It has been a long time since I ran my heart out. One full year to be exact. I ran the July 4th Spectacular 4-miler in Charlotte, N.C. for the past 5 years. Last year (here’s my 2013 recap of the race) was the last time I truly raced all out because I got pregnant later that month.
This year’s event marked my return to racing after having my daughter 11 weeks ago. I didn’t know what to expect during the race. My postpartum return to running has been rocky. I had to take a few weeks off to recover from childbirth and then I needed to sit another couple of weeks out due to an injury. I’ve only really been running for five or six weeks. I’ve been slowing increasing my mileage (because marathon training starts next week – gulp) but I’ve done zero speedwork. Still, most of my runs have gone pretty well, so I set a pace goal for the 4-mile race – 8:00 minute miles.
The race’s location moved this year and was in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte. A beautiful, albeit hilly area.
I felt great right out of the gate. The sun was shining, but the humidity level was low. There were enough runners around me to excite me, but not enough to make the course feel crowded. And my legs felt really good.
Mile 1: 7:40
I was shocked when I saw my pace. I thought mile one would be close to a minute slower than that. So, I (foolishly) picked up my pace because I felt strong. The second mile also had the longest downhill and flat section which only made me push harder.
Mile 2: 7:20
At the halfway mark, I felt unstoppable. But then the hills of mile 3 got to me. They were long and steep, and I was fading. Within a half of a mile, I went from feeling on top of the world to cursing myself for running the first half of the race so fast.
Mile 3: 7:45
I was pretty upset when I saw how much my pace dropped. Don’t get me wrong, I was still running much better than I expected, but I hate positive splitting a race. The final mile was still hilly, but I set a goal for myself to just run faster than I did for mile three. Then the race wouldn’t be a complete positive split, right?
I pride myself in always finishing races strong, but I had zero energy left in my tank to sprint it in once I saw the finish line.
Mile 4: 7:31 / Overall time: 30:30
(My splits were based off my GPS watch and I ran the course a bit long, so my splits don’t add up to my official time.)
I crossed the finish line feeling mixed emotions. If I just looked at my time, I was really proud of myself – I crushed my goal. But I didn’t run a smart race. I started out way too fast, and tried to hold a faster pace than what I trained for.
However, it was a good learning experience. It reminded me why I need to train properly for every race and set realistic goals. Plus, it was just fun! I’m even more excited about marathon training now that I know my body remembers how to run “fast”-ish.
It feels so good to be back.
Written by Jen Matz.