This morning, I woke up at 3 AM and quickly prepared for the New Balance Power Run, where I signed up to run the 10K race. My gear was ready since the prior evening, and all I had to do was pour some hot water over the instant oatmeal and peel a banana for breakfast. I did both without any issues despite operating in the transitional stage between wakefulness and sleep. A cool morning breeze greeted me on my way to the 7-Eleven across my building where I picked up a bottle of Gatorade. As I was paying, the lady behind the counter asked where my race was this time. A cab was parked in front of the store and I was on my way to The Fort at 3:45 AM. Somehow the routine was relaxing.
Surprisingly, there still was not much activity when I arrived at the race site (I was the second person to check my backpack into the baggage area), and I reveled in the calm before the storm. I stretched, warmed up, and ran to the portalets thrice before being called to the starting line. Jitters? Maybe. Ironically, perhaps I was nervous because I knew I was prepared for this race, and I was throwing goals around in my head, not really certain of what I should aim for. After my disappointing discovery about my race two weeks ago, I reverted to my KOTR 10K time of 1:05:41 as the PR to beat. Again, I was aiming to shave off the 5:41 and make it an even 60 minutes.
The race began without any fanfare. I can't remember if there was a countdown or not, but I recall that there was the blast of an airhorn in lieu of a gun shot to mark the start of the race. I was pacing myself, mentally taking note that 6:30 was the slowest I wanted to go. Runners zipped past me on both sides but I refrained from chasing after others, knowing it was not the smart thing to do, having learned it the hard way during my first few races.
Another thing I learned was that it's okay to take walking breaks. I used to think that logically, if you don't walk and just keep running, you're bound to finish faster. So despite feeling pain and exhaustion I vowed to never stop for walking breaks, much to my own chagrin. Reinforced by positively written articles on the run-walk strategy, I made up my mind to try it out for this race and walk through water stations while hydrating. I felt the difference each time, feeling an instant recovery even if it was just a mere few seconds of walking. Check out the graph below, a read out from my Garmin which clearly shows the points where I took a break. I'm truly a fan of all this geeky information.
Graph: NB 10K Pace
As I got more comfortable, I ran a bit faster, and eventually tried to sustain a 6:00 pace. I took advantage of downhills to gain speed (best pace - 4:12) and pushed harder on the inevitable uphills to keep within my target pace. It was tough work but I felt stronger, both physically and mentally. I noticed some runners beginning to falter and when we rounded the final U-turn, I did a quick time check: 50 minutes. Finding my bearings and making estimates I surmised I was in good shape to cross the finish line with a time faster than 60 minutes. Holding this thought in mind, I stepped the pace up and ran at almost 4:00 minutes per kilometer for the final stretch, losing count of how many runners I overtook. On the final right turn to the finish, the timer read 55:++ and all I could hear was my heavy breathing. I crossed the line and stopped my watch: 55:35 (unofficial, of course). Finally, a proper PR and a sub-60 10K finish.
My Finisher's Medal
Throughout the race, I was having a (silent) conversation with myself and ended up thinking about all I did in terms of running since my first race in late June this year, where I ran ill-prepared for a 5K and almost coughed up a lung at the end of it. Now here I am, running at a pace I never dreamt of being able to sustain before but still wanting to push faster. Also, I felt like I was running smarter, finding the most efficient use of energy to propel myself to the finish line. To me, the medal I received is indicative of more than just finishing a 10K race--it's a sign of growth.
Today, I felt like a real runner.
Kudos to the organizers for a great race! Noteworthy: ample water stations and hassle-free distribution of finisher's medals, and free socks! Makes me love New Balance even more.