58:10 (x 2)

I’m not very fast.  In fact, my running pace is just enough to be considered “running”.

But running isn’t about beating the person next to you; it’s about accomplishing something for yourself.  It’s about improving your personal speed by five seconds every week.  It’s about running just .5 mile more without stopping than you did yesterday.

Our bodies are all different, and no matter how great of shape you’re in, sometimes you just aren’t able to run a 7 minute mile.  Even if you’re at a 10 minute (or more)/mile pace, you’re still running.  And that’s amazing.

Two weekends ago, on April 13th, I got to run in the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, which is one of my favorite races.  When I first ran this race in Spring 2011, I fell in love.  It was (and still has been) one of my longest races at 6.2 miles.  The first year I ran, it was pretty chilly, and then last year, it was drizzly and cool (my favorite running weather), but this year, it was a beautiful, sunny 60 degree day.

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Qualified to run in a seeded wave this year!
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Starting line
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One of America’s Premier Races!

The Monument Avenue 10k is such a friendly race, and I believe it is in the top 10 of America’s most popular races.  There were 32,000 runners to complete the race this year!  It’s also incredibly organized with like 30 something start-time waves, a lot of water stops, a post-race party and meeting area, shuttles to the race, and even a bike valet!  It is run down and back one of America’s only historically recognized streets, Monument Avenue, which is absolutely beautiful and dotted with a handful of monuments recognizing great American leaders.  Part of it is run on cobblestones, which makes for a more challenging course, but it is relatively flat.  It is a wonderful “first” race, if you are looking for something longer than a 5k or have been running for a while, and trust me, if you’ve never done a race before, you will be addicted to running afterwards.  There are also walker waves – it’s a family friendly race!

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Happy Runner?

The community support along the route is amazing.  People standing on the sidewalk, cheering, clapping…clowns, cheerleaders, dancers, great signs like “I’d run, but who would hold this sign!” and “Free beer for quitters” (people are partying on their front decks and balconies along the course).  I see red solo cups and I run faster, if you know what I mean.  Bands line the street, bubbles are in the air.  It’s so much fun.  I am also really proud of my hometown for putting together an organized, exciting race every year that thousands come to participate in.  Great job RVA!  And props to SportsBackers, the non-profit that organizes many of the region’s races!

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Sweaty Asian Runner?
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American Gothic runners? These two won first place in the “Dress Up and Run” contest…and they ran the 10k holding the frame just like this!

Okay, to be honest, about mile 4, you might feel like you’re dying and want to quit.  But it’s still fun.

I really hadn’t set a “goal” time this year because I didn’t have a lot of time to train.  Of course, as a runner, we all like to do better than our previous PR (Personal Record).  And I ended up being decently happy with my time which was…

58 minutes, 10 seconds.  The exact same time as last year.  To the second.  Well, at least I can say I’m consistent.  However, my 5k split was faster, which bodes well for future 5k races!

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Yay! Finished!

Mom and Dad drove me to the race and watched this year.  Also, they probably saw me at my worst, at like mile 5.5 when I was kind of dying a little.  Still, it was great to have their support!

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Mom, the non-runner.

And then, I rode a runner’s high for the rest of the afternoon before the soreness hit the next day.  Runner’s high = Best feeling in the entire world.  I drove back to the DC area on Monday, but since I’ve been back, I’ve been nursing some weird stomach issue and haven’t felt like running, but I feel like I’m finally getting back to normal.  I’m excited to lace up my shoes for my next run though.  Maybe the next race will be a half-marathon? Maybe? Who knows!

Happy running!

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We run to overcome.

My heart absolutely breaks for the runners, volunteers and spectators in Boston yesterday.  As a runner myself, and having just finished the Monument Avenue 10k in Richmond that over 32,000 people completed, I was in disbelief that someone could be filled with such evil and selfishness to destroy a day that is supposed to be filled with happiness and celebration.

While I share, along with the rest of the world, the disbelief and sadness of these events,  I wanted to take a different route in the words I’ve decided to put here.  Instead of writing about the bad, I wanted to write about the event that this evil affected.  I want to write about the power of running.

Why do we run? 

We run to clear our heads when life gets stressful.

We run to prove to ourselves that we are capable of doing what we thought we could not.

We run to show ourselves that we can overcome.

Running takes dedication and commitment.  We lace up our shoes before the sun rises, or hit the pavement after a long day of work.  We trudge up hills and feel the sweat dripping down our faces.  It teaches us transformation through dedication.  Generally, in life, we don’t get to where we want to be overnight or without frustration, maybe even failure at first.  To experience both physical and mental transformation, a lot of diligence, persistence and patience come into play.  Success doesn’t come overnight.  Running teaches us that.

