Ten miles is NO JOKE.
It becomes kind of a joke, though, when your pants won’t stay on your ass, and your hydration belt is a piece of shit in which the bottle of water won’t actually stay, and you spend the first half mile trying to come to grips with the very reality than the next 9 and a half miles you will still be yanking your suddenly ill-fitting leggings back up your ass with one hand because the other one is now carrying your non-disposable $40 water bottle the entire way.
And then it becomes just plain maddening when at mile 3.5 you’re just inside the runners’ lane of cones when a driver decides it wants more space for its little 4-door than one whole lane and clips a runner (you) and honks to scare you into not being anywhere near the outer edge of the lane.
In short, my first ten mile race was a total mess.
I have been running in tank tops, but I wanted to wear my Army Ten Miler training t-shirt. Because that’s what I wanted this race to be. The Potomac River Running race series is popular and all, but I don’t love them. I signed up because I was getting increasingly anxious for the Ten Miler distance and after how surprisingly great I felt after my 10K, I wanted to keep my momentum going. And I wanted to run the full ten mile distance before the Army Ten Miler, but frankly? Ten miles scared me. It just sounds so FULL. I wanted to go into the ATM knowing I could do it. But I also didn’t want to hit ten miles for the first time alone in my neighborhood on a training run. Signing up for the Perfect 10 felt like the best way to show myself I could do ten miles, have it mean something in the moment, but go into the big ATM with a better strategy.
I didn’t want to tell anyone I was doing the race because I felt like I might have been driving people crazy with my race posts every weekend. I sort of filled up my fall with races – ever since the end of August, getting back into bibbing up, setting PR’s, picking out race outfits… it’s been what I’ve looked forward to every week.
But one, I knew not everyone was as supercalifragilistic thrilled about my races as I am, or as impressed with my progress as I am (okay, more like incredulous than impressed… my speed is pretty unimpressive), and two: I wasn’t sure I could do it.
The only person I told was my friend Laila. I knew if there was only one person I could tell, because I knew I would need at least one person to be sending me encouraging vibes, it would be Laila. My sweet friend Laila is everyone’s biggest cheerleader. She has the most generous heart, infectious laughter, BEST sense of humor, and is all-around an amazing friend. When I told her the race was a top secret mission, she was all in.
The first thing that went wrong (besides my being totally in my head that I couldn’t do it at a 13:30 pace requirement to finish in under 2 hours and 15 minutes) was realizing that my Under Armour leggings were not staying up. Yes, embarrassing. Also, alarming. I had run in them before. Five miles I had run in them before. In fact the reason I’d chosen to wear them today was because of how comfortably they’d fit when I’d worn them before.
I don’t know if it’s that my butt has gotten smaller or the leggings changed shape in the wash but something FUNKY was going on when I was trying to warm my legs up before the race got underway. They just kept inching down.
Hoo boy. This was going to be an even longer race than I’d thought.
Part of the reason I was sold on this race was because I’d hiked the area before. It’s in Reston, and I had hiked around Lake Thoreau earlier this year on an absolutely gorgeous day and fell in love with the area. At the same time, the fact that I knew the area from a HIKE prepared me that this was not going to be a flat and fast course like my 10K had been on. Virginia can be a hilly-ass mo-fugga, and I was glad I had spent all those miles running the hills around my neighborhood at home.
Very few stretches of the course were flat. It was really hard to find a rhythm. Every mile was a victory. I’d run 8 miles in training before and a few of the miles ticked off like nothing, but that was NOT the case at all today. Each mile was a fight – with my ill-fitting apparel, with my gear, with my tired legs. I hadn’t run the day before – I’d pushed my legs hard biking at the gym on Friday night and didn’t want to totally wear them out. Turns out they weren’t totally refreshed yet. And my feet were killing me – these Glycerins just are not cutting it for distances.
At 3.5 miles a car cutting it way too close to the cones clipped me. It all happened so fast and I was in such shock that it happened I didn’t really process it. I couldn’t, really. It clipped me, honked, I cried “What the fuck?!” and looked around at my fellow runners who all seemed startled, and just kept running while holding out my hands at the passing driver to let him know he was a total douchebag.
It’s amazing to me that it didn’t stop me. I remember thinking “well if there’s any reason to quit, it’s getting sort of hit by a car right? that would be a good excuse to quit right?”
But I was almost 4 miles in and I wanted that freaking medal. I didn’t want to have gotten Laila up so early, dragged her 30 miles out of town, only to walk back empty-handed.
It was difficult to get excited about passing mile markers knowing I had so much farther to go and none of the miles were feeling any easier. I often had to remind myself of some helpful quotes, like “Right when you feel like quitting, take just one more step. Then another.”
It was TORTURE to pass the 10K split at South Lakes High School. The 10K-ers had .2 miles to go as they turned right and I looked ahead and felt like another 4 miles was unimaginable. I looked in yearning in the direction of the 10K-ers turning while pushing my feet forward. There was no turning back now.
Instead of thinking about 4 more miles I thought about .5 more miles. Then even if I quit and turned back I could say I’d done more than a 10K that morning. Then I thought about running for just three more minutes before I could stop to walk. Then two more. Then I passed the mile 7 marker.
It was about here that things started to get surreal. I had about fifty feet in front of me to the next runner and fifty feet behind me to the runner behind. I was spent. I was impatient. My feet were done. My thighs were done, both from running and from chafing against those god-forsaken leggings. What I needed was a dose of reality.
I am a pretty slow runner as it is, so it’s not terribly difficult for me to shoot off a text with a number when I pass a mile marker. But as I trudged up a hill, I felt the race was never going to end.
The 8th mile was the longest of my life. Not really – it was the longest of the race, at 11:56, but if my slowest mile of a 10 mile race was under 12 minutes, I am not going to complain. It was only a couple of months ago I was praying I could finish a 10-miler in 2 hours flat, at averaging 12:00 a mile. A couple of months before that I could never have kept a 12:00 pace for 10 miles. Today, I kept a sub-11:30 pace.
I somehow found it in my body to keep in running motion for the last 2 miles, not stopping to walk even when I saw some runners veer off the course to pee in the woods like I so badly wanted to do. Even when I felt like maybe my toenail might be starting to come off. Even when I knew if I stopped to walk I would probably still finish in under 2 hours, I kept running. It was slow running, but it was faster than walking.
What I could not do was muster the strength to sprint the final few yards and shave a few seconds off my time. I was hurting and felt sick and felt that it being my first race, who cared about a few seconds?
Knowing my official chip time, though was 1:54:01, I kinda wish I’d pushed it juuuust a bit and gotten under 1:54, even if just by a second. Ah, well. The time to beat on October 20, I suppose.
Age Group: 32/37
Chip time: 1:54:01
Average pace: 11:24/mile
Listen, I am not nor will I ever be Kara Goucher or sponsored athlete or maybe never even place in my age group. But today I did something that a year ago if you had told me I would do I would have laughed uproariously and then probably cried into my donut. I have a few friends who when I tell them what I’m up to in running they laugh and shake their heads and say things like “The day I run 10 miles, yeah right.” I laugh to myself because I was saying the same thing so very not long ago.
I have worked so hard this year. When people tell me they’ll never run 10 miles, I try to tell them if they ever want to, don’t think for a second that they can’t. The question is only “will.” And I have mustered up all the will I have this year to get out there and train.
So much so that my now skinny little ass can’t even keep a pair of leggings up.
I may never win the race, but if you ask me, I’m still a Perfect 10.