On Saturday, May 12, I made history.
May 12 was the 35th annual Fifth Third River Bank Run. Over 20,000 runners came from around the world to compete in a full morning of races, including a 5K, 10K, and a 25K. The 25K is the main event: it is the largest 25K road race in the country and draws a number of elites.
In late August, I was telling one of my very good friends at school about my first 5K and how much I enjoyed it even though it was a small race. During that conversation, my friend challenged me to run the River Bank 10K. I was intimidated initially, but it took all of 24 hours for me to make up my mind that I wanted to run the race.
River Bank was unlike any other race I’ve competed in up to this point. Nearly 5,000 runners signed up for the 10K alone. That’s almost 20 times larger than the field for my second 5K, which had a field four times larger than my first 5K. The size of the event was more inspiring than intimidating, but it did make a big difference in my racing. I really had no idea who was registered for the 10K, and the sheer number of people made it difficult to attempt to keep track of the same person to try to pass them or stay ahead of them, which was something I did a lot of in my first two 5Ks. This really forced me to run my own race rather than focusing on competing with others, which, realistically, was probably a good way to approach my first 10K.
I got to the race about an hour and a half before the 10K started, and I spent most of that time getting more and more antsy. Two heats of the 5K started before my race, and I just wanted to run. After the second 5K heat started I got into the starting corral and hung around the 10:00 minute pace group, since that’s what I intended on running. I had my phone on me, and fifteen minutes or so before the race began, the same friend who challenged me to the race called me. He was running the 10K as well and wanted to know where I was. He found me and we chatted for awhile before the race began.
We crossed the starting line about two minutes after the race officially began and started off at a really comfortable pace (for me). While we were waiting to begin, my friend decided to run the first mile with me, so he stuck by my side for the first bit of the race, which I really appreciated. I had expected to run the race completely solo, so it was so nice to have some company. He left me with a fist bump and a “See you at the finish line,” after the first mile marker and got up to his normal speed while I continued plodding along.
The next two and a half miles were really great. There was decent crowd support along that area of the course, which is something else I’m not at all used to in races but definitely loved. My ever-sore calves gave me a little bit of trouble right before the three mile mark, but that went away probably within half a mile.
The last 2.7 miles of the race weren’t bad, but they certainly weren’t as good as the first few. My final long run (five miles) was last Saturday, and it was miserable in nearly every sense of the word, and the long run before that (seven miles), while not bad, was run entirely in the rain and 45 degrees, so it had been awhile since I had had a decent long run, and I was beginning to feel it. I’ve been a smidge sniffly this week, and my bronchial tube doesn’t appreciate long runs and respiratory infections, so around this point my chest began to ache from all the heavy breathing, as it tends to do on these occasions. Not fun.
I also had some serious morale issues around mile 4. The crowd at this point of the race was absolutely fantastic: there were people everywhere cheering really loud and it was very encouraging. However, somewhere in this madness I missed the four-mile marker (or maybe there wasn’t one? I don’t really know). I had my Garmin on but I knew it was measuring wrong because I had started it early. The end result of this was that I thought I was still in the third mile for significantly longer than I was, and that was really discouraging until I came to my senses and realized that my Garmin was not over half a mile off.
4.5ish miles in was also where the hills began on the course. I’ve been slightly judgmental in the past of the people who complain about the hill on Roosevelt at the end of the Chicago Marathon and Shamrock Shuffle because, to be honest, the hill is not that steep or long. However, all of that judgment went away Saturday, when after the 4.5 mile mark (more or less, judging by my inaccurate Garmin), I encountered three hills at around 4.5 miles, 5 miles, and 5.25 miles. Realistically, these hills were far from intimidating. They were gentle and not very long. However, at that point hills were the last thing I wanted to deal with, so that was less than awesome.
I was dead tired for the last mile and very ready to finish the race, but pushed through it to the finish line. My friend had finished the race about 15 minutes earlier and was just a little bit beyond the line, ready with a huge hug, a wonderful congratulations, and a declaration that now I am “officially a runner.” 🙂
Being able to share a bit of the race and my post-race pride with the person who was the entire reason I ran the race made every bit of discomfort in the last few miles completely worth it. I had been planning on eventually running a 10K since last summer, but by “eventually” I meant “around age 24 or 25.” I would not have run on Saturday if it hadn’t been for his challenge, but I’m so grateful for it. Training for this race took my love of running to a whole new level and pushed me beyond what I ever would have imagined was possible. I am very blessed 🙂
I ended with a time of 1:05:21. I can’t say I was wildly surprised by my time, because on my two 7-milers that’s the time it took me to run 6.2. However, I was expecting to run the race a little faster than my training. I’m not exactly disappointed, though after looking through the results and seeing all the familiar names in my age group come before my name, I do wish I had been able to run it a little faster (ah, the curse of being fiercely competitive). If I’m being honest, though, I probably couldn’t have run a whole lot faster than I did, and since it was my first 10K finishing period was really higher on my priority list than finishing fast. Besides, it’s nice to have a low standard set: it makes PR-ing easier the next time around 😉
I have another 5K coming up this Saturday, which should be interesting. PR-ing would be fantastic, but even on my recent 3-milers I haven’t run anywhere near my normal 5K race pace, or even my normal 5K training pace. However, this race promises to have a lot more familiar faces, so maybe my competitive spirit will help me out 😉 . There’s another 10K in about a month that I have my eye on, but the timing’s a little rough, so I don’t know if I’ll do that or not. Other than that, I plan on backing off a little on the running for the next six weeks or so. I kept up my strength training more or less during my 10K training, but with all my running I didn’t have time to focus on it as much as I would have liked to, so I hope to build that back up in my mini running vacation. I’ve got some pretty big running plans for September and a slightly smaller but still big running hopes for November, so I don’t want to burn myself out before then. All in all, I’m looking at five or six more races this year. I think it’s safe to say I’ve been severely bit by the running bug 🙂