It had to happen eventually. I wasn't just going to retire from running. Although, I have to admit, sleeping in on Saturday mornings has kind of grown on me!
So, I haven't pinned a number on since last November. That's six months with no racing. For me that's an eternity. I typically run two or three races a month. In fact, for about four months during that down time because of injury, I did very little running period. But, as I said, It couldn't last forever.
So, when the opportunity came up in my schedule to run the Soldier Field 10 miler, I couldn't resist. It was the 12th running of this great race, and I had run the first ten. The schedule prevented me from making it last year, but that reversed itself this year.
It's also one of my favorite races, and one my regular running friends have also embraced. We have our traditions associated with it, and coming to this race is not only a good run, but a good chance to catch up with friends.
Most importantly, its also a great way to remember our military heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice in order to preserve the freedoms we enjoy. The folks at Fleet Feet Sports, who put on this race, do a good job of honoring our active military and veterans.
All that said, I was a little nervous about this. Ten miles is the longest I've run in six months, and I'm really out of shape, running lower than I can ever remember. In fact, I don't recall ever being this out of shape.
But there's only one way I know of to get back in shape. And it's not watching on the sidelines! So I got up early Saturday morning. Really early for me. I made it to the race more than an hour early, even though I had no intention of warming up.
The race starts outside Soldier Field, runs south on Lake Shore Drive for nearly five miles, then loops back around on the lakefront path back to the stadium. Rather than my normal 7:00-7:30/mile pace, I was running closer to 8:30-9:00/mile pace. But, as I discovered, the difficult sections of the race are the same no matter what pace your run.
That means miles seven and eight are the toughest miles in the race. You are pretty tired, and you still have a long way to go before you can smell the finish line. I experienced that again in this race, and it felt good to be out there trying to push through the tough miles.
It also felt good to get the payoff in this race, finishing on the fifty yard line of Soldier Field! Knowing what's in store makes the last mile or two much easier to deal with. And I can think of no finish to any race I enjoy more.
I paid little attention to my finishing time. It was easily about 15-20 minutes slower than I usually run on this course. But that really made no difference to me. I've got to get back in shape. And there may be no better race to begin that process.