I knew that a couple good girl friends had signed up for a 10k race; but having just completed the NJ Marathon a few weeks prior, I didn’t feel obligated to sign up with them. Then, one of my friends had to miss the race, and I was offered her bib…at 11:30…the night before…as I’m lying in bed.

Well I obviously couldn’t say no to a challenge, and I had never run/raced a 10k before; so I was intrigued, and told my friend that I’d love to run the 10k with her.

I did have a bit of hesitation—mostly because my favorite pair of shorts was still in the dirty laundry—but I quickly washed them by hand, threw them in the dryer, and went to bed.

Race morning went smoothly, with my friend picking me up at 7:45 for a 30-minute drive to a 9am start. We arrived to the starting line, picked up our bibs, and hung out with our men.

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About 20-minutes prior to the race’s start, I went for a quick warm-up jog, which felt good. The weather was rainy and cool, and my legs felt relatively fresh. I hadn’t done much running since NJM, so the 10k was going to be a test as to how my body responded to a two weeks’ vacation.

The route started on an uphill, and the 10k runners filtered into the path of the 5k runners, who had started minutes before us. Having never run a 10k before, I figured that running tempo might be a good pace to be at. –the only problem was that I didn’t really know what my tempo pace was. So I kind of went with the flow.

I got confused with the 5k vs. 10k mile markers, so when I clocked a 6:45 for “mile 1,” I was a little concerned, and slowed WAY down. After 30 seconds, I saw a second “mile 1” marker for the 10k participants, making my true first mile a 7:15.

“OK,” I thought. If I could run a marathon at a 7:45 pace, I could definitely run 7:15s for 6 miles, right?

-If only that’s what I did. My second mile was a 6:52. I remember saying, “shit” out loud, and making a conscious effort to dial it down.

Between miles 2 and 3, the woman who would eventually come in second passed me. I tried battling it out with her for a few minutes, but pain was searing on the outside of my left knee (ah, the mighty IT Band strikes again), and I knew that it would be hopeless.

I was satisfied with a slowed-down 7:14 mile 3, but I was starting to get worried about the pain in my knee. I hadn’t really run much since the marathon, and I was concerned that racing a 10k wasn’t the best idea. I tried my best to ignore it, and just run through the pain, which was tough, because we were dealing with a lot of rolling hills.

Mile 4 was a 7:08, and I was starting to get tired. It also started raining here, but I was occupied by playing cat and mouse with some of the guys on the course. I also realized that I was probably 3rd place woman, and that it’d be nice to keep that position.

Then there was the hill. The HUGE hill.

When I agreed to do the 10k, I was okay with what was included in the official description, below:

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Scenic, I could do. Gradual-sure!
(Side note-I’m only just realizing now that the route was .25 more than a real 10k. FML.)

Well. The hill at mile 5.5 was NOT a gradual incline. It was a 111 foot incline over the course of half a mile.

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My cruising speed took a nosedive and I literally felt like a bear crawling up the hill. I’m sure it really wasn’t that bad, but I had NO idea it was coming, nor did I have any idea of how long it was going to be.

Mile 5 was a 7:39.
Crap.

Well, I persevered, and when I saw moms finishing up the 5k whilst pushing strollers, I knew that I wasn’t suffering half as much as they were. I also realized that I would, indeed, be the third place woman, so I pushed throuh the final mile and into the narrowest and most crowded finish chute I have ever seen.

Mile 6.2 was an 8:34, or a 7:08 pace. (However if the route distance was truly .25 over, it means that the last 1.45 was at a 5:54 pace. Hmmmm…)

FINAL TIME – 44:44

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I was listening to music and couldn’t hear, but apparently the announcer made a big to-do about the third place finisher (me)…the only problem was that I was running under my friend’s name, so there was a big to-do about Lauren, not Mary.

At any rate, the way-too-narrow finish chute got me really pissed off, especially since I finished and immediately started dry heaving, and every small child and adult was staring at me as though I was abnormal. But it was over and I had gotten third place in my first-ever 10k! Hooray!

If run a 10k again, there are obviously quite a few things I would do differently. But for now, it got me back into the feel of shorter-race running, which is something I’ll be focusing on between now and Boston 2014.

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