Still Run Your Races

Runners have been training long and hard to run races, set PR’s, and take on new challenges. Then we were hit with the Corona Virus Pandemic. All events with large gatherings were cancelled. This meant all of our races were cancelled for the foreseeable future. Social distancing became the new normal.

I think for many runners the initial news that races were being canceled was like a gut punch because so many of us had been planning so much of our lives around training and preparing for our races. Now that our races are cancelled what were we supposed to do with ourselves. I feel like that is just a very natural initial reaction to what we all know was the right decision, in cancelling races.

The new reality of social distancing reinforces some of the best aspects of running. We can run anywhere at any time with or without anyone. Running is a great sport because it doesn’t actually require a team. We can go out and run and train and compete against ourselves and achieve new feats in running without having to be around anyone else.

When I received news that my race I had been training for, the Finger Lakes Running Club Skunk Cabbage Half Marathon, was cancelled it was disappointing. But, it also reinforced something I have always known that is true for me and I suspect true for many of my fellow runners as well. I didn’t start running to run races. I didn’t start running to accumulate that sweet sweet swag. (Don’t get me wrong I do like myself some swag, but its not the reason I run.) I didn’t start running to set PR’s. When I started running I didn’t even start running to enjoy the company of others. So it was really a return to my running roots.

I started running to improve my health and fitness because that is what I know I needed to do for myself. Even with no races I can still work towards this goal. I was training for a half marathon because I enjoy running that distance and I like the challenge of it. The challenges running presents is one of the things I love about it. My goal for this race was to set a new PR at the half marathon distance at the only road race I generally run.

I had been enjoying training specifically for a half marathon this year. Why should I change what I was doing just because my race was cancelled? I could still push myself and experience the satisfying feeling of a hard workout. I could still run my scheduled runs on my training program. I could still feel myself getting fitter and faster. I could feel the difference in the runs that went well as well as in those that could have been better. Training actually became more fun after my race was cancelled because it allowed me to take it a little less seriously. I joined a friend for a 20 mile trail run when my previous long run for the year was only ten miles and I was “scheduled” for 11 road miles that day. That little extra freedom allowed me to have a really fun adventure.

I decided to run my virtual Skunk Cabbage Half Marathon on the Lackawanna Trail near my home, instead of travelling to Ithaca to run. The course would almost completely flat, not the hilly course that is the normal Skunk Cabbage route which I think I enjoy because it is more like trail running. I would not be able to run a loop course which is nice. I would have to run and out and back with a little added at the end for another turn around.

The first 4 miles of my race went pretty well. I was on pace and I was feeling well. Mile 5 is where I started to feel tired. I had been unsure if I could maintain the pace I needed in order to set a new PR. Only one 1 mile split from mile 5 to mile 12 was at the pace I needed to maintain in order to set a new PR. By around mile 8 or 9 it became clear that I would just have to try to stay close to the pace I needed and rely on being able to push hard on the final mile to get me that PR.

Coming into that last mile I was hurting. My hip flexors had been getting progressively tighter for miles and my left calf was cramping up. I ran that last mile hard. I pushed hard and kicked when I knew I was getting close to the end of the trail back where I had started. I was running hard and it felt like I might just do it.

Then it happened. I got back to the start of the trail and I still had a quarter mile to go. I was spent. I felt like I was going to vomit pushing at the pace I was at. I had to back off and run loops around the parking lot. Just hoping to hold on to just enough speed so that I could hit that PR. I checked my watch and saw that I was close to the finish and pushed on more time to make a go at a strong finish for a PR.

And then it was over. I had finished my race. I felt good about the effort. I ran about as hard as I could. It was really a struggle to try to push hard and stay outside your comfort zone for that long of a race. I kept falling back to a more comfortable pace. I ran a time of 1:50:28 according to Strava and according to Strava my half marathon PR was 1:49:37. It turns out that I missed setting a new PR by less than a minute.

You can see my run on Strava Virtual Skunk Cabbage Half.

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