Yesterday’s Youngstown Peace race was a humble reminder that I am not in as great of running-shape as I was last year.
It was also a wonderful reminder that pace is not the only thing that determines our success as runners. Yes — a PR is grand; this is what we all hope for regardless of where or why we run races (try to tell me you don’t care about PRs and I will not believe you!). But…there are a lot of other factors and outcomes that can show us we are making gains even if that PR doesn’t happen.
The 2019 Youngstown Peace Race was exactly what I needed for a lot of reasons.
First, could we have asked for better weather? I don’t think so. The Peace Race is a long-standing 10k race through Mill Creek Park and Downtown Youngstown. This was the 45th running, and I was so happy to hear that over 1000 runners towed the start of either the 10k or 2-mile race.
Side note: This was my fourth Peace Race. My first running was in 2015, and I had a torn hamstring from my first half-marathon. I walked the 2-mile with Gracie, and she wasn’t even two yet. I haven’t skipped a Peace Race since!
Anyway, back to the weather: The high was 66 degrees F and the 10k began a 10 a.m. This is ideal running weather for me and the kind where I usually perform my best. Mill Creek Park is not only full of fall foliage (say that five times fast), but there’s also patches of shade that proved soothing and necessary despite the cold temps. The morning was pure sunshine, so the shade was a nice break.
The Peace Race 10k is a point-to-point course (my favorite kind). We rode school buses up to the start, and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of food and drinks available. In local races, I’ve only seen bananas, donuts, coffee, and water at a finish line. Heck, that’s the same for large races, too. Ain’t no one giving you water or food in your corral at a major marathon, #amiright? Breakfast was a Perfect Bar along with a pre-race banana.
This race typically goes off a few minutes past schedule, but runners don’t seem to mind. Gun start was 10:07 a.m. I was somewhere near the mid-back of the pack where I usually am.
To no one’s surprise, I went out a bit too fast. I didn’t have a goal of any sort in this race; I just wanted to have fun. The truth is that my weekly mileage has been about 6 miles, so I knew I needed to exercise caution in this race. Not only did I complete more than my weekly mileage during one run, but I was running just two days per week and Sunday was another new day of running added onto my schedule.
The first half of the course is a breeze. Most of it is downhill. When I faced one of those famous Mill Creek Metro Parks insanely challenging hills, I ran but slowed the pace. My HR was already above 160, and I didn’t want to fizzle out before the halfway point. For about the first four miles, I ran between a 10:24-10:40 pace. I knew I probably couldn’t keep it up, and again — that was ok. I probably didn’t have any business running a 10k at this point!
Coming up the hill around mile 3 or so, I noticed a friend of mine chugging a long. She is usually quite a bit faster than me (more like an 8-minute pace), so I knew something was up and that she may have been in pain. Sure enough, her foot was acting up — and I decided to walk/run with her a bit. This was a blessing in disguise because at this point, but HR was pushing 170+ and that is waaaay too high. Thankfully, the walking helped my HR go back down to around 160. Eventually, my friend passed me into the distance, and she ultimately finished the race.
Around mile 4 I knew I had the race in the bag, but probably not at my best time. I slowed the pace to about 10:52 and made sure I utilized the water stop between miles 4-5. Again, my HR kept going up, and I wanted to keep it in check, so the water stops forced me to slow down and walk a little bit.
Mile 5 came and went quickly. Before I knew it, I turned right onto Federal Plaza and I could see the sidewalks lined with people. I continued to slow down, but when I saw the 6 mile marker and realized I had just .2 to go, I sped it up and crossed the finish line.
Was it my best time? Not at all! Last year I ran about nine minutes faster than this. I consider this race a success, though, beyond the obvious reason that I finished a distance I had no business running and was severely under-trained for:
- I’ve learned to separate goals from goals and decide which is most important. My focus right now is the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon in May 2020. My marathon pace is not my 10k pace. I can train for a fast 10k, or I can train to beat my marathon time. These are two different methods and types of training. Sometimes, we garnish a new PR during training for a different race, but this is simply a side-effect. Training for a fast 10k would have been more of a short-term goal for me, and I decided to remain focused on my long-term goal of beating my marathon time.
- My mental game is on-point. A couple of years ago, I would have set some kind of unrealistic goal and beat myself up if I failed. I would have set a sub 55 minute 10k goal despite the lack of training and all. Lofty goals are great, but they do take time — and I knew that going into this race. I was able to mentally accept that this race was for fun, and that dictated how I ran. This is a skill that took me a loooong time to master, so I was happy to see my mental game in action.
- We feel best when we help others, and that doesn’t change on the course. A friend of mine may be severely injured and wasn’t doing well when I caught up with her. I had the choice to try and beat myself to run faster or slow it down and give her some company. I don’t want a pat on the back, but I do want to raise the point that sometimes good ol’ runners high happens for unexpected reasons. This was one of those times. Plus, as an RRCA coach, I go into races understanding that I have the skills and knowledge to recognize less-than-ideal conditions that other runners may develop. I am an RRCA, CPR-certified run coach first and a runner second. Always.
I needed those #finishlinefeels more than I realized. There is nothing quite like navigating through a tunnel of cheering bystanders as we cross finish lines. I am already looking forward to the 2020 Youngstown Peace Race! Big thanks to the race director, timing crew, volunteers, and sponsors for another great event. To learn more about the Peace Race, a local 2 mile and 10k race in Youngstown that includes an international prize purse, click here.