I’ve wanted to run the Solider Field 10 Mile for years, but it just never worked out. When registration rolled around for this year’s race, I happily signed up, went to put it on my calendar, and realized that the race would take place a mere six days after the Chicago Spring 13.1.
“No worries!” I said to myself. “It’s just like marathon training!”
Oh, how the overconfident fall.
Speaking of marathon training, I am now the proud (?) owner of two dark grey Nike short sleeve shirts, as this year’s Soldier Field shirt is the same as last year’s marathon shirt, just with different printing, obviously.
I was not in any way worried about Soldier Field. In fact, after seeing the day’s weather–low 50s, calm, low humidity–I decided to gun for a PR. I had my eyes on a 1:29, which would have been about a two minute PR for me.
Since blaming other people is way more satisfying than accepting responsibility for your own performance, I would argue that I did have the deck stacked against me, because Fleet Feet has it in for me. For the second time (the BTN Big 10K in 2013 being the first time), I was placed in a corral where I did NOT belong. While I will admit that I said I’d run a 10:00 pace when I registered, I was somehow put all the way back in corral 11, where the FASTEST runners were shooting for 1:45. I’ve never even come close to touching 1:45 in a road 10 mile, and all of my CARA training partners–ALL of which I smoked at the Lakefront 10, thank you very much–were in corral 5. I was not at all pleased, because I know that to run well, I need to be around runners who will push me. Ain’t no one running a 10:30 pace going to push me to a 1:29.
I lined up in the very front of my corral and freaking went for it once they let us go. I wanted to get as far away from those scrubs as possible. I ran an 8:52 first mile, which was just about where I wanted to be, and already had caught up to the people in the back of corral 10.
I lost a lot of speed quickly, doing more like 9:30s-9:45s, which wouldn’t get me my 1:29, but at least wasn’t terrible. I felt pretty good and was passing people left and right, but I couldn’t find and settle into a pace.
This course goes south on Lake Shore Drive and then returns north on the Lakefront Trail, so for most of the race you can see people going in the other direction. Not that long after I hit mile 4, I saw a medical Gator driving in my direction, and then I saw a guy on the ground, surrounded by probably 5-7 other runners, one of which was performing chest compressions on him. I know this happens in races rather frequently, but I’ve never seen it happen, and honestly, it was terrifying. I have no idea what happened–the ambulance arrived shortly after I passed the area, and he wasn’t there when I ran past it on the return–but it was so, so scary to see.
I was still feeling fine at the turnaround (albeit a little shook up), and then probably somewhere in the neighborhood of mile 7 or so I met my old friend, the wall. While I have bonked on a 10 mile training run, I’ve never bonked in any race other than the marathon, and let me tell you, it is a HUMBLING experience. My legs could barely move, and I did have to walk the water portion of an aid station, which I don’t recall ever doing in a race other than the marathon (though I could be misremembering). I wasn’t even touching 9:xx miles anymore. I was angry, frustrated, and so, so disappointed.
I did NOT want to finish in 1:40 or more, so I have it everything I had for that stretch through Soldier Field and onto the field itself, and finished in 1:39:41.
Continuing our theme of “things I’ve never done outside a marathon,” I cried after I finished, not because I was so relieved or overcome with what I had done, but because I was so bummed out over how things went. Never in my life have I had that bad of a race (so I suppose this was long overdue), and it was incredibly upsetting.
I collected my gear, my runner refresh bag, and my thoughts on the lawn, and then went to whine to my coworker (who, fortunately, was much more sympathetic about the whole thing than my mom, who apparently did not pick up from my text that I wanted pity, not realism. Hahaha.). I didn’t stick around very long, because I had bigger and better things to get to – like packing for vacation.
Realistically, expecting so much out of myself six days after a half when I’m not in marathon training was a bit ambitious. Heck, running a 10 miler six days after my half–a half that left me more beat up than any half since my first–was a bit ambitious. I should have had lower expectations. But, I think this race was good for me. My head isn’t that big, I don’t think, but I’ve never blown up at a race before, and these sorts of things keep you humble, which is good. As I talk about far too often, I do very much want to qualify for Boston in the next five years, and I imagine the road to a BQ is paved with frustration, disappointment, and bad days. It’s part of this sport. What matters is whether you take that disappointment and throw in the towel, or if you let it set a fire in your belly–something to motivate you for the next race, something to remember if you blow it again. And now I have a shiny medal in my cork board and a bright orange bib above my bed to remind me that things don’t always go as planned, but one bad race doesn’t define you or your running career.