Being notoriously nerve-prone, I was a surprised by how little I worried about this race leading up to it. I slept at my parents' house on Wednesday night and my mom drove Josh and I the two miles to the start line before stuffing her turkey and putting it in the oven. It was a cold morning but sunshine was in the forecast. I bundled up and danced to "It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A." in a muddy field in front of the YMCA to stay warm.
Then Josh and I split up and I lined up to start. I was lingering between the "8:30 and faster" and "9:00 and faster" corrals. Whatever makeshift wave I was grouped with finally got going and I crossed the start line.
I ran into a friend from high school who was running with his fiance and he sped by me about a tenth of a mile in.
I was cruising at first and that made me a little nervous. My pace was teetering right around 8:00 and I thought about my tempo runs when running a sub-8 minute mile was so hard. Why was it so easy all of a sudden?
I knew it was adrenaline and I also knew I'd probably burn out but I just kept going with what was comfortable. I held steady until we hit some hills and my pace slowed significantly. The hills were something I didn't even consider for this race but they were definitely there. We ran up many steady inclines on Wisconsin Avenue which didn't end up being much of a problem for my speed.
The biggest challenge was that, being on such a major road, the race course was restricted to the curb lane of Wisconsin Avenue, and Old Georgetown Road when we got there. With 4,000 people chasing the turkey, it was extremely hard to weave and pass people on these narrow parts of the course and it was even worse on the hills, where many slowed down and/or walked. I am certain that most of the people I passed were not running "8:30 and faster" and many probably weren't even running "9:00 and faster" which was really frustrating given that those were the corrals they must have started with. So I spent a lot of time passing people via sidewalk and curb and brushing shoulders as I dodged other runners. I was back to believing I could hold a sub-8:30 pace and I was prepared to work for that.
Running up the final long hill during mile 4, I ran by my parents' street and they were standing on the grass cheering for me. I waved, threw my gloves and ear warmers at them, and just kept going. It's funny being cheered on in a race, because you're like "hey you see me, i'm running, thanks for coming, ok i'm running away from you now, bye". But when your cheerleaders only had to walk a block and a half to see you, there's not much need to feel guilty. And, having missed each other in Baltimore, it was really nice to see them there.
Their cheers gave me a boost that, luckily, I don't even think I needed. I ran hard for the next two miles and before I knew it, I could see the finish line. Josh was a few hundred yards from it taking pictures and he yelled something at me with the word "FINISH" in it. I thought he was telling me to stop posing for the camera and push myself to the finish line.
I did push myself and crossed that line 52 minutes and 36 seconds after I'd left it. My watch said I'd averaged an 8:21 pace but it also mapped the course as 6.3 miles long.
Apparently Josh had yelled "I'll meet you at the finish". One thing we really need to work on is deciding on a meeting spot before we split up. We never do that and it is always a mess. Not having heard him, I walked to where he had been standing, back to the finish line, through the finisher's tent, and around the field three times, before finally asking to borrow a woman's phone and calling him. Then I met him at the finish.
We high-fived and hugged and then walked about a mile before my mom picked us up on the side of the road. By then, the sun was shining and the air was crisp and beautiful. I had met my original goal speed and I'd had fun. I was very thankful for it all.
When the official results were posted, I wasn't surprised to see that my Garmin had been a little off but am pleased to report that I still beat 8:30.
I did not, surprise surprise, negative split the race (unless you count the final .2 as a split) but I am also pleased to report that I ran every mile in under 9 minutes.
This was my first 10k and I have to say that I really loved racing this distance. I felt that it was long enough to challenge my race strategy and make me run smart but it was also short enough to fly by and let me be a little gutsy with my pace. Hopefully running a 15k next weekend will be just as much fun!
Have you ever run a Thanksgiving Day race? Did you find that more people took it seriously or ran it for fun? Did you notice my sparkly headband in the pictures? Enter for a chance to win one of your own!