Beth Wallace, a dietition at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, will be chronicling the journey of her and her motley group of roomates as they battle it out for supremacy in the Broad Street Run. In this second installment, she talks about trying to run faster.
I am decidedly out of racing shape.
Recently, my regular five mile loop feels like 10. The Manayunk hills feel like mountains. And last week I got smoked by a group of 8th grade boys at the track.
For the last 3 years, I have poured all of my training energy into running marathons. Unfortunately, becoming proficient in running long and slow doesn't help you come home with Broad Street bragging rights.
As my speed and motivation slowly dwindle, my roommates seem to be having no problem at all. Joe and Soup barely broke a sweat on their eight mile runs this weekend, and after being sidelined for a week with shin splints, J.P. is back on the road.
I need to get faster. So this past Saturday, I decided it was time to shake up my running routine with a 5K. My friends Julia and Lucy met me at the Art Museum to run the 3.1 mile race on a road that I could run with my eyes closed. The difference? Instead of "long and slow," today would be "short and fast."
To say that I was out of my element at a 5K race is an understatement. The runners came in two distinct groups. Half of the group looked like they do this for a living, decked out in their running singlets and racing flats, while the other group looked like someone forced them out of bed much earlier than they had anticipated to support a good cause.
I signed in and headed over to the steps to meet the girls. As we walked to the start area, I realized that I had absolutely no strategy for this race.
"How fast do you want to run today?" Julia said.
"Uhhhhh, fast-ish," I said, and Julia nodded. Julia and I have run together for several years, and she knows the exact definition of "fast-ish." Lucy, however, was confused. Julia explained that our invented term means fast to the point where you think you are going to throw up, but not at the point where you actually vomit.
"You two are crazy. I'm going to the back," she said as she walked away.
The gun went off, and so did we. We settled into our pace just before the first mile. Just after the first mile I realized that the cheese tortellini I had eaten for dinner the night before was a bad choice.
Before the halfway point, I looked up and saw the front of the pack. (Note: I never see the front of the pack in a race … unless I am watching from the sidewalk). I looked at Julia and she was barely breathing faster than normal. She was having a good day, and I was struggling and had to slow down. I told her to leave me and go for it.
Three miles and one stop at the "Potty Queen " porta-potty later, I crossed the finish line with my slowest 5K time, but a big smile on my face. For the first time in weeks, I actually had fun running. The girls had a great running day: Julia had finished in second place, and Lucy set her own personal record.
So no matter what shape I am in when I get to the line on May 6th, I'm going to try to have fun. I think it's one of the most addictive things about running: You just never know what is going to happen on race day. Some days you're (almost) the winner, and some days you're in the Potty Queen.