The first year I was in the Runners Club, one of the races was to be a 4-mile run—the annual Turkey Trot held in November. Prior to this race, I had not run that far but I was willing to give it a try. I was all pumped up for a new challenge. As I ran the race, I frequently checked my time to make sure I wasn’t going too fast. I knew I would need my strength to run the extra distance. When I crossed the finish line, I was amazed at my time—that is until I overheard someone say that one of the course volunteers had sent us in the wrong direction somewhere after the 2-mile mark and we had actually run less than 3 miles. What a bummer after being all pumped up to do it. The following year I did run a 4-mile run in the annual 4-miler at Rhodes College and sometime after that a New Year’s Day 4-miler (I really didn’t like running in the cold).
Once I had successfully run 4-mile races, my next goal was to be able to run a 10K (6.2 miles). This didn’t seem like a quantum leap from a 4-mile race. The only problem was that given the popularity of the 5K race (since it is a distance many runners can do), there weren’t very many 10K races locally. But in 1994, I did find one in Little Rock, AR—the Bud Run 10K. Being an avid Budweiser fan at the time, I thought what better run for my first 10K and convinced my family to go along with me. We drove over the night before and the next morning I got up and successfully ran the 10K. Beyond being my first 10K, what makes this race memorable was that President Nixon died the day before the race—22 Apr 1994—and Watergate controversy was all over the news again 20 years after it happened.
Having successfully run a 5K, then a 4-miler, then a 10K it didn’t take much for a friend of mine to convince me to participate in the local Memphis Runners Track Club (MRTC) Road Race Series. This series, which began in the summer, included 5 sanctioned races of progressively longer distance to help prepare participants to run in the local St. Jude Marathon held each year the first weekend in December.
The first race was just a 2-miler at Overton Park and my friend who was a much faster and longer distance runner than I was encouraged me to run flat out as fast as I could. His logic was since it was only 2 miles; stamina wouldn’t come into play, as it was such a short distance. His logic made sense to me so when the gun fired; I took off as fast as I had ever run. When I crossed the finish line I literally thought I was going to be sick. When I saw my time, just under 14 minutes, I right then and there gave up the idea of ever being able to achieve a sub 20 minute 5K. Rather than the 7-minute pace I had barely run, I would have to be able to run a sub 6.5 minute pace for another 1.1 mile longer. Knowing I would never be the speedy racer I dreamed of, I settled on distance instead. And the Road Race Series was going to help me with that.
Each of the five races were offered twice two weeks apart so if you weren’t happy with your first time, you could train some more and try to improve on the second time. Since I was no longer competing on reduced time, I ran the next couple of races just once. I had no trouble with the 4-miler and the 10K since I had run those distances before. But when I got ready for the 10-mile run, that all changed.
Interestingly prior to the 10-mile run, I had a conversation with the VP of R&D at work about my running. He confidently pointed out that running was the only sport that had a 100% injury rate. I paused to think about that but at the time, wasn’t convinced. Now I am.
To be continued…