3-16-1997- In my thirties, I was mostly running 5Ks on the weekends. Naturally the next step up would be to run a 10K. In the early days, I ran like Forrest Gump. I ran aimlessly with no instructions from anyone. The web was pretty much just starting out. I never thought to read self-help running books. Never heard of Hal Higdon or Jeff Galloway, the gurus of running. I put on my running shoes whatever was on sale. This was before I found out that I needed orthotics and motion-dcontrol shoes. I ran with 100% cotton tees and I was off. I ran one pace for both the 5k and 10k. This is what Coach Nancy would coin a "uni" pace, some 13 years later. Not knowing any better, this was how I approached my first 10K: run it like it was a 5K. Big mistake.
I ran with a gal who had 1/4 of a kidney. She was amazing, nothing stopped her. Every afternoon, she would run 10 miles and would be back in 1.5 hours, without a drop of sweat in her. For someone who only ran 3 miles at the time, that 10 miles everyday I thought was beyond my comprehension. I looked up to this girl. So when she asked me to run, I was gung-ho. I knew she was fast. But I tried to hang on as far as I could to keep pace.
The 10K course consisted of two loops of the 5k. It was flat and fast along the Shorebird Park in Berkeley where the famous H's Lordship's restaurant is. Both 5k and 10K started together. I got sucked in the speed of the 5k. "Elicia" was just cruising, she knew that I was trying hard to keep her pace. I was not going to hold her back so I pushed it. This was the first mistake of racing, trying to keep someone else's pace. What did I know? We reached the first loop at 23 minutes and some change. My first thought was, had I signed up for the 5k, I'd be done by now. I felt my lungs burn. I wished the race was over. The thought of the second loop just about killed me. Between huffs and puffs, I worked up the nerve to tell Elisha that I was going to have to slow my pace. I told her it was okay if she went on. Before I finished my sentence, she was gone! I felt bad, because I had no idea she was itching to take off. I was glad I spoke up. She must have been waiting to drop me but was just too nice to do so. I was relieved to to drop the pace a little which gave me a chance to catch my breath. I tried to find another runner ahead of me to help me stay on pace.
This is one of those moments that I realized that there are different kinds of runners out there who come in different shapes and sizes blessed with the running genes. I tried to keep pace with this gal. I thought I could hang with her, I mistakenly assumed that she would be slower than me. She did not have that familiar runner physique that I associated with speed. She was deceivingly fast on her feet. I tried to hang with her but she dropped me in the very last mile. I was so humbled. I finished in 50:11. Elisha finished in 47 minutes flat.
Funny how our perspective changes in time. When I finished in 50:11 that day I thought my performance sucked. My thought process was, since I consistently ran 24 minute 5Ks, my 10Ks should have been twice that long. I thought I should have been able to run a 48 minute 10K. Looking back now, was I crazy or what? 50:11 was outstanding. I'd give anything right now to repeat that. It turned out that was my personal best for 10k. Now each time I run a 10K which hovers between 52 and 54, I think back to this first 10K, and think, "Damn I WAS fast." I've accepted the fact that I will never be as fast as I used to be. I never take it for granted each day that I am able to run injury-free. I am happy to run even at slothlike speed. From the words of John "The Penquin" Bingham, "Waddle on friends."
Next Blog: Ah yes...my first DNF!