Earlier this month I ran my longest race since May 2014. 10K! (6.2 miles) I had put together a pretty serious but manageable training schedule leading up to it - about 8 weeks - getting in 3-4 runs per week. Of those runs I did 3-4. Total. Went running maybe 4 times in two months.
But you know what? IT WORKED. I beat my time goal (by six whole minutes) and finished with an "average pace" below what I had anticipated (by 1 whole second). Success!
My pace was 11:59 and my finish time was about 1:14. It's not that I can clip along at a speedy 12-minute mile pace for 1 hour and fifteen minutes straight, though. I would die. (Yes, this is supposed to be both funny and serious.) I need walk breaks. So I run for three minutes and walk for 1:30. When it's all said and done I'm walking 1/3 of the time.
I used to think this was not actually running. That to be a real runner you never walk. You always run at your slowest a 10:00 mile. And the ultimate goal is obviously conquering the marathon.
I was so wrong!
Yes, it's great to be able to run a long time without stopping, provided you can do so without injuring yourself. But walk breaks help me run faster and for longer. (For longer? Is that grammatically correct?) When I take walk breaks I can run longer time- and distance-wise. (That doesn't sound great either, but oh well). Walking works.
When it comes to pace, well, I was worried that for this 10K I would come in last. Knowing I'd do around a 12:00 mile at best I was afraid that I'd be at the back of the pack and just stay there. Well, to be honest I really did start dead last. I put myself in back so I could run at my own pace without getting caught up in the excitement and the push of faster runners. This happens to me sometimes and always ends badly. But even though I started last I did not finish last. Because runners run at all paces. Some runners are elite. Some runners are recovering. Some runners are competing. Some runners are just happy to be there. But most runners are just there to run. To enjoy the run. To finish.
I will say this one thing about pace, though. When you're a 12-minute-mile walk/jogger, running/racing is often a solo journey. I have lots of running friends, but they are all faster than me. They run races at their pace, and they finish before me, and often they're through with the post-race festivities before I get there. I feel lonely sometimes. (Maybe the answer to this is to run relay races so my team is all at the finish at the same time!) Anyway. It can be lonely.
Finally, distance. There's this attitude among some runners - not all - that the ultimate test of a runner is the marathon. Obviously it is a huge test for a runner. But the idea that if you're a runner you somehowmust do a marathon, that's ridiculous.
I read an article by Lauren Fleshman - world-class 5,000 meter (5K) pro runner - who wrote of a time when she sat next to a marathon runner/hobbyist on an airplane. He didn't know who she was, but they were talking about running. He asked Lauren if she had ever done a marathon. She admitted she had, but then said she really preferred the 5K distance. He said something like "Don't worry, you'll get there."
To a 2-time U.S. champion in the 5,000 meters.
As though somehow the best running has to offer is 26.2 miles.
I've got to say, that's just not true. I will say that marathons are awesome events. People who do them are beastly. Maybe, maybe, I might run one someday. Maybe. (Probably not.) Half-marathons are nice and about as long as I would like to be running on a given day. 5Ks and 10Ks though? Awesomesauce. Doable without much training, but if you do train it won't overtake your life. And it's great for weight loss, if that's your thing. Super fun, done in an hour or less, and, again, super fun.
All of this to say, I'm happy to be a runner. I may not run every day (or every week...), I may run slowly, I may take walk breaks, and I may never run more than 13.1 miles at a time, but by golly I do run.