As the horn blew and we shuffled toward the starting gate, I thought, “Holy cow, what am I doing? Can I even run ten miles?”
Good question. You see, in October 2011 I injured my knee while training for a marathon — and I haven’t run since. I replaced running with cycling, and supplemented cycling with weightlifting, yoga and, last fall, CrossFit. But I haven’t run for more than two years.
So it was kind of a gamble when I signed up for the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. A last-minute one, too. The Cherry Blossom is enormously popular, and entrance is determined each fall by lottery. I always wanted to run the race, but I never won the lottery during my running days, and then I thought I’d sworn off running and stopped trying. But then my friend Katie moved to Seattle and offered to me her bib.
That was a month ago, and I figured four weeks gave me plenty of time to get myself back in shape for a road race. So I bought the bib — and then did nothing to prepare. Seriously, nothing. Because the month of March was essentially the Arctic Springtime of Doom, and all I wanted to do was curl up in front of the television while eternal winter raged outside.
Then all of a sudden I started getting emails from the race organizers with messages like “Come pick up your race stuff!” and “See you on Sunday!” Sunday — as in four days from whenever I was reading that message. So I picked up my packet and resolved to start training for real this time (as if whatever last-minute cramming I did could actually be called “training”).
Only I didn’t even do that! Instead, I went to CrossFit on Friday and did 300 double-unders (which is where you jump-rope with the rope going under twice for each jump) — which left my calves completely shot. Whatever “training” aspirations I had flew out the window as I hobbled around in pain and agony. I was more focused on making it from my desk to the printer than on running some ten-miler by the river.
So you can see why I felt a little trepidation as I lined up for the race to start.
The good news is that everything went just fine. I scaled back my expectations for speed and grouped myself with the folks who would be running an 8:30 mile. I turned on my headphones, found a pace that felt sustainable, tuned everything out, and just ran. At the 5-mile mark, my knee started acting up, so I pulled out a supporting strap and told myself that if it got any worse, I’d quit the race and go home. The strap helped, and by mile 7 both knees felt perfectly fine. In fact, I felt awesome and finished strong.
|Just over the finish line|
I came in just under an hour-and-a-half (which is what I’d expected), with an average pace of 8:36 (also what I’d expected). I placed 691st in my age division, and 3201st among men — which doesn’t sound great (and certainly isn’t remarkable from any competitive standard), but in the context of 17,500 participants, I clearly could have done a lot worse. For my maiden run after injury and inactivity, I’m happy with these results. Who knows, maybe I can be a runner again after all!