In my previous post I wrote about a trip to Lake Tobias Wildlife Park that served as a birthday gift for my dad. For his actual birthday on Saturday we ran the East Berlin Area Community Center (EBACC) 5k.
Before diving into the race I want to provide some background. When I joined the cross country team in 2003 my dad decided to start running with me. Living in a somewhat rural area my parents didn’t want me training alone. At the time my dad’s cholesterol numbers weren’t the greatest despite him being thin and fairly active in general; his triglycerides were over 1000. The doctor blamed poor genetics as both of his parents had high cholesterol. Fortunately running helped his numbers drop into the normal range though he still requires a daily cholesterol medication.
The first race we ran together was the River Run 5k in May 2003 and I beat him. I have not beaten him since. The summers of 2006 – 2008 we raced a lot, sometimes every other weekend. Back then we could usually race for $10-15 apiece so it was a relatively cheap hobby. As years passed and costs rose, we raced less and less.
When dad heard that the EBACC 5k fell on his birthday he wanted to run it just to see what he could run in a 5k again since it had been quite awhile since he raced one. Neither of us had ran it since 2008. I remembered enjoying the course a great deal despite never placing in my age group and figured it would be fun to run it again.
The majority of my runs this summer have averaged a 9:30 – 10 min per mile pace. That’s my normal training half marathon training pace. I haven’t done any speed work. Keeping this in mind I figured if I ran a sub 27 I would be good. I was actually a bit nervous about setting that as a goal because I hadn’t been running any miles close to a 9 min pace.
Saturday morning had near perfect running conditions considering it’s July. It was overcast with temps in the 70s and just a tad bit of humidity. We arrived early, picked up our packets, waited for what seemed like forever to use the porta-potties (I was seriously starting to question what some people were doing in them), and did about a 5 minute warm up jog. I also did my mobility warmup and some quick strides.
We lined up, my dad closer to the front of the pack than me. I intended to go out harder than I normally do in a 5k in hopes of getting a sub 9 mile. The gun went off and I went out hard telling myself I wouldn’t “settle” into a comfortable pace like I typically would until I had gotten close to a half mile into the race. The course started in an alley and wrapped around into another alley and wound through some side streets of town before turning onto main street. The only real “hill” in the course was on main street. I use quotes because compared to the hills I’m used to running it was a glorified incline.
My watch beeped 1 mile a few feet in front of the 1 mile sign and the volunteer calling out times. I believe he read the time backwards as he said “7:35” and my watch displayed “7:53”. I was shocked to see a sub 8 mile and chalked it up to a good start. I was feeling really comfortable and strong at that point, so I didn’t let up the pace and just figured I would see how long I could keep it.
The course continued to wind through the town of East Berlin. I felt like a race car going around all the corners in the developments, turning from one street onto another street. I don’t recall anyone passing me after the halfway point. I was actually passing people on downhill grades which isn’t something I typically do; I tend to beat them on the uphills. The volunteer calling out times at the 2 mile mark was way off. All I heard was something in the 19s and knew he was wrong because even if I had slowed down, it wasn’t that much. He had distracted me so I didn’t actually see the split on my watch. I wasn’t too concerned though as I was feeling great and enjoying the race.
Although it had been 10 years since I last ran it, I knew the most deceiving part of the race would be the final alley. One can normally see the finish and tends to start picking up the pace only to realize it is a lot farther away than it seems. For this reason when I turned the corner into the alley I maintained my pace. The alley proved true, feeling much longer than I even remembered, but I held strong. When my watch beeped at the 3 mile mark I realized I didn’t have enough strength to sprint the final .1 like I normally would. I was ok with that as I felt I used my energy well throughout the full course of the race.
Much to my dismay the finish line clock was not displaying the times as I approached. I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch. A volunteer handed me a soaked towel and another gave me a water. My dad hurried over and asked what time I had ran, and it seemed to take my watch forever to pull up the time.
Not quite believing I had actually ran that fast, I quickly checked the computer display of results.
I was nearly dumbfounded that I had ran that fast. That kind of time wasn’t something I had seen in 10 – 12 years. My best times in high school cross country races were in the 23’s. My dad had ran a 22:02 which made him happy though he said if the display clock had been working he likely would’ve been able to run in the 21’s seeing how close he was.
We both placed 3rd in our age groups and collected our medals after enjoying some great snacks. There was a Sheetz food truck there giving out free smoothies which was beyond awesome. The rain was just starting to arrive as we headed home. It made for a memorable birthday for my dad and quite a memorable race for me.
I’m still wrapping my head around running that fast. I actually found my 2008 race time online – 25:41. While great weather certainly played a role, as did a relatively easy course (I had to laugh when I heard a woman ask another one why they called it a “flat” course – I wanted to tell her to come run where I do and she’d understand) I just didn’t believe I had that kind of speed in me. Strength, yes. Speed, no. My running buddy Todd chalks it up to the other training I do through DailyBurn. He thinks I can run in the 23’s. It certainly is giving me a lot to think about moving forward with the rest of my training this summer.
Todd, dad and I are looking to run a race on Labor Day. Originally I was going to sign up for the 10k, but they’re both doing the 5k. I’m now considering running the 5k instead with the intention of trying to keep up with them just to see how much harder I can push. In the meantime though I’m going to keep up my consistency and adding on miles to my weekly long runs to get ready for a half marathon in the fall.
Have you ever ran a race and then ran it many years later? Have you ever surprised yourself with better race results than you expected?