The Year of Running Slowly

The Year of Running Slowly

by Mihael Herrera on Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 8:50pm

March 7, 2010, I lined up at the back of the pack at the Stillwell Woods 8K Trail run in Syosett, NY.  I was somewhat pleased to hear that they reduced the length of the course because of the dangers of the ice.   The race turned out to be about 3.5/4 miles long.  Walking more than running,  I finished it in 54 minutes, 24 minutes behind the winner.

Before the Stillwell Woods run. Despite the cold, this man is about to overheat.

I hadn’t run much before that.  I was told that as an asthmatic child, it really wasn’t something that was safe for me to do. Through the age of 14, I was hospitalized a dozen times with pneumonia.  As an adult, I ran on the treadmill occasionally, while watching a lacrosse or hockey game, but never anything sustained.  I ran that day in Syosset, just to fill time.  I had flown into NY the day before to see an Isles game ahead of a seminar in the City the following Monday. There happened to be something called a trail race that free day.  I loved running in the snow and mud down narrow single lanes.  I laughed when I had to climb over a fallen tree trunk.  I remember going back to my hotel and digging the mud out of my shoes before packing them.   In the 51 weeks to follow, I would complete 12 additional runs, 7 of which were on trails.

For the first six months, I kept to 5K runs, both on streets and trails.  In September, I planned 5K runs on three consecutive weekends.  Week 1 was in Disneyland with Laura and Cassidy.

Me and my Dad in Central Park for the Susan Komen Race for the Cure.

Week 2 was a Komen run through Central Park in New York where my Dad would wait for me at the finish line. The third 5K was in the UK.   At the last minute, I emailed the race director of the UK run and asked her to move me to the 10K course.  It turned out the race was 3/4 trail run and it was an amazing event around the Hampstead Heath.

Hampstead Heath run in London

The view of London was breathtaking.I am at the point now where a 5 mile run is something I can do after work without too much difficulty.  Every weekend normally has an 8 to 11 mile run in it. I am scheduled to run my first half marathon in Vancouver next June.  Last weekend, I decided during mile 6 of a run to push through and see what 13.1 miles felt like.  Answer: HARD.  I was wiped afterward, but I did it.

So at 46 years old, I come to the end of my first year of running.   I have logged 100 miles in the first 2 months of 2011. My goal is to run over 500 miles this year.  I accept that I run slowly.  My top 5 paces range from 10:08 to 11:58 mins/mile.  In a 10K race, I am doing well if I can break out of the bottom 20%. But nothing good comes from comparing to other people, especially people 5 to 25 years younger and/or 100lbs lighter or who have been running longer than me.

View during the Malibu Trail Run

Peace comes from enjoying event, the people and the venue and doing the best I can.  A few of my most remarkable running-related points from the past year:

  • Best Memory: End of the Xterra Malibu Trail run when Laura, Cassidy and I pulled out of the parking lot to head back to our hotel.  Cassidy won her age group.
  • Favorite Non-Race Run: 8 to 10 mile run through Central Park in December when the snow flurries started.
  • Hardest Race: Xterra Mission Gorge 15K.  2.5 hours of good hard work.
  • Favorite post run meal: In a small Irish Pub in Las Vegas after a 9+mile run at 6am.
  • Coldest run: 2 Labs around the city of Ennis in Ireland at 5am in February 2010.  I stopped at one point to send a text and my shirt froze to my chest.
  • Best 10K: Bufallo Alley Trail run at Camp Pendleton.  First mile was killer.  Amazed by what the young Marines do.
  • Favorite Venue: Disneyland 5K
  • Favorite Run T-Shirts: Laura modified her Disneyland 5K shirt.  It now looks very 80’s on her and incredibly cute.
  • Run Least Enjoyed: Todays Break 8K.  A street run through the neighborhood where I work. At times, sharing the road with cars.  There was just nothing fun about it.
  • Favorite Picture: Cassie crossing a bridge in the Dirt Devil 5K in San Diego.
  • Favorite Street Race: Tie between the Susan Komen Race for the Cure in Central Park and the Whittier 5k (I went to Whittier College).
  • Best Meal After A Run: Irish Breakfast after a 9+ mile run in Vegas.

So it turns out as I review the past year, I much prefer the trail runs.  I like running along rivers and up mountains.   I like the smells of the flowers and the views of valleys.  I like coming home with really dirty socks and shoes. I like crossing rivers and just having to put my whole foot under water to make a crossing. I especially love the nap that comes around noon from exhaustion.  In an unrelated note, I also like finishing a race and getting on a plane a few hours later.  I have done that twice.

Anyway, thank you all for your support over the year.  You have given me some very positive responses to my running and kept me going out the door on an early Saturday/Sunday morning.

Cassie at her normal 8 min/mile pace. Never underestimate the power of a small spirit.
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The Year of Running Slowly

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