Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Double Header Race Report: Girls on the Run 5k and Jingle All the Way 8k

A little behind in blogging land.  While the Philadelphia Half was my last formal race for 2011, I still had a couple races left on the calendar:
2 weekends ago, I ran as a running buddy at the Girls on the Run 5k in DC.  It is a program for girls ages 8-13 who meet twice a week and prepare for a 5k at the end of the season.  They have coaches and a lot of sessions about body image, girl power, and building confidence.  It is a really great program, but I didn't hear about it until midway through the season.  So, I signed up to be a running buddy and run alongside one of the girls.  The race was really cute: they had a mini festival beforehand with music and face painting for the girls.  I was paired up with a little 9 year old name Nina, who had never run a 5k before.  She said she was really nervous and asked if it would take a long time.  I didn't know her at all, so I had no idea how long it would take.  We got into line, and then we were off!  About 5 minutes in, she asked if we were almost done.  I said, no, we still had a while to go (you can't lie to a child about this stuff - this not even like "are we there yet in the car" - she has to get there herself!), but that she was doing great.  And she was - Nina even ran up the hills, and we talk a couple of walking breaks as necessary, and took water at the water stops.  I kept cheering her along, yelling words of encouragement: anything to keep her going.  After 2.5 miles, her face started to tense up and she looked really uncomfortable.  "My stomach hurts," she said - and I felt so bad.  But she was so close, so we walked a little bit, and then started jogging again.  Right before we hit 3 miles, she asked if we were almost there, and I pointed where the finish line was - that she could actually see it, and that we were going to get there.  She ran to the finish line, and we finished in about 37 minutes.  It was a very fun race.  Nina got a medal, and I was very proud of her.  I told her a lot of people who are much older than her have never done a 5k, and that she just did it.  It was a great race, a great program, and something I hope to be involved with in the future.
Then this past Sunday, I ran in the Jingle All the Way 8k.  This race (in its 7th year) had been a 10k for the first 6, but now that so many people were involved, it couldn't be held in West Potomac Park anymore, so it got shortened to an 8k and moved to Freedom Plaza in downtown DC.  I have a special place in my heart for this race.  Not only was it my fourth consecutive time running it, but this race as a 10k was my first race ever in 2008.  I ran 55:04 back then, and was definitely an inexperienced runner - was jumping onto the sidewalk trying to jockey for some space, wore my Mickey Mouse watch instead of a stopwatch, all the markings of a newbie.  So, I like to return to this race each year, in part because it's fun (they give you jingle bells to tie to your shoes), and to reflect on how far I've come in just a few short years.
But since the race wasn't on my formal calendar, I didn't give it much prep.  I did a short workout on Tuesday to just remind the legs of some speed, but that was it.  Even went to a Christmas party Saturday night and had no problem enjoying some Christmas spirit(s) too.  Which is funny, given that I just wrote about my "dry" rule.  But, I was just going out with no big expectations in mind.  I was hoping to just run sub 7:00 pace.  I did my 20 minute warm-up, and while it was cold, the sun was out, which was nice (there was really nasty weather the past 2 years). The new course had a lot of hairpin turns, so I thought that those would slow me down a bit.  There was a 20 minute delay with the start, so I actually ran into a Barnes and Noble to stay warm.  And then they had everything ready, and we were off!  I went through the first mile in 6:38, and I was like, whoa, that is really fast (faster than 10k pace), and I don't know if I'll be able to hold it.  Things spread out fairly quickly, and again, I was amazed just how many people were ahead, clocking a really fast pace.  The second mile was in 7:02, which had included a couple of those hairpin turns, which felt like I was grinding to a halt trying to go around a cone.  Okay, try to find a happy medium.  Then I hit mile 3 in 6:30 - my goodness, can I make up my mind on this?  There were 2 girls about 50 or so yards in front of me, and I really wanted to pass them.  I had almost 2 miles to catch up to them.  Then, mile 4 in 7:03 - this was not an in and out workout (Hard/easy) - what was this?!  I was starting to get closer to those two girls, and had passed some guys as well.  Finally, I was able to pass them fairly aggressively and was determined to just go fast enough that they wouldn't be able to react.  I covered the .98 mile in 6:20 (at least I knew how to keep picking it back up, right?), and crossed the finish line very happy about my overall performance.
33:31 (6:45 pace)
25/3024 women
8/832 age group.
I have made significant progress in my running in just 3 short years, and this race was certainly a testament.  It was also a testament to what you can do when you don't get too worked up about it either.  It was all about going out and having fun, and I did.  It was a great way to end my 2011 racing year.  Will start dreaming about 2012 soon enough!

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