Do we run to get away from the ghosts, or to aquire the pellets?
My friend, Pastor Cheri Lyon, told me about this event that honored the lives of those fallen in duty and raised funds for the police chaplains. About 134 people gathered for the 100K and 30K rides, including my friend Jeff and his Air Force team that rode across Iowa several times. While they rode the full 100K from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, I took the cautious journey to Tijeras.The ride was amazing. With motorcycle police blocking every intersection, we rode from downtown Albuquerque, on Central Avenue, the old Route 66, eastward into the Sandia foothills. Perhaps the busiest street in all of Albuquerque, and one of the most historic routes in America, was completely closed for us. Every few miles a bagpiper played for different officers killed in the line of duty.
As unique as the ride was, it was not simple. In the 16-some miles I rode, we gained over 1,500 feet in elevation. Plus, as we rode into Tijeras Canyon, the wind funneled at us, and even the downhills were slowed by a strong headwind.
Suddenly, we reached a transition point that featured an abundance of Golden Pride burritos. While my ride was done, as Jeff and team continued on, it really only began.
For the last two months I have been training harder and more consistently than I ever have.
Everything was setup for a great 5K tonight, organized as a fundraiser for the One Fund for Boston. In characteristic New Mexico fashion, the festivities scheduled to begin at 5:30pm started around 6:15. Pre-race events included recognition of people present who recently ran the Boston Marathon, music from a bagpiper, presentation by a color guard, a moment of silence, and the singing of the national anthem. With somewhere between 200-300 people gathered together on the track surrounding the Balloon Fiesta Field, the race director suddenly said go (I am still not really sure where the start/finish line was) and we were off.
I started the first tenth of a mile a little slow as I weaved my way through the crowd, but soon moved towards the front of the pack. I finished the first mile in 8:05, exactly where I wanted to be. The second mile passed in 7:45, again right on target. At the start of the third mile I turned into a headwind somewhere around 20mph. I slowed a bit to a pace of around an eight minute mile, but as I turned to the wind at my back I felt I had plenty of energy in my tank and would really kick after the watch beeped for mile three.
The beep never came. I crossed the unmarked finish line at 2.85 miles—the race was a quarter of a mile short. I was all setup for a 5K PR, but a 5K is 3.1 miles.
At first I was disappointed at the shorter distance. My training and diet prepared me for a record I cannot claim. But this race was to support Boston and served as a reminder that while running is a solo sport it is not all about me.
While this did mark my first race at a sub eight minute mile pace (averaged 7:57/mile), the highlights had nothing to do with me. Several people proudly wore their 2013 Boston Marathon gear and hundreds helped raise money for the One Fund. I helped fellow church friend, and new runner, Denise Dockendorff finish the race as she set a PR. The course path was directed by elite Kenyan athletes and I had the honor of meeting Solomon who recently finished the Seoul Marathon and Mbarak Hussein who won the Honolulu Marathon three times.
While I may not have had the opportunity of reaching my own personal goal of setting a PR, I had the honor of being part of something greater than myself.
“Can’t stop, addicted to the shin dig” –Red Hot Chili Peppers
It has been four years since I ran my last 10K and I don’t know why. I find the 10K the most interesting distance.
In the 5K, you just run your heart out the entire time and hold on for the finish line. The half marathon requires careful pacing. But the 10K is somewhere between—neither all out sprint or holding back.
This was my first race since the disappointing Sedona Marathon. Today, several runners at the Albuquerque Half Marathon wore Boston Marathon jackets. With the events of the last week, I came to the race with a lot of emotion.
Also, this is my first run since being coached by Katie. Although I can’t say I have hit every training goal, I’ve exercised and cross-trained more than ever before.
So, I approached today’s race with great optimism. My previous 10K PR was 57:31 and I felt confident I could break that mark.
“In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream” –Frankie Goes to Hollywood (yes, I know this is a Bruce Springsteen song, but the Frankie version is bigger and musically superior. Check it out.)
While I love running a local race, the Albuquerque Half Marathon is always a mess. This is my third time at this event and no one ever knows where the start line is or what time the races will actually begin (today’s 10K started about 15 minutes late). Also, the course design is not great, about two miles into the 10K we ran into the walkers at the back of the 5K pack. I respect anyone who comes out for a run, but weaving through people is not ideal.
