Some people see a series of 6’s and think “evil”; at the “Flash” races yesterday, what mattered more to me was the color (red), signifying I was a 12K runner (6K runners had black numbers).
When I started blogging weekly, I focused on the topic that was prominent in my head (and my weekends) at the time: running a 5K in less than 30 minutes. Along the way to that goal (which I still am working toward), I have wandered into a critique of convenience store bathroom decor (and gained a couple of friends out of it), swept up auto glass off of a major highway (and felt better for it), and confronted the reality of parenting a teenager head-on (or maybe it was keyboard to keyboard). This week brings me back to running.
When I ran the “Flash” 6K last February, I was about two months into my return to running. It was great to have an unusual distance — 6K (3.73 miles) — to run on a weekend when my training program had me progressing to a 4 mile distance anyway. Although last year’s event was the 21st annual, it was my first time participating, and I quickly grew to understand why this somewhat low key race with its unique quirks lures people back year after year. One “draw” of the race is that it is run in memory of Tim Simpkins. Having been around in Tallahassee in the mid 80’s when it was not unusual to see “Superman” (aka Tim) flying down Tennessee Street in front of Jerry’s Restaurant, it is nice to keep the memories alive of someone who always made running interesting (while doing it very, very well).
When 2010 came around, I found myself in a different place running-wise compared to 2009. I may not be running my 5K’s in a sub-30 time yet, but I have gotten faster (34:27) thanks to my nighttime Hawk’s Landing runs in all kinds of weather, the speed-inducing influence of Gulf Winds’ Tuesday night “tortuvals” sessions, the slow and steady weight loss that has come with consistent running, and increasing my weekend run mileage. I have read that there is a positive relationship between running longer than the distance at which you are trying to excel and running that distance faster, which is why it took about ten seconds to say “yes” when my sister-in-law Laurie asked me to run the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC, on March 27 to celebrate her 40th birthday with her. I figure training for a longer race will positively influence my 5K goal, so longer runs on the weekends it is.
Which gets me back to the Flash 12K/6K. I could have run the 6K again this year, but my training plan called for me to run 6 miles. If I had run 6K, I would have had to tack on a few more miles after the race. If I ran the 12K, I was risking returning to the absolute tail end of the pack of runners, where I have not been in a while, as well as the old “last banana status” (although in the case of the Flash the post-race snack is black beans and rice (yum!).
I went out on President’s Day and ran the 12K course, to get some idea of how long it would take. I pored over previous years’ results to see what the longest time had been each year. I sent the director one too many emails asking if I could switch to the 6K distance on race day if I lost my nerve.
With my slow but “completed” President’s Day run checked off the list, I proceeded to run the 12K, and I am so glad I did. Thanks to the cold, race day adrenaline, and the sight of venerable Robert Morris a minute ahead of me throughout most of the last half of the race, I finished in 1:32:00, which is about 11 minutes faster than my practice run. This will break no records (except on my own PR list), but the sense of completion and accomplishment I took home with me were reward enough.
The other thing that strikes me about the Flash race and makes it one of my favorites is how its “out and back” design, and the fact that the 12K’ers interface with the 6K’ers at the middle of the race, facilitates the encouraging words that are shared between all different paces of runners. When this picture was posted last year, I thought it was hysterical that Tony Guillen (2010’s Gulf Winds Track Club Male Runer of the Year) was “behind” me. He was actually almost done with the 12K while I was still working on my 6K.
This year, like last year, I was reminded how one key to overcoming my horrible memory of faces and names is working directly with people, getting to know them, and sharing experiences. So many people who have made this past year of running such a great experience, both from a running perspective and from a “life lessons” perspective, passed me on the trail yesterday (or helped manage the race). It sounds so minor, but not having to say, “what is your name again” less and less often is as energizing to me as a good run (well, almost!).
The opportunity to share a beautiful day honoring Tallahassee’s running “super hero” while participating in a sport we all love so much made 7.45 miles go by in a “flash.”
I’ll “run” into everyone next week.