I still get nervous before a fast run, when I know I’m about to give every part of me that I can give and finish barely standing up. Just the walk to the starting line can get my stomach churning and my legs shaking. For a runner every start is not just a likely finish, but also a possible PR. Even on my slow runs I can’t help but stare down at my watch, fighting the urge to move more quickly. I am fully aware that I am not running against anyone but myself. However, I am always my toughest competition. In my mind are always my PR’s. For a 5k (3.1 miles), it’s 20 minutes and 51 seconds and for 5 miles my personal record is 37 min and 48 seconds (or at least it was). Those times are etched into my mind not only as great memories, but also records that must be demolished. Perhaps that puts extra pressure, but I feel that the day I stop worrying about my PR is the day my heart is no longer in running. Every time I am at that starting line, my hand resting over my watch waiting to press start, I feel a desire fueling me to move. I always wonder, “Will I beat my PR today?” There are many factors that can help you conquer your PR and I have listed a few from my 5 mile run yesterday.
1. Weather: The weather plays a huge part in a runner’s success. The heat can definitely slow you down. The cold air can actually make you faster. It all depends on what God wants to provide. When I walked to the starting line yesterday to begin my 5 mile run the weather was simply perfect. It was 60 degrees in the sun with a slight wind that was gentle enough to speed you up instead of slow you down. I began a leisurely pace to get my legs warm, but I gradually increased my speed as my body loosened up. My intention was never to beat my 5 mile time, but to simply end somewhere near it.
2. Hydration: You should always make sure you are properly hydrated. Hydration gives you extra energy and ensures your mouth stays moist throughout your run. On shorter runs I carry a water bottle in my hand and drink every 4 ½ minutes. I can run 3 miles without water, but the second my mouth gets dry I usually start to slow down. For a 5 mile run water is a necessity, at least for me. I get bursts of energy with every drink and my breathing stays much more productive. Yesterday, every time I drank water it helped get my mind off of my run.
3. Goals: When you run it’s important to set goals throughout your run. Yesterday my goals were fairly simple. First, I told myself that I wouldn’t start too fast. I didn’t want to expend too much energy at the start and fizzle out quickly. Second, I told myself that when I entered the woods section of my run I would speed up. I knew this would get me to the hills section quickly so I could then ease off the gas a bit. My next goal was to finish the 3.1 miles part of my run under 7 minutes and 45 seconds a mile. After glancing down at my watch I finished my 3.1 miles in 22 minutes and 2 seconds. I was ecstatic with that time, because I felt like it would allow me to finish the last two miles at a slower pace. What I didn’t realize was how much of a mind game it would play with me. My 3.1 miles was well under 7 ½ minutes a mile, but I didn’t realize that I would obsess over this time. Normally I would be happy with that time for just 3.1 miles and my run would be over. But, when I kept thinking about the fact I had two miles to go, I tried desperately to slow down. The problem was that I couldn’t. It is often difficult for me to ever slow down whenever I pick up speed. I don’t like the thought of it. When I am on a treadmill and I increase my speed I never allow myself to go below that speed…ever. Thus, when I finished my 3.1 miles yesterday in what would be like 8.5 mph speed on a treadmill, I wouldn’t allow myself to slow down. This in turn made me even more tired, especially since I was slowly becoming mentally exhausted. I kept repeating to myself out loud “22 minutes and 2 seconds.” This was my trigger that if I could run that fast for the first few miles I could definitely run that fast for 5 miles. Plus, I was proud of my time and the more I kept thinking about it the harder I pushed.
4. Competition: Making competition out of nothing on a leisurely run can often be detrimental because it takes you off the task at hand. However, when you are looking to run quickly I find it best to target people to pass on your run. I don’t care who it is, you try and beat them. For example, if I see a person running in the distance my goal is to catch them as quickly as possible. In my mind I can catch anybody, even though that is not really the case. Anyone who is a runner knows the feeling of passing someone. It’s like this inherent vindication that you are truly a runner. Honestly, you want to turn and look at the people you are passing and say, “Ha Ha I’m faster than you!” (Shut up…You know you all feel it.) There is nothing better than passing someone who is running just like you. Even if I see someone walking 200 yards ahead of me I make them my competition. Whenever you pass someone it makes you run so much faster (which is not always good…we will get into that at another time). I passed so many walkers and a few runners yesterday. In fact, I even caught up to a squirrel before he scampered off. The feeling of competition definitely helped me run harder.
5. Inspiration: This is a huge factor in every single one of my runs. You need to find inspiration, because it will keep you moving when you want nothing more than to stop. For me there is so much inspiration in my life I don’t even know where to begin. I run for every person that cannot walk. I run for every person I have lost in my life. I run for the times I thought I would never run again (tore ligaments in my right ankle). In those moments when I am breathing heavy and I am searching for a reason to keep going I remember everything that inspires me. Towards the end of my run yesterday I neared the last turn and I was running at full speed, although I felt like I could stop and drop to the ground at any moment. I started to think about someone in my life who can barely even stand anymore when just last year she was walking around easily. I thought about how she would give anything to be in my shoes running her hardest, and so I kept moving. I ran hard until I saw the finish line and then I ran harder. Without her inspiration I don’t think I would have finished.
When I finally looked down at my watch yesterday and saw my time I was upset. For some reason I thought it said 39 minutes and I shouted out loud as I stood trying to regain control of my breathes. After walking around for a few seconds it finally hit me…I had just run 5 miles in 35 minutes and 37 seconds!! A new PR!! I was too tired to scream again. I walked around looking at the world before me and I felt like I had conquered it. I just kept saying to myself, “At 31 years old you just ran 5 miles at a 7 minute and 7 second pace!” The sun was setting and I turned toward it and thanked God for providing such a beautiful day to run. The weather had been perfect. It was because of the beautiful weather that more people were out running and walking, which meant more competition for me. This had surely helped me run faster. I then looked down at my water and all of it was gone. It had done its job. I thought about how I had accomplished all of my goals for my run and I was glad I had set them. Lastly, I was glad for the inspiration I had along the way.
There are so many factors that can help you get a new PR. I am sure for everyone they are different. All that matters is that we are running and trying our best every single time. We are creating memories we will never forget. Now it looks like I have to memorize a new time for my 5 miles and I really don’t think that will be a problem. Here’s to 35:37!!!