I am of average physical fitness, maybe a little above, but not much. Nine months out of the year I run/ski/bike about 4 miles a week (two miles, two days) in a three months on, one month off, repeating schedule that coincides with my work schedule. After the end of a three month period of exercise I am at my best, and I am at my worst following the one month of no exercise. May was the no exercise month. My only training strategy was to get eight hours of sleep the night before. So there's one strike against me.
June saw a sweep of illnesses in my family, last hit was me, and I am still recovering. I have a normal 40 hour work week, but also two little kids and hence less than optimal sleep at night. Strike two (and three?).
But I was looking forward to the 10K Midnight Sun Run yesterday. Last year I did a one mile road race, so this was the next logical step, right? Mostly, this was a fun opportunity that I didn't want to miss. I guess about 3500 other people felt the same way. I had a few goals I set for myself: avoid injury and beat two of my friends, who were also in the race.
It is too bad they didn't offer split times for each mile, that would really tell the story of my race performance the best, but I can provide the details myself. The start seemed chaotic - a hoard of people gathered on the road, then seemingly without warning a shot went off and we surged forward. I said good bye to my friend and trailed another person as we passed people by. Eventually I stopped passing people and they started passing me. A man stood at the first mile mark reading off the time. Seven minutes 15 seconds as I passed him. Not much later I began to wonder if I could last the remaining five point two miles. My stride shortened and I just kept determinedly throwing one foot ahead of the other. In the back of my mind was the most recent running advice I had read. Halfway through the race my right leg was getting sore. Then by mile five the pain was too much too ignore and I knew I had to walk. "You don't have to win, you just have to finish." I heard people say on the sidelines. The spectators were great, offering water, water hoses to cool you down, music to pump you up. Some of them looked a little smug and lazy. Here I was running my legs off and all they did is sit back and watch, it seemed a little unfair. When I began to walk I knew my time would really suffer for it, but better my time than my body. It was an interesting experience actually. I remember seeing runners crawl across the finish line in pain in some of the televised marathons. Would that happen to me? A few people asked if I was okay, I assured them I was. Once I got to the last fraction of a mile I again tried to run. My calves immediately cramped up. No striding allowed. Taking a cue from a runner ahead of me I began to run in short quick steps, as if I were pogoing to the finish. My last glance at the clock on the finish line showed just under an hour and two minutes. I wanted to get under an hour, but I'll take it. Past the finish line a few tables were piled with sliced oranges and watermelon - the sweet taste of success. I grabbed a juicy slice of orange and spotted one of my friends. To our mutual surprise he beat my time (we saw each other when he passed me as I walked). I got some ice on my leg from a sportsmedicine table at the finish line, caught a bus back to the start where I parked my car, picked up a few groceries, then went home.
After the finish, despite the pain in my leg, I felt good. And most of that was simply because I did it, last year I didn't. That day of the race started early for me, I took my daughter to the clinic to have her ear examined; went to a downtown Summer Solstice festival and ate cheesesteak sandwiches and berry smoothies; did a little shopping. I also visited friends who recently had their first child and met their boy for the first time. On Monday they are packing up to leave town for a new job location so it was a good bye too.
You have to be healthy to run, but you don't have to run to be healthy. While at the race I met a guy who ran it in about 44 minutes. He loved running. I am not sure I love running as much. There was a time when I did, and maybe that time has passed. Or maybe I just need to train more beforehand. My official time was 1:01:52.5, I know I can beat that next year. Either way, a 10K is the most I ever plan to run!