The challenge of the group run: Be careful what you wish for

I’ve spent the past several days in D.C., and on Saturday morning, I enjoyed a lovely trail run in Rock Creek Park with some of my favorite running buddies. The route was a little longer than I would have chosen on my own, and we took the hills a little faster than I would have if left to my own devices.

When I returned to Virginia Beach yesterday afternoon and prepared for another easy, chatty 4.2-miler around my neighborhood with my Virginia Beach running group, I thought wistfully about the hard training runs I enjoyed with my group in Silver Spring—how we’d push each other to go faster and farther (though I certainly enjoyed my share of slow, chatty runs with that group, too).

Kids, be careful what you wish for.

Steve and I were a few minutes late getting to the meetup place for the group run last night. We could see the group a couple blocks ahead of us, so we sprinted ahead to catch up.

“We’re getting closer,” Steve said after we’d been at it for a minute or two.

Another minute or two passed. I was wheezing. The group was just as far out of reach as they’d been in the beginning.

“We’re not getting any closer,” I choked out.

“Sure we are,” Steve said encouragingly, before taking off like a gazelle to close the gap.

I gritted my teeth and tried to use my rage to propel myself forward, finding that magical high gear. I regret to report that I was already in that gear. I watched the group, and Steve, fade into the distance.

A traffic light let us catch up to the group, and me to Steve. The two women I ran with last week were both out of breath, too. “I’m about to fall back,” one of them said. “Low eights is too fast for me tonight.”

Low eight-minute-mile pace explained a lot. The light changed to green, and we took off at the same pace. But this time, I attributed my panting and exhaustion to the correct culprit—the fact that I simply haven’t run that fast of a pace for a while. I slowly worked my way up in the pack until I was trailing the leaders, and hung on for dear life.

I won’t say that the run was over before I knew it. I will say that running hard and fast (for me) was more enjoyable than I remembered, and that sprinting up to H.K. on the Bay, the restaurant where we start and finish our runs, gave me a feeling of triumph I haven’t experienced for a long time. My watch tells me I ran eight-minute miles for the 4.2-mile route, which is on the faster side of my personal range of running speeds. The whole experience left me motivated to push harder again in the future—maybe with the same running group’s hill workout tomorrow night? Stay tuned …

Now, two shameless plugs:

First, a plug for good cause: The Run for Shelter 10K & Fun Run on April 28, a new road race in Alexandria that will benefit Carpenter’s Shelter, the largest homeless shelter in Northern Virginia. Check it out, and be sure to let me know how it is if you run it!

Now, a plug for Since You Asked, the Q&A column about lower Montgomery County I write for Bethesda Magazine. As always, I’m looking for new, interesting questions about lower Montgomery County for the column. If you live in lower MoCo, submit your questions about the community to Don’t live in Moco? I’d be much indebted if you’d help spread the word to friends who do!

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One response to “The challenge of the group run: Be careful what you wish for

  1. Pingback: Race calendar 2012: a wish list | Amy Reinink

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