I am pleased to report that this weekend I ran the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k. This was the 18th annual running of this event and it has become quite a phenomenon in our city. Despite it only being a 10k (instead of offering multiple race distances in one event) it tends to draw around 30,000 participants year after year. All sorts of runners from beginner to pro show up. People even travel from out of state to run this 10k.
I feel like such an iconic race demands my participation. I’ve lived here for over ten years but this is only the second time I’ve been brave enough to sign up. I was excited to run this one not only to see how I would do, but to also see how much of a difference I could make over my performance in the last race.
The race itself isn’t too demanding. It really only has three turns, otherwise it’s a straight shot up Monument Ave and back. Monument Ave, for those that aren’t aware is a very wide road here in Richmond that features several statues of historical figures relevant to the area. It’s a beautiful road, featuring a big median with a lot of open grass areas as well as pretty fall/ spring trees. A fun fact, a portion of the road itself is actually registered as a national historical landmark. The course is very flat with only a few feet of vertical change, and like I said it’s very straight. It’s an easy course and it’s a nice place to run, so it makes sense it draws such a big crowd. There is no shortage of live bands playing and spectators with funny signs cheering you on. For an uninitiated runner it’s a good race to run as it could really get someone excited about running more races!
The race had a few ups and downs for me. The start was really slow. With so many racers present it took a long time for my wave to start. Next year I need to select an earlier wave; we ended up standing around for almost an hour waiting to run the race. By that time most of my warm ups had worn off and I was jumping in place and doing mini-stretches to try to stay limber and warm. Once we finally got to the start I was trapped behind a bunch of other runners. I spent the first half mile trying to maneuver around them. It wasn’t until the first mile was done that the pack started to thin out. After that I didn’t have too many issues getting around the other runners.
Despite having to dance around a lot of people the first mile was surprisingly easy! Sure, it was a little slower than normal with all the foot traffic, but I barely even felt like I had been running by the first mile marker. The second mile came and went almost as easily. It wasn’t until around the end of the third mile that it really started hitting me. When I reached the halfway/5k mark I was breathing pretty heavily. I had made it into fatigue territory. I was really surprised and pleased to find that even though I was feeling tired I wasn’t having that much of a problem pushing forward. My pace hadn’t really slowed that much and despite me feeling tired I wasn’t getting a bunch of panic signals from my brain to stop running. It was just after mile 4 when things started to go downhill.
There was a water station shortly after the 4 mile mark. I took this opportunity to slow down quite a bit and drink some water. I think maybe I slowed down too much or for too long but once I started trying to run full force again my body started fighting me. My pace had slowed considerably and I felt bad for the first time during the race. Around mile 4.5 I started getting a pain in my right quad. Not really a cramp, but a tightness and a burning sensation. By this point I had got my pace going a little better and decided to try to fight through the pain. Luckily it was a good decision and in a few minutes the pain diminished and I was running at a pretty good pace again. The remainder of the race was pretty smooth. I was definitely breathing hard and I was hurting but my body kept up and didn’t let me down. Normally I shine at the end of a run and I can manage to dig deep and pull from some hidden reservoir of energy. Unfortunately, on this day that well was looking pretty dry. I wanted to beat my minimum time goal so around the 6 mile mark I checked my watch and found I was way too close for comfort. I scraped the bottom of the barrel that held my will power and demanded my legs move faster. I knew when I crossed the finish line if I didn’t make my time I’d spend days Beating myself up that I didn’t push hard enough at the end. I settled into a difficult, but sustainable pace. As I got closer to the finish line I tried to give it a little more gas, but I was pretty much giving it everything I had already. When I crossed the finish line I was quite tired but also very proud.
My total time was 59:25. No, it’s not the time I wanted but I told myself my minimum goal was under an hour and I did it. Not only did I beat my goal time, but this was also a PR for me. Running the same course previously my best time was 1:08. That’s almost 9 minutes off my PR! In addition to that, I am happy to report that I was able to run the entire race; I didn’t have to stop or walk even once. I wasn’t sure I was in shape enough to do that, but I did it! I am also thrilled that my pacing was amazing. I have always gone out too fast in the beginning and I die at the end. This is something I’ve struggled with since I was a teenager. With the exception of mile 2 (which I ran in 9:03) all of my miles were between 9:23 and 9:49. For me to be able to maintain my pace like that is really exciting! So I ran the entire race, I PR’d, made my time due to good pacing, but maybe most importantly, I did all of that and ended the race injury free! I was terrified that running that much without proper distance training was going to make all of my weak spots flare up. I made a conscious effort during the race to focus on my form and to quit worrying about the clock so much. Proper form will increase speed naturally, so get the basics right first. I think making sure I was in good form was critical to the overall success of the race and the fact that I could walk away from the race uninjured. I do need to work on maintaining my form as I get tired. I got a couple of pictures near the end of the race and my shoulders are hunched and my left foot is severely crooked. Even so, I’m making progress and that is all that matters!
Overall the event was a huge success and I had a great time. I learned a lot out there about myself and about my running. I’m going to take those lessons and apply them to my life to make me a better and healthier person. I had a blast and am so excited for the rest of race season. I don’t care how fit you are, if you aren’t signed up for a race yet, go do it right now, before the next price increase!