"When you put yourself on the line in a race and expose yourself to the unknown, you learn things about yourself that are very exciting." ~ Doris Brown Heritage, pioneer in women's distance running
Every race is a different story. I signed up for Run Wild at the last minute - thanks Monique for letting me buy your bib! I was very uncertain of my current fitness, so I went into the race with no strategy.
I am learning to take risk in races, so this was going to be a fun one. It never occurred to me that I could fail, or that I could win. With no race plan or sense of desirable outcome, I let myself loose on the start line. At the warm-up I thought I would pace for a comfortable 1:40 to test my fitness, then the race started and I was behind a tall, lean female runner. My strategy changed to try to hang on to her as long as I could; focusing on her shoulder blades (which were at my eye level) as she was powerfully running in the lead. She looked comfortable in the front, so I didn’t challenge her, but I let her know of my presence around the 6km mark.
I didn’t look at my pace because I felt great, it was nice to have someone in the lead and she was running well too. At this point, there was a male runner who would not let us both pass, though we were clearly running more comfortably. The moment we would begin to pass, he bested our pace only to slow down again. We all hit an aid station together, and he took two of everything, leaving me at the back with nothing! Irritated, I surged ahead and she followed me, leaving him behind. Both of us were relieved to be on our own, “female one and two” as the race volunteers were letting us know throughout the race, we started to chat about our goal time for this race. Mackenzie was doing her first half, and her goal was 1:30. I recalled my first half of 1:49 – she was ambitious. I felt we were off that kind of pace, likely on a 1:35 but I had not been paying attention so I looked at my watch for the first time at 10k. We were off, so I told her I would pick it up, but we are in this together now. She matched me, and I was happy she did – this was a learning experience for us both. I had visualized myself sprinting to the finish with her, and I did a mental check that this was possible to do because I was still feeling great. I am sure she was thinking the same thing too!
We worked together for the next 6km. Mackenzie fell off when we hit the gravel road, and I could no longer hear her breath or footsteps behind me. I didn’t look back and went into my own finish but I was hoping she had not fallen off too much. There was no one directly in front of me to chase, so the last 4km was all in my head. There were hills, lots of cheering fans. I was really hot, and for the first time in the race, I felt physically uncomfortable and lonely. I had not prepared myself to win, this was a not a winning pace. I finished strong and waited to cheer on Mackenzie. She finished strong too, just slightly behind. It’s amazing what happens during a race, both physically and mentally, and the connections you can make with others while trying to get to the finish line.