Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! I started writing this post on Thanksgiving, and then I had to stop on account of all the food I had to shove in my face hole. Then I tried writing it on Friday, and I got caught up in other stuff. I think I was just tired. I’ve been sleeping a lot, like 7 hours a night. Which is a lot for me. Maybe the last few months of 4 and 5 hours a night are finally catching up with me.
Anyway, let’s talk about my Thanksgiving Day 4-mile race, because it was awesome.
All I’ve wanted for the past few months is run a sub-8:00 min/mile pace. I knew it might happen soon, as my 5K pace has been dropping with every race: 8:34, 8:12, 8:05. My last race, a 4K, was an 8:00. I knew a sub-8:00 was coming. I could feel it. I could taste it.
I ran this same Thanksgiving race last year at a 9:15 pace. I knew I could beat that this year. But I wanted to really beat it. Anything under 8:00 would do. Any number starting with a 7. 7:59? Great. Just give me that damn 7.
Folks, my pace was 7:42. I have so rarely been able to say this in my life, so please forgive me, but I fucking crushed it.
Here I am afterwards.
Jesus Christ, do I have a lazy eye? How have I never noticed this?
Anyway, let’s rewind a bit.
I arrived early enough to snag a good parking space. That was nice. I checked in, and forgot to inquire about a shirt, but I think they must have given them all away to the people who checked in over the past couple of days. That’s fine. I have enough shirts. They had a ton of bagels but I hate eating right before a race so I held off.
It was cold! About 35 degrees out, and I debated putting on the second shirt I brought. I wound up not, and was later grateful I didn’t.
So, I did something really dumb and embarrassing that I can’t not mention. I’d seen that the race started at 8:30. A bunch of people started lining up around 8:20, but there were still a lot of people lingering back and I thought, hmm, I guess they don’t care about where they start. I should also note that I had my headphones in with music blasting and couldn’t exactly hear the announcer. This would prove to be a fatal mistake.
At 8:30, the gun went off, and I started running. I noticed there were a lot of kids in this race, most running with parents. After maybe 100 feet I looked around and noticed… there were a LOT of kids. Fuck. This was the fun run.
I asked what I assume was a parent: “Is this the race or just kids?”
She pushed her daughter along. “Just kids.”
“Thank you, I’m an idiot.” And with that, I turned right around, wishing I had a large turtleneck sweater or burlap sack to disappear into.
I had seen 8:30 as the start time, but failed to remember that it was the start time of the kids’ fun run. The actual race began at 9:00.
So I went back inside to mingle with all of the people smarter than me (which was everyone), trying to warm up my toes, which were at that point frozen. By the way, when I say “mingle,” I mean stand by myself against a wall.
I actually felt colder now than when I had been outside. I also felt like I had lost some momentum – at 8:20 I’d been raring to go, eyes on the prize. Now it was 8:40 and even though I was inside, I was shivering. I just wanted to do this.
We all headed outside at 8:50 and I swear to god the next 10 minutes were the longest of my life. I was FREEZING. My toes felt like they were going to fall off. I could FEEL them turning black (they weren’t) and spent those 10 minutes either jumping up and down or lifting each foot to keep moving. I couldn’t stay still.
Finally, the gun went off, and after about 10 seconds of bottlenecking, we were off.
The sun was out, which helped. I was glad I hadn’t put on my second shirt. I focused on taking shorter strides, something I’ve been trying to do more. This course is mostly flat for the first mile, then a slight incline followed by a hill in the second mile, then a flat section, then a turnaround and course reversal.
My first mile pace was 7:49. I was emboldened. Wow, could I do this? I just had to keep up this pace – but I knew that damn hill was coming.
That damn hill slowed me down. I tried like hell to get up it as fast as I could but my legs are still not as strong as I’d like them to be. As I was cursing my lack of lower body strength training workouts, I chugged along as best I could. By the time the course flattened out, the lead guys were making their way back. I reached the turnaround and my second mile pace was announced in my ear: 8:11.
Damn. So far it averaged out to under 8:00, but I was cutting it close. I needed to keep my pace below 8:00 for the next two miles.
Luckily, on the way back, that uphill became a downhill. And I went for it. I know it’s not good to blow your way down hills but I kind of did.
My third mile pace was an astonishing 7:27. At that point the rest of the course was flat, and I knew, I knew I would beat 8:00 – assuming nothing disastrous happened, like I didn’t trip and fall or pull a hamstring or get eaten by a bear. You know, those suburban Long Island bears.
Make no mistake, this wasn’t an easy pace to keep up. I was working. This was hard. But I had to do it. I kept thinking of my mom, and how much I would have wanted to be able to tell her I beat an 8:00 pace for the first time in my sorry-ass life, at age fucking 43. I’d been running for years – decades, actually – and I finally, finally achieved something pretty noteworthy. This was a huge deal to me. And I couldn’t tell her.
Anyway, that’s what I was thinking as I ran that last mile, giving it all I could. Nobody ahead of me as my unbeknownst “pacer,” nobody I was trying to stay behind. I actually passed a bunch of people towards the end – except for that 14-year-old kid who comes out of NOWHERE at like a 4:45 pace in the last half mile. Who IS that kid and how is he in EVERY race?
Anyway I ran. Hard. I don’t even know what my breath was doing. I just kept my legs moving as fast as they could.
My fourth mile pace was 7:20.
As I crossed the finish, I knew I had beaten it. I did it. A sub-8:00 pace.
Here is my face as I realized this:
Here is a closer look at my amazed, exhausted face:
A nice little moment happened right after this: #1504 dude tapped me on the shoulder and stuck out his hand. We shook, then parted ways. Neither of us spoke a word. None were needed. We were breathing too hard anyway. I don’t know if he’d passed me or spent time trying to pass me or if he just does that to whomever he usually finishes near. But it was a nice moment of connection with a fellow runner.
I didn’t even care that I didn’t get an age group medal – the field was pretty large for me to make the top 3. But it’s okay. I was happy.
- Total runners: 223 of 1868 (11.9%)
- Women: 45 of 969
- Age group: 6 of 80
- Pace: 7:42 min/mile
To top it all off, I finally introduced myself to a runner named Erica, a fellow same age runner who I think has done every race I’ve done in the past six months (and usually comes in 1st in the age group). She invited me to run a 5K in Syosset this Sunday morning – which I decided to do.
So another race recap is coming tomorrow!
If you read this entire thing, you deserve a medal.
Hope everyone is having a great weekend. Get outside. It’s nice out there.