On the 10th of February, I ran my second 10K. As I mentioned back in early January, my goal for this 10K was to beat a one-hour finishing time. In January, I had completed both an 18-mile and a 20-mile run with my training group, the LA Leggers, and so I was feeling pretty good. But going into February, I knew I had an event to attend on Groundhog Day that was going to prevent me from meeting up with the Leggers, which somehow made it seem more acceptable in my mind to miss out on mid-week runs that week, meaning an entire missed week of training a week out from the 10K!
I was worried that the missed week might mean I wouldn’t be in good shape for the 10K. But when I did my mid-week runs during the week of the 10K, I was feeling pretty good. I did a 3.14 mile run (Pi! And about a 5K) on that Thursday in 28 minutes, which is a quick enough pace to finish the 10K in under an hour, provided I could sustain it for twice the distance. That made me feel much more confident.
On the morning of the race, I made my way into the horde of runners at the starting line, all set to get started on the run. The starting gun sounded (not an actual gun) and the horde lurched forward gradually to cross the starting line. Each individual runner is given a timing chip prior to the race, which is attached to the shoe using twist-ties. Electronic sensors under the starting line and the finish line make it possible for each runner to get his or her exact time for the race based on the timing chip. This was how I determined my running time for the 10K in December, and how I could be sure I would know my actual time for the 10K in February in spite of the fact that it took a while in that big crowd to make it over the starting line once the clock was started.
I felt pretty good through the first half of the race or so, which took us through some Santa Monica streets up through the corner of Ocean and San Vicente. The route then turned East, heading up San Vicente a couple miles before turning around and looping back to finish on Ocean Avenue. Going East on San Vicente was an uphill climb, and the further up I got the more convinced I became that I wasn’t going to meet my sub-hour aspirations. I was moving to slow, I thought, and I didn’t feel very strong. At each mile, volunteers with synchronized timers called out the current time, and when I passed the five mile mark (1.2 miles left to run), the time was 52 minutes and change. Knowing that it takes better than a 10-minute mile pace to break an hour on a 10K, having less than 8 minutes to clear the last 1.2 miles seemed impossible.
The impulse to slow down—to give in to the sense of defeat I was already feeling—weighed heavy on my torso, my knees, and my feet, even though coming back down San Vicente was a nice, gradual downhill stride.
But I didn’t slow down. I did, however, fail to find the energy to push harder. I kept running, thinking maybe I’ll still beat my time from December, even if I don’t break the hour mark.
And I crossed the finish line. The clock at the finish said something like 1 hour, 1 minute, and 40-some seconds. This was better than my time in December. And it still wasn’t my personal chip time, from when my shoe crossed the sensor at the finish. Had it taken me a full minute and forty-some seconds to get across the starting line? I had no idea. It could have been 30 seconds or 3 minutes, for all I knew.
So I went home and found the page online where I’d be able to view my official time. And I spent my entire afternoon clicking “refresh,” waiting on the numbers to be posted.
Finally, they came in.
My time: 59:57.0. Hooray! Goal achieved!
In less than 2 weeks, I will be running the LA Marathon. It’s like running a 10K and then keeping going for another 20 miles. The race will finish by taking San Vicente down to Ocean Avenue, turning left, and crossing the finish line.
I’ve done this.
I can do this.