Its been a week and a half since I ran my second race of the year, the Jaguar 5k. This year was my fifth time running this race, so going into the race I was very familiar with the course and the general atmosphere of the race itself. Despite the fact that the course has rolling hills, and one rather steep incline around the halfway point of the course, this remains one of those races that I’ll always sign up for because of the meaning of the race.
This race is an annual athletics fundraiser for the school I worked at until June 2013. It wasn’t an easy decision for me to change schools, but I did so mainly because of the opportunity that lie ahead of me at my current school. Just because I left doesn’t mean that I don’t miss my old coworkers. In fact, one of the reasons I love returning to this race every year is because it gives me the chance to see so many familiar faces.
Last year I ran this race one week after finding out that I was pregnant. Morning sickness hadn’t set in yet (I was six weeks pregnant on race day), and I set my old 5k PR at this race last year. Even though I continued to run and race throughout my pregnancy, I obviously slowed down significantly as the weeks and months went on. With this being my second postpartum race, and my first postpartum 5k, I was cautiously optimistic as to how this race would go, especially after having several weeks of very speedy training runs.
On race day, I woke up, showered, pumped, and ate breakfast. Thankfully little man slept the entire time and we got him up only minutes before we were ready to leave the house. Although Preston has run this race in the past, he opted to sit out this year since little man isn’t big enough yet for the jogging stroller. Both of them still came to the race though to cheer me on.
We arrived at the school around 7:45 a.m. The race started at 8:30, but I needed to pick up my bib, and with this being the first race that we brought little man to I didn’t want to feel rushed. Upon arrival, I went into the school lobby to pick up my bib, where I found several coworkers who volunteered that morning at the race. We were able to talk for a few minutes before we parted ways (they needed to head out for their volunteer assignments on the course and I needed to head back to the car where Preston had been feeding little man). We waited at the car for another old coworker to arrive, who also ran the race that morning, and once he was there we all headed to the back of the school where the race began.
Just over 700 people ran and walked this race, so although it was a very small course field, many who participate in this race don’t race often and aren’t aware of race etiquette, especially when it comes to lining up by estimated pace/finish time. I wasn’t frustrated by this, but as the race started I immediately worried about all of the weaving that I had to do in order to maneuver around slower runners, and thought for a moment that maybe this wasn’t going to be my day for a new PR. But the further I ran, first through the school parking lot and then into the neighborhood around the school, the more quickly that thought disappeared. I ran the first mile in 9:30 and thought that I was running too fast and that I’d burn out during the race, especially with how hilly the course was.
As I approached the steepest hill at the halfway point, I gave myself a pep talk, telling myself that I could run up the hill without stopping. In past years this hill has gotten the best of me, and I’ve either had to walk up part of it or have been so out of breath after getting up the hill that I had to walk afterwards. This year as I ran the hill, I felt very strong and by the time that I made it to the top I had a smile on my face. I didn’t need to walk, and continued on running until the water stop just before the end of the second mile. Walking through the water station wound up being my only walk break during this race. I ran the second mile just slightly slower than the first, in 9:34. I knew that I was still well on track to PR.
The further that I ran during the third mile, the more confident I became that I’d not only PR but might also break 30 minutes. With just over a quarter mile left in the race, I passed my friend Kristen, who was volunteering along the course in front of the school. She was well aware of my goals for the race, and when I told her that I thought I was going to sub-30 this race, her cheers gave me that final boost of energy that I needed to make it up the final hill and onto the school track, where the finish line of the race was.
I crossed the finish line at 29:40, a 9:33 pace. Not only had I met my A goal for the race (finish in under 30:08, which had been my fastest 5k training time during the month of April), but I completely surprised myself and ran my first sub-30 5k. I was ecstatic, and couldn’t wait to celebrate with Preston and little man.
Running this race as fast as I did, and crushing my old 5k PR, has helped fuel my motivation for my half marathon training over the past week and a half. If I could completely surprise myself at this race, then who knows what I’ll be able to accomplish in three and a half weeks at ZOOMA Annapolis. I’m excited to see what happens, and whether my first postpartum half marathon goal race will give me as much to celebrate as this year’s Jaguar 5k did.
QOTD: What was the last race that you ran at a much faster pace than you expected to?