It was a thrilling feeling this morning to run a 5 miles race and set a personal best time. What could be a better feeling when it comes to running accomplishments? I can think of a couple, one is beating my last personal best time for a 5 mile race by 3:08 set at the same race twelve years ago. The course has changed since then, it is hillier than before. My friend and training partner also set a personal best, and we are the same age. I commented today that we are like fine wine, we are getting better with age.
I have shared this several times before, I was not athletic in my youth and have had a difficult time building my aerobic strength in running. The race today really tested my limits. I wanted to come in under 50 minutes, my goal was to maintain between a 9:40-9:50 minute per mile pace. I looked online last night and saw the course map, due to construction the course was completely different. The St. Malachi 5 Mile Race is run every year close to St. Patrick’s Day in downtown Cleveland. Cleveland has the Cuyahoga River and St Malachi church sits right at the top of the river banks. Like most rivers there are hills leading down to it, and there is also a bridge. A big long bridge that curves up and down creating yet another hill.
I had the typical nerves at the start, but got into a good pace within a minute or so. The first half of the race was mostly flat to down hill. At the turn around I was at 24:23, feeling strong and averaging 9:45 pace, right in my range. Then the subtle inclines came, then a long big hill. When I got to the top of the hill and turned right I realized it was not a true out and back course. We would have turned left if it was. Following the hundreds of runners around me I headed under a bridge and down another steep hill back to the river. I knew the finish was on the other side of the river and the big long bridge was on the map to the finish. At the mile 4 mark I turned left and easily saw all of the runners that were ahead of me. They were above me climbing what in my mind at the time was a vertical road, well it was close to it. Only a mile to go, I can do this. I ran up the hill passing people who had to walk it. I prefer to run up hill even if it is a slow pace. At what appeared to be the top of the hill was a sharp right turn that was probably a 170 degree u-turn – on to the bridge. More climbing. I ran up the first half of the bridge, and what goes up must come down, so I let gravity take control of my legs on the down hill part. I hear the crowd yelling “You are almost there! The finish is around the corner.” I look at my watch – 49:43, this is going to be close. I turned the corner and finally see the timing chip mat and cross hitting my watch. 50:06. First reaction – poop, I missed my goal by 7 seconds. I looked up and saw my friend as I walked pass the finish area, the first thing I said was “I PR’d!” She is faster than me when it comes to running and I was so happy to see her at the finish. She was there along with a few other friends, all whom I have known for 11 to 19 years.
Setting a PR is a great feeling. Beating a best time when I am twelve years older is a fantastic feeling. But sharing the accomplishment with friends who are so important to me really is the best feeling. Now that is something to drink to, with fine wine of course.