Back in November, I signed up for the Heart Mini 15k that is put on every year by the American Heart Association in Cincinnati. My dad survived a massive heart attack when I was 17, so this is the one race I do each year that really hits close to home. My sister always runs too, but the past two years, I have done the 15k (9.3 miles), and she has done the 5k, so we haven’t been able to run together.
I have been anxious for more than a week to run this race – I ran my 5th half marathon in October, but the longest run I’ve done since was 8 miles. I did the right things yesterday – stayed active, ate well – but somehow I still ended up having one of my worst race experiences.
I run a lot of races. I’ve done 5 half marathons, quite a few 10ks, and too many 5ks to count. In 2015 and 2016, I ran a race every month. I get addicted – and a little competitive.
This morning, I was visiting my parents, and they were able to drop me off so I didn’t have to worry about parking. It was freezing – only about 19 degrees, and the time change made sure I had one hour fewer of sleep last night. Luckily the building in which people were registering was open, and they let early runners stay in there to keep warm before the race started.
Normally my stomach gets a little fluttery before a big race, but it usually goes away after the first mile. This morning though, my body was not feeling it. I started off okay., but about two miles in, my legs started to ache, which is not typical for me. I started to have doubts that I would be able to run the whole course.
Before mile 3, I had to stop to walk and stretch. I was so upset – this was not my typical race pattern.
I had to keep stopping and walking or stretching, and I could just feel my pace and goal time of 1:30:00 falling farther away from me. I would never hit it. I ended up getting a little emotional, and embarrassed that I didn’t have it in me. I started to think I might not be able to finish.
There is a hill in this race that goes straight up for nearly half a mile. It is the devil lurking right before mile 6, ready to bring you down. As soon as I reached that hill, I knew I wasn’t going to make it at that point if I didn’t take a timeout. I turned around to make a quick stop at the portalet, and then forced myself to run up the whole hill.
By this time, I had fallen back where I was no longer with the majority runners. I was in the run-walk crew, which is fine, just not where I usually am during a race. Because this hill is such a monster, I passed a lot of people who were walking up it. Once we curved and went downhill, I let my body just go with the momentum, and I was able to pick up a lot of speed.
My determination to climb that hill pushed me to run the rest of the race (about 3.5 miles) without stopping to walk. If you’ve ever been to Cincinnati, you know it’s a very hilly city – so was this course.
Part of me still doesn’t know how I managed to finish and run those last 3.5 miles, but I did it. I met my parents at the end, and when my dad told me how proud he was of me for doing this (because I did it for him), it made it all worth it.