Saturday, April 20, 2019

4 Things I've Learned While Running Races

In just about a week, I will start training for the Chicago Marathon. I am equal parts excited and terrified. To make this journey a true adventure, and to maintain my love for the sport, I decided to run at least one race every month this year. I ran the Frigid 5K in January—and I've completed four more races since then. Each one of them taught me a valuable lesson.

Ice Fest 5K 

Conditions were not ideal for this local 5K. February in Michigan is a solid guarantee for snow coverage on the ground. A bulk of the course was clear as can be, with a small portion of it covered completely in snow.

Conditions were not ideal for this local 5K. In February in Michigan, you are almost always guaranteed two things: Cold temps and snow-covered streets and sidewalks. We got both. I can deal with the cold, but snow and ice on streets and sidewalks...ugh. The route for this race saw plenty of clear streets and sidewalks, but a portion of the path was almost completely covered in snow. To make matters worse, it was snow sucked your feet down into it. Hard to run through, for sure.

Here's what happened: Ahead of that snow-covered section, I was trailing the lead female by seconds.  I had an opportunity to pass her, but held back thinking it was too early to surge forward.

I should have surged forward. Had I done that, I might have been able to keep her behind me. But I hit the snow-covered section and lost a passable distance. Ultimately, she finished ahead of me.

Lesson learned: Don't hold back. If you get the opportunity to make a move...if you feel ready to make that it. Surge forward and see where it takes you. (Life lesson as well, perhaps?)

St. Pat's Day 5K

I've got a bit of a dance going on with two other ladies in my age group. We keep running the same races, and ultimately sharing that top spot on both the podium and in our age group. At this race, it was my turn to be the first female to finish.

With one surging ahead of me and the other staying close behind, I knew I had to run a really smart race. I kept tabs on the girl behind me and set my sights on the girl ahead of me. I slowly increased my speed, reserving as much energy as I could for that surge I knew I'd need. This allowed me to create some distance between myself and the girl behind me, while shortening the space between myself and the girl ahead of me. When that space became nothing more than a step or two, I made my move.

Lesson learned: Run smart, not fast. Fast will be smart when the time is right. Practice patience, and you'll find that time.

Shamrock Shuffle 8K

This was a fun race. A test of my ability to keep up. I ran it with my running buddy, who is much faster than I am when he wants to be. One of the reasons I like running with him: He pushes me. Or, in this case, pulls me along. This race was his way of getting me out of my comfort zone, which he did quite successfully. I pushed myself—hard. And it hurt. But I believed in myself largely because he believed in me, too.

When my clients tell me an exercise felt especially hard, I tell them it's because they can handle it and they're pushing themselves to new levels of strength. I remembered that as I was running this race.

Lesson learned: Trust your training and embrace the suck. Don't shy away from the burn. Embrace it because you can. And you will.

Sarett Spring Stampede

Oh, trails. How I loathe (and love) you. This 5K was my very first trail race. Sure, I've clocked miles (and races) on grass before, but never up and down hills in the woods. Official hiking trails these were! This race was hard. I chased the two girls in my age group I always seem to be dancing with. They ultimately beat me, but that's okay.

Lesson learned: We all have our strengths and weaknesses. My weaknesses are trails. But it's our weaknesses that present the greatest challenges, and taking on those challenges makes us better runners. Work on your weaknesses, don't shy away from them. 

Next race?
Another local 5K in May.

But first, just one week until I kick off marathon training. I am so excited for the Chicago Marathon. Nervous, but excited. Every step I take will be for The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. If you feel it in your heart to help me find a cure for cystic fibrosis, I would be forever grateful for your donation.

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