My plan seemed really reasonable when I devised it.
I was going to start upping the distance of my longest weekly runs after the Marine Corps 10K in late October. I had exactly the right amount of time to build up my endurance with long runs on the weekends, and was steadily running four or five miles for shorter runs every other day.
The only problem: That didn’t allow for any wiggle room for travel and sickness, both of which threw unexpected monkey wrenches in my plan. I probably could have squeezed in more runs on the road (and during breaks from my NyQuil retreat on the couch) if the race were my primary goal, but I instead used my diminished workout time to focus on getting ready for the ski season. That was the right decision, as it was in line with my values and priorities at this moment in time. Still, making the right decision and prioritizing well doesn’t mean you’re magically trained for your 15K.
I’m going to run the darn thing, anyway—even after noting that the course is actually not flat at all, but is actually horribly hilly. I’m in good enough shape that I believe I can at least cross the finish line and get my jacket and chocolate, so I plan to do so.
As luck would have it, I have some personal experience with being untrained for a 15K: the Gate River Run in 2006 in Jacksonville, Fla. Steve and I had both signed up for the race before a “workup” of his, a short training trip before a long deployment. When he got home a few days before the 15K, we acknowledged that neither of us had trained for the race. I decided for both of us that we’d run the race, anyway (this made perfect sense to me at the time), and off we went on race day, blithely running 8-minute miles until I crashed and burned all over the course.
I walked most of the bridge. I got passed by a guy wearing a giant SpongeBob SquarePants outfit. I got to the finish line only because Steve physically pushed me forward (imagine him walking behind me, pushing on my back with both his hands, possibly instructing me to “use my legs.”)
I finished in a slow, painful 1:43:38, or 11-minute-mile pace. The pain I felt during that race and the elation I felt after it motivated me to actually train for the race that next year, running an easy, relaxed 1:27, and staying well ahead of SpongeBob.
So here’s my goal for this weekend: I’d like for 31-year-old untrained me to beat the (square)pants off 25-year-old untrained me. To that end, I will run 10-minute miles for as long as I can on Sunday. A perfectly executed race will yield perfectly even splits, not a fast 5K early on, then a bunch of walking miles later on. If the wheels fall off and it turns out 31-year-old me is lagging behind even on 11-minute-mile pace, I’ll congratulate myself for being older and wiser—I was at least smart enough to choose a race with free chocolate, right?