Nonetheless, the first 3 miles of the race went smooth and quick. I followed a woman who danced as she ran the entire time. I admit that I often put my fist in the air or shout a lyric while running, but she didn’t stop waving her arms or singing. It was great! I followed her for the first three miles, for the entertainment value, but as I ran each mile faster than the next, I passed her around mile three.
The second half of the race required more emotional and psychological strength than the first. I had to continually decide to push through the tiredness, monotony, and natural inclination to slow down. Coach Katie challenged me to run every mile 15 or so seconds faster than the previous mile and I was dedicated to that goal.
Three things helped me reach this goal. First, I looked at the separate packs of runners as goals to reach. Watching the Boston Marathon on Monday, the commentators noted the courage of runners who would journey from one pack to the next, taking the risk of getting caught in no man’s land in between. Second, I had some kickin’ music playing and I accelerated with the beat of the songs. Third, I had the goal of negative splits.
“It‘s better to feel pain, than nothing at all” –The Lumineers
I watched the pace on my watch to make sure I was hitting my goal of faster miles. However, I did not look at my overall time until the five-mile mark. I scrolled through the watch and saw that if I ran the last mile in 10 minutes I would still get a PR. At any race before this, I probably would have coasted to the finish, but I was determined to truly run my best.
With a quarter mile to go, I targeted a man with a blue shirt and big hat. I ran with everything I had and caught him with the finish line in sight. With about 100 meters to go, we raced to the finish and I passed him in the final steps.
My finish time was 53:43—more than three and half minutes faster than my personal record. Moreover, I hit the goal of running a negative split every mile. My first mile was 9:19, second 9:05, third 8:57, fourth 8:46, fifth 8:31, sixth 8:16, and I ran the last portion at a pace of 7:00 minutes/mile flat.
“Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers” –Florence and the Machine
Thanks to Coach Katie for her help and to my family for the sacrifice of my time spent in training. I couldn’t get there without you! Running may be an individual sport but it is only through the love and support of family and friends that we reach our dreams.
For the first 40 years of my life, I was the antithesis of an athlete. Even while in the Air Force, I exercised just enough to pass the physical fitness tests, but never anything more.
My sparse physical activity came more from a lack of skill than it did interest. I have no hand-eye coordination, I am not fast, and was always the last kid picked as teams divided on the playground.
I got away with this limited activity for 40 years. But as my metabolism slowed and age crept upward, my waistline expanded. In fact, the matriarch of a church I served threatened to take up a collection to buy me a girdle.
So, in 2008 I began running. First around the block, then a 5k, a 10k, and half marathon. In the next few years I ran a few marathons and even an ultra. While I still wouldn’t call myself an athlete, I do frequent a running store called “Athletes Edge,” which is much closer than I ever expected to get.
Running not only reduced my waistline, it became part of my identity; a time I can disconnect from responsibilities and reconnect with God, nature, and myself.
As a runner, Boston is the ideal. The place where it all began. This morning as I practiced my annual ritual of sitting on the couch and watching the Boston marathon, the announcer said that before Boston the longest competitive race in the US was three miles (what a simpler time!).
Boston is not only the oldest, longest running marathon, it is the dream. One can only get to the starting line of Boston by qualifying with a fast race time. In my four marathons, I have not been in the same ballpark as those qualifying times.
And yet, as I watched the race this morning I dreamt of that ideal. I emailed Coach Katie and said someday I want to be there. This morning Boston seemed to be the Promised Land to strive toward. Even if I only made it to Mt Nebo, Boston was the aspiration.
Then a pair of explosions tore apart lives and shook the world.
When the boys came home from school, they found me in front of the computer with tears running down my face, struggling to verbalize what had happened.
It is moments like this that break our routine and cause us to question who we really are.
For me, as a runner, Boston is not simply an elusive dream of a running time I might not reach. Boston is the symbol of all the greatness I yearn to achieve. Even if I never get there, it is the motivation to live into my full potential.
Today, that symbol was violently shattered in a most horrific way.
Tomorrow brings with it a question of response. Who will we be in a world where the identity we attach to the name Boston is forever changed?
For me, today’s events are a reminder to fully embrace the fleeting gifts of life. Not only will I continue to run with perseverance towards that distant starting line, but I will strive to be the husband, father, brother, son, friend, and pastor God has created me to be.