I don’t race. I really don’t. And I don’t do speedwork either. These days I just enjoy getting out for a run. But there was a time that I raced…ALOT. I would sit down at the beginning of the calendar year and plan out my A, B, and C races. I had a build training period, a speed period, and then a sharpening and taper period. It was methodical. My wife calls it obsessive sometimes. But that was before we were married and I had the time and desire to devote so much time to the sport. Things have changed now with a happy marriage and two wonderful kids. I still love to run, but I don’t race.
That is until this past weekend. I can’t tell you the last time the gun went off at a starting line and I felt the adrenaline rush of speed. But we (my wife, some running buddies, and I) recently went to the Inaugural Battleship 12K in Mobile, Alabama that some good friends were producing. Two things must have signaled me that this was going to be a fast race even before we left the starting gate: one of the course directors came up to me and said, “Greenie, the first mile is a screaming downhill” and then the event director played AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” as the race started. Instantly, my adrenaline shot through the roof and my legs automatically started to turnover…fast.
Being an experienced runner I knew better than to let the first mile get to me and that I had to put my emotions and effort in check should I have a successful race. This race was to support military veterans and raise the level of patriotism and awareness about our veterans. Flags of all branches of the armed forces lined the starting area and active and retired military were in the crowd surrounding me. My Dad was in the Marine Corps and I have some good friends that are tied to the military, so I knew this event would carry a level of emotional toll with it for me. A good toll, but a toll nonetheless.
First mile clicked off at a 6:40 pace so I thought I should slow down a bit. But the legs just continued to go. Mile two, three, and four – 7:00 pace. Mile five – 6:53. Mile six – 7:05 (there was an overpass over water which is a “hill” down here). Mile seven – 6:50. And then finished with a good push to the end at the USS Alabama battleship. What is important to me here is not what my overall pace was, but rather that there were times in this race when I wanted to slow and wait for those behind me and just run easy. But for whatever reason, I just kept it in gear and pushing. For most of this race I was by myself. There were plenty of people behind me and plenty ahead of me so I really had to rely on my mental strength to push my physical limits. I would run to the next telephone pole and then think I was going to slow, but I didn’t. I would run to the person in front of me and then think I was going to slow and get caught in conversation, but I didn’t. I would get to the next mile mark and try to slow, but I didn’t. I continued to hang on to the pace I established early in the race. Maybe this was the toll I knew I would encounter.
This event was an example of where the teacher becomes the student. I have been running for over almost 30 years and this past weekend I learned something very important at the Inaugural Battleship 12K. Just when you think you are at your limit, just when you want to quit and take it easy, just when your body says enough….your mind can say “no way” and your body finds another way to help you hang on to whatever and wherever you are in life. You just have to find that “way” and embrace it.