Fall running is always redemption running for me. After the brutality and stagnation of the summer heat lifts, an avalanche of progress usually surfaces to remind me why I love running and continue the addiction all year round.
This was abundantly true today at the Hot Chocolate 15K in Denver. Sandwiched between completing my half marathon and the upcoming Cripple Creek, I entered the Hot Chocolate race rather apathetic. I wanted to run the distance, as usual, but I did not really have any pace goals or requirements.
Then I saw the pacer holding the sign with my pre-pregnancy average pace: 11:30. Seeing that number, that I had been chasing since returning to running, snapped something in my mind. After crossing the start line, I did not wog gently. Instead, I pushed myself. I ran to my (reasonable) limit.
At first, I took off in front of the pacer, in her white shirt, with her little time sign, incessantly checking her watch. Then she crept up behind me. I would push myself again until she fell back behind me. Once, she even disappeared into the distance, and I considered abandoning my foolish goal.
As the increased pace began to burn in my belly and the pacer continued to nip at my heels, I settled to make the 5K portion in 11 minute miles. Yet that sign came and went, and I continued to push. Where my float usually greets me after 2-3 miles, at this elevated exertion level, it waited. I vividly felt those first miles, perpetually talking myself into pushing harder.
I did find my float somewhere around 5 miles, just over halfway through the race. Then it began to ebb and flow. I would smile to myself at how good it felt to run like this; then I would slam into a wall, where my body begged me to stop, to slow.
I just kept going.
The 10K sign came and went. The pacer and I continued to alternate lead until I ultimately pulled ahead of her, and though I routinely checked over my shoulder, she did not reappear.
Near mile 8, my true wall slammed into my face. Full force. I stuttered and slobbered like a sedated basset hound. I puttered and staggered. But I would not walk in the last two miles.
I just kept going. And I made it.
I was too nauseous to eat my chocolate fondue finisher’s cup, yet it was satisfying just to hold it. When I looked at my time, I did even better than I thought during the race. I lived under 11:30. Like I always used to, once upon a time.
I had thought I would not be able to achieve my pre-pregnancy running until I returned to pre-pregnancy weight. I have proven to myself that that is not true. I have run a half marathon. I have run at my old pace for 9 straight miles. All I needed was a little cold weather; all I needed was to truly push myself past what I thought I could do now.
I don’t have to be who I was before; I can be this version right here.
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