Runners are often characterized as being a touch eccentric, and admittedly, that reputation is sometimes well deserved. For example, just a few days ago I was preparing to race 10K at the Portland Track Festival and my thoughts were something along the lines of “it’s only 25 laps, that doesn’t sound very long, I bet it will go by really fast.” That’s a perfectly sane perspective, right?
This weekend marked a lot of firsts for me—first outdoor track race outside the state of Colorado, first 10K on a track, first time getting to starting line after my usual bedtime. In running, as in life, every new experience comes with equal measures of potential and risk. It’s exciting to try something new, to have the opportunity to achieve at a new level; at the same time, the unfamiliarity of new challenges can sometimes mean that you don’t get it right the first time and leave unsatisfied. But you have to risk failure to find out what’s possible…
And so I found myself in the middle of the Portland Track Festival 10K on Friday night wondering how I deluded myself into thinking that 25 laps would go by quickly—the first few weren’t too bad, but after the initial early-race excitement wore off, I realized that running 10K on track is an exercise of persistent focus. It’s not as simple as just setting out at a certain effort and spacing out for 25 laps; a difference in pace of 1 second per lap adds up quickly when you’re running 25 of them. Every lap was an intentional effort to fight for every second, or every tenth of a second, that I could manage. One thing I didn’t have to focus on was keeping track of my progress circling the track—between the lap counter (which was great for such encouraging mid-race thoughts as “great, 5 laps down, only 20 to go”) and the announcer (who updated entire stadium on our progress every 200m—“they’ve got 8 laps in the bank, they’ll come around 17 more times this evening”), at least I had that covered.
The end result of this mental and physical battle? The Portland Track Festival was a fantastic meet, and I was fortunate this weekend to leave with a feeling that this debut was an overall success. I set a new 10K PR (in total, this spring I’ve improved my 10K time by over 2 minutes) and even managed an unofficial PR in the 5K at the halfway mark. Despite this exciting result, I left feeling that there were a few things I would do differently next time and that I have room for more improvement in this event. It is this state of simultaneous satisfaction and dissatisfaction that drives me to keep training, to constantly push the limits of what I can do. While I am still waiting to regain normal feeling in my calf muscles (25 laps in spikes—enough said), I am excited to get back to training and to start chasing new goals, no matter how distant they seem at first.