Last Saturday was the first race in the 2009 Shelby County 5K Tour, and it was a beautiful day to run. My time was much-improved over last year, although the official time given in the results is off by about 13 seconds, based on both the time displayed when I crossed the finish line and the time recorded on my wristwatch.
This first race benefits the group Bringing Everyone at Shelby Hills Together (B.E.S.T.). The spring newsletter for the Shelby County Board of MRDD states that B.E.S.T. is the parent organization of Shelby Hills Early Childhood Center. Past funds raised from this event have been used to purchase additional playground equipment and provide financial support for the construction of a picnic shelter house. I have a cousin who helps organize the 5K and also has a child with Down Syndrome. During the course of the season, I am likely to see several of my cousins at the various races in the 5K tour, but especially at this, the first one.
This year, I had a cousin from Versailles, OH that participated in the race. She's five years younger than I am, and female, but she finished just 33 seconds behind me! Her 9-year old son beat my time from last year! I hope that they are able to make it to a few more of the races. Maybe I'll see them at her home town race in Anna.
It's clear to me that I'll need to step up my training this year if I want to be as competitive as last year. A runner from the 30-34 age bracket has graduated into the 35-39 age group, and he typically runs in the mid-to-high 19s. I only broke 20 once last year, and that was late in the season, and by only 0.1 seconds. The problem, as always, is finding the time. Ideally, the best time for me would be right after work, but my wife's business is going well enough that she's having trouble finding ladies to work the cleaning jobs -- meaning that she works more, including commercial jobs in the early evening, which requires that I be home with the baby. If I wait until later in the evening, after my dinner has digested and the kids are put to bed, I find that I've lost all motivation, and my self-discipline fails me.
I'm sure there's a spiritual analogy there somewhere.
The next race is not until May 30, in Jackson Center. That gives me four weeks to try to improve. Typically, I try to determine what pace I need to run and am able to maintain, then go out at that pace and hold it. By the second mile, I'm fighting a mental battle, trying to convince myself not to slow down. Shortly after that, I start counting down to the finish. It might be counter-productive, but I can't help it. It works pretty well for me, since by the time I reach the finish, I'm usually too spent for much of a closing kick. I've seen too many guys sprint hard across the finish line many minutes after I've completed the race, and my thought is always that if they have that much left at the end, they didn't run the rest of the race fast enough.
So I guess my training will involve two components: endurance and pacing. My success will be a matter of my own self-discipline and whether I consistently get out to train. Preparation requires self-discipline. Execution requires determination and self-knowledge.
Again, I'm sure that there's a spiritual analogy there somewhere. Is it any wonder that St. Paul used running as a metaphor in several of his letters?