There are 45 days until my next attempt to qualify for Boston.
This past Sunday I ran the Sheriffmuir Challenge Road Race. It starts from at isolated pub in the hills, climbs for 1\2 mile, and then descends for the next 5 miles. The route is on an isolated road, with great views of the surrounding mountains. Along the route there are isolated farms, fields of sheep, grasslands, and the occasional patch of woods. Runners turn around at the end of this road and run back to the pub. This is largely uphill, and give a total distance of 11 miles.
I was tired at the start. I'd done my scheduled 20-miler the day before, using, for the first time, walk breaks. I started with a 4 minute run: 35 second walk ratio, but after my first 5.4 mile loop through town, I switched to an 8 min run: 1 min walk ratio.
I tried the run-walk-run approach for a few reasons. First, I'd suffered on my past 16-mile runs in this training period, but with the marathon quickly approaching, I needed to increase my endurance by running farther. Second, I wanted to run the Sheriffmuir race the next day, so I didn't want to be utterly exhausted from my 20-miler. Third, I've been listening to a podcast entitled The Extra Mile Experiment, where the podcaster is following the Galloway run-walk-run strategy in preparation for his fall marathon.
The run-walk went well. I was tired after the 20 miles, but not shattered. Although I thought the walk breaks would be disruptive, in fact they passed quite quickly. It seemed like I'd just take a handful of steps, and then it would be time to run again.
My first mile was 7:15. I could see C., a woman I'd met at previous races who runs about the same speed as me, about a 1/4 mile ahead. I wanted to try and catch up to her, but she was going out fast. I didn't know how my legs were going to hold out after the previous day's long run, so I held back.
Mile 2 was largely downhill, and I ran it in 6:52. It was a warm, sunny day, and I gratefully took water at the first water table near mile 3.
Mile 3 was flatter, and came in at 7:20. 4 had a lot of descent, and came in at 6:36. I commented to a guy I'd drawn even with that we were doing a good pace. He agreed, but said we'd pay for it on the way back.
By mile 5 I hadn't made much progress catching C. At the turn around point, at 5.5 miles, I again took water. I drank a few mouthfulls, and then poured some down my back to keep cool.
Mile 6 had a sustained climb, and I ran it in 8:15. The sun was hot now, and the occasional short stretches of road in the shade of trees were welcome.
Slowly, I closed the distance to C. My soreness was gone, and I felt strong. I ran a sub-8 minute pace for the next few miles, fixating on the runner ahead of me, catching them, and then moving on to the next runner.
Soon there were only two runners between me and C. Then one. Then, with just under 3 miles to go, I drew even.
We chatted for a bit, and then she pulled ahead briefly. On a steeper section, she slowed and I eased past.
As I neared the top of the last hill I picked up the pace slightly. There was an older guy ahead of me, and as soon as we started the descent to the pub, his pace accelerated dramatically. However, I stayed behind him, and then picked up my pace once again and passed.
I was now striding out, but worried that I'd begun my kick too early. I kept going, and as the finish line neared I put in a final sprint.
I didn't win, of course, nor will I ever do so. I'd finished 23rd out of 91 runners. However, I'd had that rare experience of performing to my absolute capacity, and feeling strong while doing so.
I'd run a good race.