I have spent the better part of 2020 searching for wins. I have not always worked as hard as I would like to seek out those wins, but at a time when I am stuck at home and the world outside feels like it is falling apart, any little victory makes things feel a little more normal (and 2020 has been anything but “normal”).
Last Sunday morning I had a pretty big win. I wasn’t expecting much when I left the house to run the Maine Marathon Virtual 5K. My training had been OK, but I also slacked off quite a bit. I wasn’t feeling great when I woke up and I was fighting myself over where to run this “time trial” and what to wear, until I actually pressed start on my Garmin and took off.
I fought through those moments of self doubt, those questions of “why even bother to do this,” to run a decent 5K. My time of 22:58 is more than a minute slower than my personal best, but is in the top 15 of all the 5Ks I have ever run. And at a time when I have felt bored with running, when running more often than not hurts, and when it is hard to get motivated to do the work because there are so many other stresses wearing me down, it was definitely a win to break 23 minutes.
Sunday’s effort was the first time I had “raced” a 5K since March when I did the Perryman’s Pub Virtual 5K. I was working my way back into running and training after my knees begged for mercy at Chicago when I ran that 5K (which was also in the very early stages of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders). The 23:51 I ran wasn’t great, but it felt good considering a month earlier I was still throwing in walk breaks to most of my runs.
When I left the house to run the Maine Marathon Virtual 5K, I told myself I’d be happy with a repeat performance. My workouts were all geared toward running 7:45ish pace and that pace felt like pretty hard work. All my intervals at that pace felt doable, but then I ran a mile at what I thought was 5K pace in the midst of a run, and 7:41 felt super hard. Like, all-out-mile-pace hard.
So when I finished the first mile on Sunday in 7:29, I was surprised and nervous. Surprised because I ran 7:29 and it didn’t feel like I was sprinting. Nervous because I was sure I was going to blow up.
I said “fuck it” though and decided to just keep going at this effort. If I blew up, so what, I was close enough to home to walk or jog back.
The thing is, I didn’t blow up. I started to hurt quite a bit in the second mile, my legs getting heavy and my breathing getting labored, but I fought it off and ran 7:25. With 1.1 to go, I decided to just go for it. I knew once I turned back onto Ludlow Street, I knew I had a little downhill to carry me for a bit. I ignored my watched and pushed. Then I turned down Jeanne Street for the final stretch. That last quarter of a mile was a fight. I felt like I was stomping the ground as opposed to the slight fall forward, quickly get my feet off the ground form I try to run with. I heard my watch beep as I ticked past mile 3 (7:20), then stared at it while sprinting (if you could call what I was doing at that point sprinting) until it finally hit 3.1.
That time trial, virtual race, whatever you want to call it was a win. A win I badly needed. I’ve taken it pretty easy in the week since, but will start to ramp up again soon as I prepare to run a few more 5K time trial/virtual races in Novemeber. I’ll do that training with the knowledge that even though I feel like a slug, I can still run a decent (for me) 5K and if I work a harder, I know I’m capable of much more.
In a year where the world feels like a dumpster fire, I’ll take all the wins I can get.