What if?

It’s the little question that has tugged at many minds including my own. What if I could be… a runner? What if I could be a good runner? What if I could be great? What if I could hold this pace for 26.2 miles? That sure is what I was asking myself last month, on what started as a not particularly special 16 mile training run. In the beginning I felt sluggish and apathetic, wanting to get it over with, until finding my groove about six miles in and finishing feeling like I had the world at my fingertips. Since when did I feel at ease running 6:30 miles over and over again?

Later that week I ran 600m intervals at 10K goal race pace, 6:06 per mile, to prep for the upcoming Linfield Icebreaker 10K. It felt like a cinch. Could I really hold that for 25 laps around the track? Fast forward to the night of the race. As soon as the gun went off I shot to the front of the pack, floating along a hair quicker than goal pace. My plan was to run a smooth first half in 19:00 flat and start hammering in the second half. In reality I went through the 5K mark in 19:04, already fatigued and lagging behind. From there I found myself needing to push more and more each lap, for if I let up just a little I’d hear my teammates on the sidelines call out the dreaded “92!” instead of 90 or 91. My big goal was to run under 38 minutes. Using seemingly every ounce of energy I had to not slow down, let alone speed up, I crossed the line in 38:07. 6:08 per mile. Faster second half. Close, but no cigar.

On my solo cool down following the race, coping with the fact that I didn’t reach my goal, I thought, What even is the point? Okay okay, too negative. What can I take away from this?

  • Running is hard (duh)
  • I’m on the right track with a 29 second PR
  • Without setting a big goal I might not have gotten as close as I did
  • Don’t be afraid to go with the leaders
  • Must work on finishing kick

That 10K left me feeling wrecked for almost an entire week. By the next Saturday I finally felt ready for a short workout in preparation for the upcoming Portland Shamrock 5K and Carlsbad 5000. My 5K PR is 18:10, or 87 seconds per 400. In the workout I clicked off 80-82 second 400s, closer to my mile pace, and they felt light and easy. What if, what if, what if?

Shamrock Sunday rolled around and I felt fresh, speedy, and ready to go. I planned to roll the dice, go out aggressively, and see what I could do. The gun went off and immediately runners were swarming around me and two of my teammates bounded ahead. I was running plenty fast, but simultaneously being swallowed up in a current. We took a few turns into downtown Portland then began our ascent up Naito Parkway. Approaching the first mile, I expected my watch to read 5:30-5:40 and instead it read 6:10. Oh geez. One mile in and I already had quite a bit of making up to do, plus the next half mile would continue to be pure uphill. I’m fantastic at running downhill (if I do say so myself), so I pushed as much as I could up to the turnaround point, knowing the rest would be a free fall to the finish. My next mile was in 6:19, though I didn’t know that at the time- probably for the best. All I could think about was sticking with my teammate Fionna. The runners had mostly strung out at that point, but Fi and I stuck together, pushing each other to the finish. Unlike the Icebreaker 10K, I found an extra gear at the end, running my final mile in 5:34 for a total time of 18:30. Not my best 5K time by any means, but I wasn’t even mad. I was proud of myself for pushing that hard on a tough course – plus for the first time ever, I placed top 5 in a Shamrock event!

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Finishing kick!

I bounced back from Shamrock pretty quickly, and I’m antsy to get back out there and try again this weekend at the Carlsbad 5000. It’s supposed to be the fastest 5K in the world, so no excuses!

I had planned to fill the spring season with mostly short distance races, but the closer I get to peak shape, the more I wonder, what if? What if I entered a half marathon next month? What if those amazing feeling long runs could translate into a good summer marathon? In the past I’ve forced myself back into shape as quick as possible, but this year everything seems to have come back on its own time, beckoning me to try. We’ll see. Carlsbad first, and from there the possibilities seem endless.

Top photo by Corene Elia.

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