 19′s, so I kicked it in and ran across the line just in time. I did my classic dry heave and then went to go find everyone else.
Lara ran twice last night, the first ladies only race, where she pr’d. Wait. Hold up. She didn’t just PR. She blew away her previous times and ran 26:51. In her own words, “holy shit!” Peter came smoking by during the coed race at 25:05. Rob was next and then Lara and Alex came across. We had our celebratory beers, courtesy of Clown Shoes at Tommy Doyle’s and then went and had dinner outside at Grendel’s Den.
Any night you PR is a good night. But, even now, the day after finally breaking through 20 minutes for the first time, I’m already thinking, “what’s next?” I’ve long been saying that I want to break 1 hour and 30 minutes in a half marathon. And I think I have a shot. But, after I catch my breath, will I find myself asking what’s next again? I hope so.