An off-season 5k

So, I’m in my off-season. Which isn’t so much an off-season, as much as it is very, very similar to my on-season this year (because this year sucked), but with slightly more brownies — since when I was racing I tried to limit myself to two brownie sundaes a week instead of, like, six. Although, I will admit there was more than one time I just got discouraged and ate five pizookie bowls during a race week.


Off-season this year = work + running.

Because biking is messing up my hip and my knee and my ankle and who knows what else, I can’t bike right now. I need to take a break and let my body heal and, hopefully, address some of the functional structural issues that are twisting me up all sideways. Sigh, and I need to get a new bike. That’ll solve all my problems.

In the meantime, I figured I’d run. Because running doesn’t hurt my leg, I’m actually kind of fast right now, and it’s so much more straight-forward.

So, this past weekend I picked a random 5K around here and went out with the goal of PRing.

I had never broken 20 minutes in a 5K, never even come close, always like 20:20, which was starting to get ridiculous. I mean I’d run faster than 20 minutes in a 5K within a 10K. I’d run sub-6:00 miles for 2.7 miles on my own time trial. I’ve run 20:20 on my own, on a track, with lots of smoke from the fires. So, it seemed about time.

That’s how I ended up at the Richmond YMCA Homefront 5K Fun Run/Walk.

It was different to just start out running as fast as you can. No pacing or thinking involved. The first mile or so was hard but not a problem, and this kid was running next to me. Silly kids, they always go out too hard. We hit the one mile marker in 6:12, which was shit, slower than I wanted, so I picked it up, thought ‘good for the kid, he’s like in 8th grade and ran a 6:12 mile.’

Then, all the 10K runners took the fork in the course and it was just me and this kid and one guy a few minutes up ahead running around the park. And the kid caught back up to me. We hit the two mile marker in like 10:20. Hmm, think that’s probably not right.

And this kid was still running with me.

We completed the lollipop and were headed back the way we came. But, then it wasn’t so easy anymore. We were running along this boardwalk/bay trail and there were dozens of 90 degree turns. Turn right around the stairs, then sharp turn left around the bench, then sharper than 90 degrees around the lookout point. And we’re running fast, weaving in and out, and coming towards us are all the 5K and 10K walkers. And all the turns and buildings looked the same, which one was the last one? And the wind would pick up around certain buildings or on certain stretches, because the waterfront is always windy. Basically, it got ridiculous.

And it hurt so bad.

I thought I might be that person that throws up at a 5K fun run on one of these walker’s jogging strollers.

It didn’t hurt like triathlon hurts 2 or 3 hours into a race, in a blurry, I just want to lay down, just keep trudging forward way. It hurt so bad, so painful, and you can’t just keep trudging or slow down or think about it. You just have to keep running as hard as possible. What hurt most was my arms. My arms were burning, screaming.

But this kid was still there. Still a couple steps in front of me. When I thought we were making the last turn around the last building, but really there was one more building, the only thing that kept me pushing was that this stupid 8th grade boy could do it, so I better keep up.

Finally, we ran along the last building, into the wind, made the last turn at the three mile mark and I could see the clock up there saying 18:20. And you think ‘it’s not that far, of course I’ll make it by 19, it’s only a couple seconds, just push harder.’ But, it’s the slowest 100m has ever passed. I ran under that banner at 18:58, 3 seconds behind that kid. My official time says 18:59, but whatever.

And after I stopped heaving and stood up from laying down in the grass (it’s been awhile since a running race, I forgot laying down is not a good idea), I said nice job to the kid. I figured he was in 8th grade; I know a lot of freshman boys on the cross-country and track teams. This kid was probably just a fast 8th-grader.

No, he said. He’s in 6th grade. He doesn’t have a running team at his school, so he just runs on the treadmill.


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