It’s no secret that one of my favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 40:31:
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
I don’t know of a better aspiration for charging through life during the ruts, the bumps, the valleys, or the deepest, darkest, pits. Running without weariness paints a picture of absolute serenity and calm – boundless energy and focus – a calm in the eye of the storm. The human condition is one of tiredness, of fatigue, and weariness, but we are granted a saving grace from those burdens.
I think it’s safe to say that spring has arrived, and not a moment too soon. Sunday’s Downtown River Run was an absolutely glorious day to be outside at a race, and while the occasional cloud would have been appreciated, it was a home run for the end of April. It’s definitely time for a well-earned 12 day break from racing, for my own sanity’s sake…
For the fifth edition of the River Run, and coincidentally my fifth time running it, I was out with some pretty big revenge goals. I hadn’t bested my 2014 time of 1:31 and change in three years, most likely because I had moved the night before the race two years in a row. I know, I know, what terrible timing… but life waits for no man, or race.
This year has already been special, not simply because I’ve been running after my goals (haha, literally *gag*) but also because we’ve had our home for a year. Man, the time goes so fast…
Sunday morning came, I pulled on my sick Sierra Endurance Sports kit, and it was off to the races. The normal pre-race porta potty pause, the icy sunscreen, and finally I was cranking AC/DC in my headphones as everyone piled into the starting pit. I found my buddy Luis with his 1:30 pace sign, and we were ready to rock!
It felt like there were far fewer competitors than in most years, although we were cruising nicely at the front so maybe everyone was just intimidated by his sign. Seven competitors were up ahead, knocking their miles off, but Luis was on cruise control and I was following in step.
Major kudos to the guy – he can outrun me any day of the week (even if he only had one leg), but I was very grateful to have his run and racing expertise setting the pace as we wound through the course. It was made immediately clear to me that I have always mis-paced my race efforts. We were slowly building to the eventual pace that would get us where we needed to go, but for the moment it was a lesson in patience, and a lesson in trust for me. I prefer to get after it, which of course has always yielded unsustainable results, so this time I decided to settle in and try to stop thinking about what my watch was saying.
A half marathon is a good length because it’s long enough to make adjustments over the race, but short enough that your body wont hate you the rest of the day. I was very relieved to see that we were clipping along at a 7:00 pace and I wasn’t even breathing hard. Additional running has paid big dividends indeed…
We approached mile 7 at a 6:55, and I felt the lurch in my stomach. My personal nightmare is needing to dash for the bathroom anytime I’m out running. It happens at the most inconvenient times – in the middle of 8x200s on the track or on mile 15 of a 16 mile training run – extra bathroom breaks are always terrible and almost always embarrassing. I shouted out that I’d catch up (didn’t really believe I would) and broke away for some relief. Soon enough it was back to the task at hand…
At this point I had two choices. Settle into my self-pity and misery and accept my fate, or floor it and try to catch Luis and get my head back in the game for breaking 1:30. I chose B, although quickly felt some pains with that decision. He was at least :45 seconds ahead now, which is not an easy amount to close the gap.
I dropped the pace to 6:15ish, to get back into the race, and a panting half mile later, I was finally back where I needed to be. We coasted through the last major hill of the course approaching mile 9, and he pointed out a runner about 30 seconds ahead, commenting that we would pass him before mile 11. At this point, I was feeling amazing, primarily because Luis paced us perfectly, and mile 11 was too far away. I made my move, settled into full race mode, and hammered for home. The last four miles were run at or under 6:30/mile, and I came flying across the finish with a time of 1:28:09, or 6:47 per mile, and a 3 minute and 7 second drop from three years ago – that is a crap load of time! And my Altra Paradigm’s felt darn good the entire time B-)
It was wonderful to blaze across the finish, with my stepson running with me the last 1/8th of a mile, and to see my smiling wife, and soon after, for Luis to come trotting across as well. This was his easy pace, and I’m pretty sure he ran 50 miles the day before, but I was glad for his support and enthusiasm along the way :D This was no solo effort!
Applications for the professional world:
- Trust those with experience – I finally have a better grasp of pacing, but I’m also encouraged – I waited it out, and it paid hugely in the end. Come July for IRONMAN, I’m going to sit on it as long as possible before reeling it in! Trust those who have been there and done that. Even if you think you’re good, there’s always going to be someone who is better.
- Trust your training – I’ve run a lot of miles and put in a ton of training time. I trusted that I had done my homework, and my body responded positively. Sure, there will be times where you put your foot in your mouth, but find the opportunities in the hard times.
- “Never, ever, ever give up.” – Winston Churchill. Your training partners don’t give up on you, so you have no excuse. Get out there and get it done!
Be the eagle. Soar on your wings. Don’t fear weariness…