Tag Archives: 5K race

Every Run is a Victory

“SO WHERE DID YOU PLACE AT SHAMROCKS LAST WEEK?” my friend Larry asked during Wednesday night’s PR Fitness group run. He was referring to the Shamrocks & Shenanigans 5K in Ann Arbor on March 10.

“Second,” I said. “The first place guy ran under 19:00. There’s a couple people in my age group who are just really fast.” I sighed. “I’ve got to get better yet.”

Larry chuckled. “Now here’s a guy who finished second,” he said, “complaining about not winning.”

And I thought, Oh, no – I’ve become that guy.

Must...beat...the kid...

Must…beat…the kid…

Just two years ago, all I wanted was to snag one award – just one – in any race. If someone had griped to me back then about finishing second, I would have let him know (nicely, I hope) that some of us would be more than satisfied with that, and to be thankful he was healthy and fit, and strong enough to finish in the top tier of his group.

On my 50th birthday at the 2011 Holiday Hustle, I got my first award (a Christmas ornament, which I promptly dropped). Since then I’ve placed in the top 5 of my age group regularly, even winning several times. Now here I was beefing about finishing second in a large race. Did I now have to be in the awards group to feel like I ran a good race? Or finish first to feel happy? Heaven help me if it ever comes to that.

Sure, I’m competitive by nature, and finishing in the awards group feels good. But winning a race also depends on the weather, the terrain, and who else shows up (or more accurately, who doesn’t show up). And if we’re not elite runners, who really cares about how many races we’ve won? Spouses and kids, to a point. Fellow runners, good for a high five or two. Non-runners? Fuggetaboutit.

Serious Runners

Some serious runners at Shamrocks & Shenanigans.

More than anything, a race is a test of ourselves – a measure of our physical and mental fortitude, our discipline to stick out a hard run to the end. Improving as a runner, and as a human being, is really what counts. And that can come at any pace.

Last night reminded me of why I run races. Since I’m not in it for money or fame, I am free to set my own goals and to decide what “success” and “winning” mean. Isn’t that why we enjoy running – because it gives us that freedom? How blessed and fortunate we are to have that kind of opportunity. Every run, short or long, is a victory.

P.S. Now that I’m sufficiently grateful for being able to run, here’s what I got for finishing second at Shamrocks.

Unlike many awards, this is something I can actually use. Woohoo!

Unlike many awards, this is something I can actually use. Woohoo!

 

Doing the Hustle! A Hollywood Ending After All

The Holiday Hustle in Dexter each December is my favorite race because it has marked several milestones for me:

  • First race (2008)
  • First race under a 7:00 per mile pace (2010)
  • First age group award (2011), on my 50th birthday
Santa paces the way.

Santa paces the way.

So it seemed only natural that if I was going to make my goal of a 5K finish in under 20:00 before I turned 51, the Holiday Hustle would be that race.  And as fate (and the calendar) would have it, I’d been given a second chance, as the HH was just before my birthday this year. Only I wasn’t sure I was up to it. After a 20:28 in the 2011 race with an untied shoe (“No Hollywood Ending, but a Good Show”) I’d gotten as close as a 20:10 in my 2012 5K races, but my result on Thanksgiving Day was a discouraging 21:05 (a half-mile hill at the end didn’t help). So I made sure I had extra rest before the HH. No fast running that week, and plenty of sleep the night before.

See those perfectly placed flag lines? That was MY work, baby!

See those perfectly placed flag lines? That was MY work, baby!

I also volunteered to help set up; it took my mind off the race itself for a while. There was plenty of work to do even for a first-time volunteer like me, and while the process may have appeared somewhat chaotic, everyone was laid back, stuff was put where it needed to be, and everything was up and ready before the crowds arrived. I had plenty of time left to grab a light lunch and get warmed up; some light exercises and dynamic stretches, followed by an easy one-mile jog. Then just before the start, a few short sprints (“strides” in racing jargon) to get my heart rate up and prepare for a fast start, and a Gu energy gel to give me a little extra fuel.

Holiday Hustle Starting Line 2012

They’re off! Yours truly, front and center.

I got off to a good start; too good, in fact. Here my Garmin saved me. At the quarter-mile mark it showed me running at a 5:41 pace; thrilling, but not sustainable. I backed off a bit and hit the one-mile mark bang on target at 6:20. Then the real fun began.

The second mile of any 5K is challenging, with the energy of the first mile past and too soon to feel the adrenaline surge of the final stretch. This particular second mile threw in some uphill stretches for added effect. With my body going all out and breathing painful, my brain made some helpful suggestions: How good it would feel to slow down. You’ll never keep up this pace going uphill. Remember Thanksgiving? Nope, we ain’t got it today, let’s try for the goal next time. Two things kept me going; there was no “next time” in this case, and I knew that around the 2.25  mile mark, it would be mostly flat or downhill to the finish. So when the uphill part ended, I hit it for all I had and held on.

For over two years I’d fantasized about approaching the finish line of a 5K and seeing “19:xx” on the clock. I’d always pictured it as charging toward the line while the seconds ticked steadily away – 55, 56, 57,… – then lunging desperately across while the crowd lustily yelled at me to “beat that 20.” Checking my watch at the 3-mile mark, I knew there’d be no such drama – it was in the bag! – but that didn’t make seeing the “19” on the race clock any less sweet. I surged across the line and hit the stop button on my watch. It agreed with my official chip time of 19:48.

The proof! (19:51 is the gun time - I was a couple rows back, so my chip time is 19:48.)

The proof! The clock (left) says 19:51, which is is the gun time – I started a few rows back, so my actual start-to-finish (chip) time is 19:48.

After a recovery consisting of a short cooldown and a large peppermint mocha, I returned to the race area to confirm my time and collect my award. I was announced as the 50-54 age group winner at the ceremony, but the online results next day showed that another 50-year-old had run an 18:31. Kudos to whoever you are, Jeff Rothstein. You’re an inspiration to me to keep improving. Hope you enjoyed your time as much as I enjoyed mine.

Two "over 50" runners celebrating their award-winning races.

Me and a fellow PR Fitness runner, celebrating our award-winning race. (Michael won the 55-59 age group.)