After every race, I ask myself “Did I leave it all out there on the course? Did I run as fast as I could during every part of the race?” and to be completely honest, 99% of the time, the answer is “no.” I can almost always remember a moment where I could have tried a little harder, but didn’t. Sometimes it’s in the name of pacing and I want to save some energy for later on. Other times I just don’t feel good, but more often than not, I simply am not willing to make myself hurt enough.
I am proud to say that Friday’s Apple Blossom 5K is one of the few instances where I can honestly say that I gave it my absolute best. The reasons are varied, but it all boils down to the fact that I was willing and excited to endure as much pain as needed to run well. It’s not that my fitness is all that great, or that I felt overly confident, but I accepted the pain even before the gun went off.
Another guy and I took it out hard right from the line. The pace felt extremely hot to me, and my legs were shocked and alarmed by the effort I was expending. On any other day, I would have let him set the pace and just try to keep him in my sights. This time, though, I stayed right on his shoulder for the first mile, then took the lead shortly thereafter. Even if I couldn’t stay there, I wanted to make it an honest race.
During the entire second mile, he stayed right behind me, saving his energy and drafting. I knew that I was redlining and running faster than I have in years. But I stayed positive and told myself that if he was feeling good, he would have passed me and ended the race already. So around 2.5 miles in, I took a risk and threw in a surge. I knew it would break one of us. He came with me for a few seconds, and the fear that I made a mistake crept up. Then I heard his footsteps fading, and knew that I had made the right choice. I pressed all the way to the finish, and wound up winning in a time of 16:37, several seconds faster than my A goal of 16:40.
Looking back, I am proud that I won, and glad that I ran a good time, but I am most proud of how I raced. I was confident, I embraced the effort, and most importantly, I controlled the race. Rather than resign myself to a second place finish, I battled the whole way and made the the moves instead of merely responding to them. Even if I hadn’t won, I would still look back with pride, because I truly gave it my all. Now to learn how to do that in all my races in the future!