Yesterday I pushed myself to run a race that was 3.5 miles longer than anything I had practiced in training—and I’m really glad I did! On Labor Day 2017 I ran the Around Cape Ann 25K.
The 15.5-mile course is gorgeous… and really hilly. “More hills than miles” is the race’s motto. It sports 16 major hills, though most of the race feels like a series of rolling hills; not much of it is flat.
The route hugs the coastline, and I could see ocean for most of the first half of the race:
I didn’t run with my phone, but my wife caught these action shots. She and the kids met me three times along the way and at the finish line—their encouragement was huge!
Here I am running:
And the fam made me signs! My wife held this one up with a police officer standing right next to her.
In the two months that I trained for the race (yeah… 12 weeks would have been better) I ran 101 miles per month, and did long runs almost every week of 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and then 12 miles. For the most part my long runs increased by a half mile or mile each week. (Usually by a mile—a little aggressive.)
In May I ran 6 miles twice. It wasn’t until June that I ran 7 miles (just once!) and then 8 (also just once!). In July I did a 10-mile run and 11-mile run, as well as getting my fastest 10K time at the end of the month. In August I stepped it up a bit with two 11-milers and a 12-miler. Kudos to my friend Nate for helping me realize that was enough of a base to sign up for the race—realizing it would be a challenge!
That 12-mile run (12 days before the 25K) was awful. I was a little dumb on the timing—it was the middle of the day, and the temperature was approaching 80. I had a water bottle with me, but had drunk it all by mile 9. I’d kept a sub-10 pace for the first six miles, but then my last six mile splits were more like 12/11/12/12/13/13. I was dehydrated and experienced some heat exhaustion.
I knew that was probably going to be my last long run before the big 15.5-miler, and it left a bad taste in my mouth and had me anxious. I had to keep telling myself it was just a fluke. I hadn’t signed up for the race yet and (briefly) considered skipping it after that.
Thankfully, the week before the race (last week) I got my fastest 5K time twice within two days. (I’m finally at the 25 minute mark!) In between those two fast runs I ran with Patrick R., which pumped me up big time. (Check out his running blog here. It’s good stuff.) Then I had a practice shake-out run of four miles where I practiced what I planned to be my 10:15 race pace. I felt great, so was confident heading into the race.
How the 25K Race Went
I ran just about the race I had hoped/planned to run. After running my last six “long run” miles at a 12-minute and 13-minute pace, I decided to start between a 10:00 and 10:30 pace and keep it that way as long as I could.
The last 2.5 miles of the race were tough. I felt good about it overall, though. It was a great challenge, and it feels awesome to have met it.
My chip time was a 10:34 pace. I stopped for the bathroom and to re-tie my shoes, so according to my watch, my actual running time was 10:18 per minute. I will be the first to acknowledge that is not fast (you have to scroll—ahem—pretty far down the results to see my name). But I had some of my best miles at miles 9 and 10, right after a huge hill I powered up.
And I met my goal of a 10:00-10:30 running pace! If there is one lesson I’ve learned with running more recently (actually, there are dozens of lessons) it’s that my primary competition is myself. And I ran the race I wanted to run. That feels huge.
I was so glad the race started at 8:00 a.m. It was barely 60 degrees then. It definitely warmed up along the way, but I don’t know that it ever got past 70.
On Faith and Running
I asked a few friends before the race for some good running mantras. And scoured the Internet. Here are a few I used:
- I’ve got this
- This hill ain’t nothing
- Just one more song (this one is ironic because I kept the music off until about mile 8! I never could have done that a year ago)
- “Run the mile you’re in” (my favorite—best running advice ever, and some great life advice, too)
- It’s not like my legs are going to fall off
- All I can do is keep moving forward (this is technically not true—I could’ve stopped and quit!)
- This is enjoyable. I enjoy this! (“praying shapes believing,” right?)
Then on Sunday—the day before the 25K—our worship leader introduced the song “Your Grace Is Enough” by saying there is hardly any better mantra than this. !!!
So that became a running mantra, too, especially in the last half when it became clear I wasn’t going to blow away my pace goal, but was merely going to meet it. I kept saying, “Your grace is enough.” “Your grace is enough.” If I never meet this goal, it’s okay, because I already have received the best gift there is—the love of God in Jesus. Sure, running goals are still important, but God’s grace is enough, and present with me no matter how I do. I find that incredibly reassuring—and actually a truth that will help me run faster in the long run anyway.
“Come, Holy Spirit” also turned out to be a really good running “mantra” that never even occurred to me until I was about 10 miles in. I’m a pastor, so I feel a little embarrassed that it took me so long to figure that one out, but praying, “Come, Holy Spirit” is one of the best ways I know to try to invite God into my run—or to heighten my awareness of God’s presence that is already there. I prayed it for a few tenths of a mile, and the combination of that prayer, God’s answering it, and the lush ocean scenery led to a pretty powerful experience of the Holy Spirit as I ran.
I think race recaps are supposed to be shorter than this, but this is my first one, so thanks if you’ve read this far.
It’s a truism of running that we runners (pretend to) regret signing up for the race we’re slogging through, only to plan for the next one as soon as we cross the finish line.
My brain was kind of mushy at the end of the race, but by evening as I enjoyed a cool beverage, I’d already set my next goal: to run a half marathon with a pace of under 10:00 minutes per mile. That’s two fewer miles than I just did and 20 seconds per mile faster. I’d love to get a sub-2-hour half marathon time at some point. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be writing up that race recap.