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Chasing The American Dream

May 15, 2006

RUNNING ON EMPTY


I think the race I remember running in was like 30 years ago. I think it was the 50-yard hurdles, and I beat Elias Bateh who was one of the fastest kids in junior high. I think he must have tripped over a hurdle or something because I certainly wasn’t faster than him.

I never liked running. I could never figure out how people could run for anything more than like 10 minutes. Boring. I only took up running two years ago because, hey, I’m getting up there and somehow needed to get/stay in shape. The only thing that really convinced me that I could run was the advent of the beloved iPod. Running with my music made it most tolerable. I started off running a mile and graduated to two. I never ran more than two. Somehow, that was just right for me.

I’d been neglecting my daily run recently and so when my employer posted an email for a Corporate 5K run, it gave me incentive to get back into it again. My only worry was running 3.1 miles having never done that. I had about three weeks to train. I ran every other day and on my last training day, I attempted the 3.1 miles. I timed myself in 29:20. It was pretty tiring but I finished comfortably and felt ready to run the race. My goal was to break 29 minutes.

Race day weather conditions were brutal. Although the start of the race was at 6:45 p.m., it was 88 degrees and 90% humidity. Man, was it hot. And man, were there a lot of people! There were over 21,000 runners smothered at the starting line and beyond. It was very claustrophobic. I stood amongst the throng of runners for 45 minutes sweating my ass off in the starting area. I wasn’t nervous. My only race strategy was to run my own race, pace myself as I had been training, and not burn out in the first mile.

A cannon blast signaled the start of the race and it took me 45 seconds just to reach the starting line. I arranged my iPod to play, “Over My Head” by The Fray. I think the title fit. Off I went, careful not to trip over the hundreds of feet around me which was particularly difficult just 75 yards into the race where we encountered a 90-degree right turn. I almost had to stop cold to avoid running over people, but after the turn, the race progressed and I was able to at least get some breathing room to run my race.

I felt on pace during the first mile which included lumbering up a bridge over the Miami River. That took a lot out of me, but I still reached the one-mile mark in 10 minutes which is my usual time for the first mile. I felt good and in control. In my training runs, I usually picked up the pace and ran the second mile in nine minutes, but as I plodded along, I didn’t feel myself running much faster. I was extremely hot and my legs started to feel a bit heavy. I looked up and saw a nice-looking girl running ahead of me and figured I could stay with her and perhaps take my mind off of the actual running of the race. And then came another bridge.

It was a different bridge over the same river as we navigated our way back home. I don’t know if it was any bigger, but it sure felt that way. Even the sound of “Somebody Told Me,” by The Killers couldn’t get me to run any faster. I struggled mightily up to the top of the bridge and just coasted down. The girl I was following was now a distant memory. I crossed the two-mile mark in 20 minutes, still on a 10-minute mile pace. Only now, the bridge took most of my energy away from me. My face was on fire and I wondered how the hell I was going to make it another 1.1 miles without passing out.

I had a choice to make. Go for a time and possibly kill myself or make it a goal to not stop and try to make it to the end. Based on my increasing body temperature and my knack for the dramatic, I decided on option B. I didn’t want any ambulances whisking me away. So I decided to make a commitment to keep going at the current pace and not to stop, as much as I wanted and perhaps needed to. I stopped looking at my watch and just tried to listen to my iPod. The three-mile marker seemed to take forever and as I approached it, I could see the clock read-out. 30 minutes and ticking.

I was disappointed that my time was really sucking, but as I turned for home, I realized that I was going to make it without stopping. I picked up the pace as best as I could and staggered across the finish line in 30:54. I felt like I had nothing left in me. Drenched in sweat, head pounding, legs rubbery, I needed hydration quickly. I tried taking a short-cut over a three-foot wall but couldn’t get my legs to cooperate so I took the long route. I got to our corporate tent, and our HR VP thankfully handed me a bottle of water.

I took a seat and poured some of the ice cold water over my head. I ended up drinking three Gatorades and two bottled waters. Whew, it was so hot. I was disappointed in my time, but proud that at least I didn’t stop and managed to make it to the finish line. I’m glad I did it. It was a good experience and a personal challenge. I’m going to do it again next year, and my goal is to run it at least three minutes faster and feel like I’m running on plenty, not empty.


11 Comments:

  • The only emotions you should be feeling are pride and accomplishment.....you deserve both!

    By Blogger Eatapeach, at 8:38 AM, May 16, 2006  

  • excellent! I am so proud of you! I have my 5k run in about 28 days. I am freaking out about the training! any advice would be appreciated!

    You must show off your new glasses when you get them! ;)

    By Blogger Amanda, at 10:21 AM, May 16, 2006  

  • Congratulations!! Well done! Even if it's not an impressive time to you, just doing the run itself is impressive to some of us!

    By Blogger Amy, at 12:06 PM, May 16, 2006  

  • What a great run, especially with the music. Congrats.

    By Blogger Sass, at 10:52 PM, May 16, 2006  

  • Thanks everyone. Definitely not impressive, Amy. And Sass, you'd have kicked my ass.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 2:13 AM, May 17, 2006  

  • OK, you crack me up PT. I don't know why, but I was really laughing at your story of beating Elias and hey, you're getting up there.

    Anyway. 30 minutes is damn awesome. In 88% humidity?? From a PURELY mathematical perspective, 88% humidity translates into 4.2 extra minutes. So techically you beat 29 minutes. Mathematically Speaking.

    By Blogger girl from florida, at 10:24 AM, May 17, 2006  

  • Was a great thing for you to do and now you have set a goal for next time. Always a good thing! Keep running every day or 2nd day, even just 3 or 4 km.

    By Blogger Mother of Invention, at 3:46 PM, May 17, 2006  

  • Way to go Todd. Its not the same to run to stay fit than in a race. The prerace jitters take out a lot of your energy.

    I 've been training for triatholn and I have yet to compete in my first one. I am shooting for September of this year.

    We shall see...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:59 PM, May 18, 2006  

  • I loved this. I smiled through the whole thing. Good for you for going for the run. I wish I could run again - been too long. (ran cross country and track in college, even set some school records - and ran a few half marathons, but that was oh so long ago)
    :)

    By Blogger September, at 7:29 PM, May 19, 2006  

  • What a great story about your run, I was there with you through the whole thing - out of breath, achy muscles and all. I did the Race for the Cure in Phoenix this past fall with precisely the same goal in mind...and, oddly, almost exactly the same time.

    Congrats on the Heat! We have one more game to go in Phoenix - maybe we'll see each other in the finals, yet!

    By Blogger Elizabeth, at 1:19 AM, May 20, 2006  

  • I can barely run 1/4 mile without stopping, so you should be extremely happy with yourself. I'm proud of you.

    By Blogger Megan, at 2:00 PM, May 28, 2006  

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