Today I ran my second race of 2011. I wasn't exactly planning on it, not before last weekend when I registered anyway. Somehow having only my one big race this year wasn't enough, especially since I'm planning on being part of at least 3 next year (but knowing me, it'll be more).
I was reading the latest issue of Runner's World yesterday, and there was a brief article that hit home and explained clearly how I was feeling, and why I decided to register for the New Balance Fall Classic Run that took place this morning. The article suggested that runner's often experience an emotional lowness shortly after running a big important race. For months, there's dedicated training, working toward a big goal, culminating in the adrenaline-rush and 'runner's high' one gets with crossing a finish line, perhaps achieving a personal best, and perhaps receiving a medal to show off to friends and family. Shortly after the race comes rest, often illness, and no specific goals to work toward except for recovery, and nothing current to brag about. One remedy suggested by this article is to run a shorter distance race just for fun 4-6 weeks after a big race. You'll still reap the benefits of previous training, and be able to run the distance strong, but without the pressure of the "big race" that had all those weeks of build-up leading up to it. You'd think I had read the article last weekend when I registered for today's race, taking the article as advice. But I read it the day before the race and simply nodded my head, "yes" in agreement. This was exactly it.
I registered completely on a whim last weekend, finding the brochure while tidying up at home and thought, why not?! Over the course of the week I had a race to look ahead to, a nice new souvenir shirt, but not the nerves and pressure building knots in my tummy looking ahead to running a long distance or important race. 10km is a distance I enjoy running on a regular basis, and knowing that this race route would be a lot flatter and faster than routes in my neighbourhood, I got to look at this race with excitement. It's simply a fun maintenance run in the fall: one I get to do fast. But it also comes with the added enjoyment that comes with a race - a celebration of the sport of running, of fitness, of community, and of telling the -3 degree temperature that nothing will stop a group of dedicated runners from enjoying the elements.
This was a nice 10km loop (which gets doubled for half marathon runners) around the UBC campus. I enjoyed this aspect of it, as UBC had been like a second home to me for about 1/3 of my life. It was nice to return 'home' and give it a salute. It also meant that while I'd never run this exact route, I was somewhat familiar with the terrain given I'd run on campus many times over the course of my student and staff life. And it also meant that I never lined up for washrooms as I know where all the 'secret' ones are located.
The race organizers did a great job of sprinkling safety salt on the route to keep it free of ice. Aid stations were everywhere for the majority of runners who didn't bring their own water (not me - I'm always prepared!), bag-checks were quick and efficient, and the post-race celebration was very well done. It's rare to have an indoor place to hang out after the run, but even more rare for there to be places to sit while having a post-run snack. There were all kinds of goodies for runner's to enjoy, including cake, Nanaimo bars, and chilli (along with the usual bananas and bagels), which many took more than advantage of. I just grabbed a cup of hot coffee from Ethical Bean, enjoyed the awards ceremony and checked out some of the exhibitors before returning home. Props to the organizing crew for a great race! I know these things take a lot of work.
As for my run, I ran strong, averaging a pace of just about 5:40/km. I took one brief 30s walk break to have some GU gel, but otherwise, ran continuous and ran hard. It didn't feel as fast as it was, because it being such a flat course required less effort than I'm used to living in North Vancouver. I took the downhills at a 5:00 pace and slowed for the ups. I took the home stretch at a 4:00 pace. But with the sub-zero temperature, it was still a hard effort I'm feeling more so now than I did during. But what I'm mostly feeling is that renewed excitement and adrenaline rush that comes with being part of a race, regardless that it was one I didn't train specifically for or put up on a pedestal in the way I did my recent half marathon.
I also enjoyed that it was a smaller, lower profile race, with roughly 1000 attendees; with the exception of the beginning, I had plenty of room to run and rarely got slowed down by crowds. I crossed the finish line in 57:02 (unofficial time according to my Garmin) and with a big smile on my face; I had fun. And I have a feeling everyone today did. I saw lots of smiles, lots of high fives, lots of enthusiastic cheers, and lots of hugs. This is what running is all about.