I participated in my first group run today, in preparation for the Paris Mountain 20k.
I thought about joining some of the group runs for before the marathon but the logistics didn’t work out. Today they did perfectly. I needed to run 10 miles (though originally I had 7 planned) so I don’t have to run 10 miles on a hotel treadmill next week, just 7. 😉 In addition, I would be able to discover what lay ahead of me for the race in 3 weeks.
When I arrived this morning and saw the relatively small number of runners I knew immediately that I was the slowest of the bunch. That’s not an encouraging thought and proved quite the challenge to work against during the start of the run.
During the first mile or so I tried to keep myself from comparing myself to the other runners or worrying about being the last person to finish.
Then we started up the mountain. As evidenced by the previous two paragraphs, I was not mentally prepared for this. I know the mountain’s steep. (I’ve run it several times, obviously.) but at the same time the inclines were not broken up by hiking portion which in my mind lessened the “excuses” for walking. Running up a mountain is no joke. (And I was doing it for “fun”)
The next couple miles were ugly. I seriously doubted my ability to complete the race in 3 weeks if it felt this bad already. I realize now that a lot of it is mental and now that I know the course I’ll approach it much more prepared. When the other two gentlemen that had been running close behind me passed me I really wanted to turn around early. My stubborn nature insisted that I keep going until mile 4.5. If I turned around there I could finish the last mile at home either outside or on the treadmill.
Finally we reached a summit point and had some down hill. I knew I would have to run back up this but at that point I didn’t care. I knew that I would be able to make at least 4.5 out.
If this down hill hadn’t come I don’t know how I would have felt mentally and physically about this run and the prospect of the race. I finally felt like I hit a stride and would be able to finish.
As I started to feel better I decided that I would go to 4.75 so I’d lack only .5 mile out of my planned mileage which I’d already tacked on earlier in the week. I expected to see the three other runners closest ahead of me already turned around and running back so I decided to run as close to 5 as possible and then just turn around when I saw them.
I got to 5 and didn’t see them so I turned around and headed back.
I loved this portion of the run. My mind had finally calmed down and I could enjoy the run. The views were simply breathtaking. I stopped comparing myself to others because there was no one around me. (Some group run. 😉 ) I did walk some when I got close to the summit point again. I just couldn’t make myself shuffle/jog up that last little bit of hill. That was my slowest mile by a minute, obviously.
Running down hill is a learning experience in itself, especially down this “hill”. I enjoyed it though, until first Terri and then the other two runners passed me and kept increasing the distance.
The mental noise increased tenfold and I picked up the speed. I felt out of my own stride and wondered how they could keep up such a seemingly easy lope when that speed seemed so hard for me.
After a little while I decided to find my own slightly faster rhythm and finish when I finished.
I may have finished last out of the group but I finished confidently with my last mile being my fastest.
I’m glad I got to run even with all the chaos in my mind at the start of the run. I may have to walk in the December 3rd race but I will conquer that mountain and set the bar for a subsequent conquest. Besides, my average pace was 10:26, much faster than my mind told me I was going at the start of the run. Yes, it’s much slower than I had hoped to be running but considering it was my first time up the mountain, not bad.
The jury’s still out on how many group long runs I’m going to do, at least until I get my speed back. I’m too competitive but I do need some extra motivation to push myself out of my comfort zone.