Home Team Charity Run – And a PR!

At long last! I finally have a chance to sit down and write about Sunday’s Home Team Charity Run.

The run had a 5K and 10K option, and although the entry fees were slightly steeper than other races of those distances, a portion of the fees went toward the Chicago Blackhawks Charities,  Chicago Bulls Charities, and Chicago White Sox Charities.  The fees were split evenly among all three charities, but runners were given the option to choose which team’s t-shirt they wanted to receive. (I really wanted a new Blackhawks shirt, but due to my recent track record of red running shirts, I opted for the White Sox one.)

The option of the 5K and the 10K was a bit harder for me to choose. I really wanted to do the 10K, since it fit perfectly with my training for next weekend’s Lakefront 10 Miler, and because 10k participants got to finish on the warning track inside U.S. Cellular. (I’ve already run through Wrigley Field, and I’ll be running at Soldier Field in May; I’m trying to make the rounds of all the Chicago sports stadiums!)

However, being the day after my birthday, I figured it was a pretty bad idea to register for a 10k.

In fact, when I woke up that morning, I even started to think it was a bad idea to have registered for any race that day! Between the Snow Patrol concert, the late Blackhawks game that went into overtime, and the few birthday drinks the night before, getting up was a struggle. On the way to the train, I told my BF, “If you want to ditch me and finish before me, you can go for it. I won’t be mad if you beat me, and it’s not like I’m gonna PR or anything today.” (BF is not a runner, but I have convinced him to run three 5Ks with me now, and the first two times he’s stayed with me and then lets me cross the finish line a second before him. I still think he’d beat me if he ran his own pace; he says no.)

Anyway, we started the race, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy of a start it was. I’ve done far too many races lately that take up to 20 minutes to cross the start, and even those that don’t often end up taking the first half mile to zig-zag around all the walkers walking 4 or 5 people wide. (Insert personal rant here.)

But on Sunday, there was space to run right from the start. It was wonderful!

I also was maintaining a pretty solid pace, in part to my new PodRunner app. As part of my physical therapy, my PT is working with me on cadence, and she’s having me play around with running to a metronome and trying to get me to increase my cadence to 176 bpm. (There’s a lot of research on this and how it can help improve running and prevent injury.) It’s actually really cool to run to a metronome, but about 30 seconds in, you feel ready to enter the looney bin. So, someone else recommended PodRunner to me, which has hour-long playlists of music at a set bpm. If you can handle the bad techno music, it’s actually really fun to run to. And, if you’re like me and tend to change your pace based on the song playing on your iPod, you might find this really helps you keep a steady pace.

Anyway, between the easy open start, and the nice steady pace I set for myself, I was feeling good. Much better than I had anticipated.

In fact, when we crossed the first mile marker, it was only at 9 minutes. BF got excited, because he knew it was a faster pace than I’m used to, but I knew I always start my first mile too fast.

However, at the second mile marker, when I saw it was only at 18-something, I finally started thinking, “I just might be able to do this!”

The third mile started getting tougher, especially when we turned around and started running into the wind. But I let my PodRunner music keep me going. I started to feel a little sick, like I do when I run a little too fast. I get that ugly cough that I sometimes fear might actually turn into being sick. (Sorry. Kinda gross.) But I crossed the third mile marker and realized I had almost 2 minutes to run the last tenth of a mile and beat the 30-minute mark.

I was going to do it!

I dug deep into whatever little energy I had left somewhere in me, and pushed it to the end. I didn’t feel pretty as I crossed the finish, but I felt proud!

Not only did I run my first sub-30 5K, but I beat my previous PR by almost a minute!

PR, and my first race as a 31-year-old!

Despite the previous night of birthday fun that I thought was stacked against me, this race actually had a lot going for me. The following things all seemed to really come together to make my PR possible:

  • Great weather.
  • A small race, with a wide course.
  • A steady pace, thanks to PodRunner.
  • A lot of the “better” runners were running the 10K, which freed up space, and also made it possible to place 6th in my age group.
  • Luck.
  • And maybe I actually am getting better at running!

Regardless of the reasons why, having a great race was exactly what I needed to help reboost my confidence. After some of the rough races I’ve had lately (like the Warm Your Heart Indoor 5K and the Shamrock Shuffle) I needed a great one!

Plus, now I can finally cross this off my List, and it’s one more toward my 12 in 2012!