Yesterday, I ran the Greenville News Run Downtown 5K.
Yesterday, I shed the final lingering doubts about whether I could ever be the runner I was before I tore up my knee.
Yesterday, I set a new 5K PR in 23:06.
Or was it all a dream?
It was cold, very cold, yesterday morning as about 2,000 runners lined up for the Greenville News Run Downtown 5K. It’s the kick-off to the racing season in South Carolina, and a very popular race (despite the normally very cold weather). I got a late start to the race course because of the weather, and never found anyone I was looking to hook up with before the race.
The start is at 9 a.m., which theoretically should give it time to warm up, but yesterday was not just cold, it was cloudy and windy. It was 27 degrees at the start, and didn’t warm up during the race. Because I got there late, I wound up near the back, where it was very crowded.
And because of my poor choice of starting position, I wound up trying to navigate through walkers and much slower runners for the first few miles. Before I started, I planned to set a new, “post-surgery” PR in around 25 minutes. If I was feeling really good, I would try for a new PR of under 24:45. Now, I ran about a 24:40 5K split during my Turkey Day 8K on Thanksgiving, so I knew it was possible — if my legs would hold up and I was feeling as good as I was that day. To get a PR, I just had to average under an 8 minute pace. I did that on the 8K. I could do that on the 5K.
So most of the first mile was a bit slower than I intended. After an initial downhill portion, the first mile is mostly a light uphill grade. Nothing too significant, but if you go out too fast, you could wind up in trouble. I finished the first mile in 7:45 exactly. That was a great pace.
The second mile is mostly downhill. There are two short rises, but it mostly heads back in toward downtown. I felt really good, though the course was fairly crowded and I never could get the head of steam that I thought I might be able to get on a downhill grade. I finished the second mile in 7:14 – or a 14:58 total. All I had to do was run under 10 minutes for the last 1.1 and I’d have my PR. I knew I could do that.
The third mile is the toughest. There is a short, fairly steep grade, and I did stop at one point to catch my breath and re-tie my shoe after I charged up the hill faster than I probably should have. You come up Richardson Street, past the bus station and up to East North Street, where the race turns down Main Street and heads all downhill for the final half mile to the finish.
I started to push myself, but not enough that I was sprinting. I found a nice steady pace and finished the last 1.1 in 8:07. I got my PR.
But I didn’t just get a PR. I realized that all my moaning and wailing about my knee is all behind me. I was in a really dark place in 2009. My recovery wasn’t going well, and it took more than 2 months for me to be able to get a full revolution on a bicycle. Running at all – let alone at a level BETTER than I did before the injury – seemed like complete folly.
Only 18 months later, I smash my 5K PR.
Or did I? My chip never registered an official result and after looking through 1,000 images of the race on my local newspaper’s website, there are no photos of me running.
Well, if it was a dream, it was one hell of a dream, and I’ll take it to the bank.
I finished 30th out of 122 (top 25%) in my age group yesterday, and 265th out of 1759 (top 15%) overall. That’s not too shabby, and better (percentage wise) than I did at the 8K on Thanksgiving.
One year ago, I ran this race in just under 30 minutes. One year ago, I struggled and took three walk breaks.
None of that matters now. It’s all behind me. I now get to delete the “post-surgery” designation after my 5K PR. And now I’m looking for a 10K where I can smash my PR in that distance.
Run long friends.
Post Script: After the race, I had the good fortune to run in to Randy Coffee, who I speak with on a regular basis on Daily Mile and Twitter. He and his wife had a hot chocolate at Coffee Underground while I tried to warm up with coffee. It was great to put a face with a name from the Run Net Community. All you guys are great and I always appreciate the motivation!
And one other note: The good thing about being good friends with the person who owns the timing company is that he will manually add my result. So I will have an official, unofficial result!