Lead On

Thanks to a member of Texoma Runners, our local running group, I found one more 10k to run before I change age groups. The Christmas in July 5k, 10k, and fun run was a small race, but with chip timing. Saturday was the hottest day of the year yet, so it made perfect sense to test my Summer of Speed progress. Right?

To give you an idea of my mother runner life, Friday night at 11:30 I was picking up my oldest daughter from church. She had been on a mission trip in Nicaragua for eight days. I got a quick rundown on the drive home and she was ready to crash when we got home. With less than five hours of sleep, the next morning I set off for #3 of my “4 before 40.”

I did enough of a warm up to wake up my legs, and boy it was hot. I realized how small the race was when they had the 10k runners line up at the start. The 5k would start 10 minutes after. I’ve done enough races and finally have the confidence to start near the front instead of safely tucked in the middle. I stood back about two feet from the start so the fast runners could line up in front. But no one stepped up ahead of me  – except for one guy to my right. I had no idea how many runners are behind me and I don’t turn around because maybe they think I’m arrogant lining up at the front. I certainly don’t feel like I belong up front.

Two things ran through my mind:
1. I’m seriously bad with directions. I’m going to follow the others.
2. I feel pretty good.

Side note: My Friday morning run was terrible. I ran six miles at what should’ve been an easy pace, and I felt like I was running with a brick on my chest. It’s not a feeling you want the day before a race.

On “Go!” the runner to my right shot off and I fell in line behind him. For the first half a mile I trained my eyes on his back watching the turns. Then he was gone. Fortunately the course was well marked since no other runners passed me. Where the heck were they? It’s an odd feeling being at the front of a group.

With a left turn near the end of mile 1, I saw a guy about a 1/4 mile behind me. Oh, good. If I’m no longer alone, maybe I won’t get off course.

By the end of the 2nd mile, I still felt strong. My pace was well under 8:00 which would keep me under a 50:00 finish. That was my contingent goal since a PR in July was a long shot.

The course was two 5k loops with a turn through the parking lot for the first loop. The same guy was still behind me. Closer now. It was a matter of time (or maybe a mile) before he passed me.

Heading out for the second loop we met 5k runners finishing their last mile. There were calls of encouragement from runners of both distances. I like to call out “good job” because I know how much it means to me in a race.

At a turn around mile 4 1/2, a volunteer told us we had it when I glanced back. There was one aid station on the course which we crossed at miles 1, 2, 4 & 5. I slowed at mile 5 for a drink. I was hot. I scooted over to the left so the same guy who was behind could go around. I said “sorry” as I moved. He said, “You’re my pacer.” He waited for me. As I picked up my speed I said “Well, I’ve been slowing down.” He offered me some water, which I declined. I guess I sounded like I was dying. We ended up running the entire last mile step for step. The finishing kick put me one second in front of him. That’s when I confirmed that I was 2nd place overall and first female for the 10k. My time was 48:22 which is only about 30 seconds from my PR. My pace per mile splits were 7:40, 7:52, 7:49, 8:10, 8:12, 8:10.

Lest I get a big head, I must admit there were a total of 14 finishers in the 10k and about 40 in the 5k. That keeps me grounded. But I liken it to leading a Saturday group run (which I never do because we have some fast runners in our group).

It was a fun race. Shady, mostly flat, snow cones, and it was for charity. I met some runners from a Facebook group. You can always tell who the blogger is – the one with the camera.

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And my summertime running was given another boost.

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Saturday will be my final race before I change age groups. As of today, the forecast is looking good for a 5k.

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