To me, running has always been a metaphor for life.  Things get tough.  We face adversity.  Last year, a few weeks before I ran the 2012 Monument Avenue 10k, I had my heart broken.  I was devastated because I had made a life with this person, and I didn’t know what direction my life was going to take without him.  But I was set on running this amazing race that over 40,000 people from all over the country and world come to participate in – a wonderful mass of humanity.  I knew that the spectators and the positive encouragement along the course would be one of the best cures for sadness.  And on mile 4, when I started to get my runner’s high, I remember telling myself that I was capable of anything.  In that moment, I could fly if I wanted to.  I didn’t need another person to make me feel some sense of worth.

Running helped, and still helps me when things get difficult.

Running teaches us resilience.  There are times we want to stop and give up.  Our minds tell us we’re through, we’re done, we’re going to pass out from fatigue.  That we are defeated.  There are days where we have sub-par runs, but we must get up tomorrow.  The sun rises and it’s a chance to begin again.  A new day; a new run.  One thing runners learn very early on is that we must be resilient, as our bodies are strong enough to keep pushing forward.  In running, and in life, we are stronger than we thought.

We can get through this.

We can get through the events of Boston, Aurora, Sandy Hook, and Virgina Tech.  We’re resilient, but we never forget.  Our lives move forward, and if anything, they move forward in a fashion where we hold the people close to us dear, where we remember to say “I love you”, where we don’t let the trivial things get to us as much.  We enjoy life.  We smile more.  We take time out to help and be there for others.  We realize, life is precious.  And simultaneously, when humanity bands together in times of turmoil, we discover, we are loved.

We also see that race events, whether it be a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, or the full 26.2 bring out the absolute best in people.

I posted this as my Facebook status yesterday, and I’ll close this post with the same thoughts:

“The thing I love most about races is the feeling of “oneness” between total strangers.  There’s so much love and support for people we don’t even know; people cheering you on with words of encouragement, giving free high fives and countless smiles that keep you pushing forward when you want to stop, when things get tough.  Running races reminds me there’s still good in the world.  There are still people on your side.  Thoughts and prayers to all the people at the Boston Marathon today.”

Run, run to the treadmill, as fast as you can!

I’ve been trying to get my workouts done in the AM so I can go home in the evenings and relax/get things done/cook, etc.  This morning, I woke up at 4:45 am (I was already weirdly awake and couldn’t get back to sleep), and headed down to the gym.  The place I moved has workout facilities, which are really like one treadmill, a stationary bike, and some weight machines from the 1970s.  It sucks when you want to use the treadmill and someone is on it, but usually I can find it free.  The other apartment buildings in the complex have workout rooms, but the treadmills are on uneven ground and they make a horrible noise (the one in my building is on carpet).  It’s so convenient to be able to go down to the basement, or run on the W&OD trail right near the apartment when the weather is nice.

Here’s one issue:  There’s this older lady with a severe attitude problem who, when she saw me enter the workout room this past Monday morning at 6 am, told me that ‘nobody ever comes down to the gym that early except her, and she needs to use the treadmill and walk for an hour because she has an injury’…and implied, ‘don’t try to use the treadmill in the morning’ between 5:30 am –  7 am.  If she didn’t have such an attitude the first time she spoke to me, I maybe would adjust my workouts, to fit her needs, but,  I, too need the treadmill in the morning.  If I get the treadmill first, I’m going to use it until I am done.  You snooze, you lose! Wow, DC has turned me into a biatch, huh?  I kind of felt a little bad because I was on mile 2 when she came in…she asked how much longer I would be just as I was hitting my runner’s high, and I told her 10 minutes, and it ended up being 20.  Hey! I was having a good run that turned into 4.25 miles!  I figure that if I can start my run at 5:15 am, she can use the machine at 6 am, which was when she started using it the first time I saw her.  Oh, and can I also say, she brings in a radio with a 2 foot antenna that has to be plugged in.  Classy.

Anyways, I’m trying to do this morning thing because I’ve been lacking some serious willpower to spend another 2 hours in the gym after a long workday; my energy levels are really low, and I also have a problem with feeling nourished enough to have a satisfying workout.  I also am a huge grouch at the end of the day and the gym feels like a huge chore.  But this morning, once I started going, I felt so calm and clear-minded.

I’m also training for the Monument Ave 10k, which is my favorite race ever! It’s seriously so much fun, and this year, I’m starting in a 58 minute seeded wave.  Hopefully, I can beat my PR from last year, but if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world.

Kind of unrelated to this morning but…I  have an extreme love-hate relationship with running.

Running is so awesome.  I love a good runners high around mile 2.5.  I love that I can listen to my own music and jam out during a run!  I love that I can measure my improvement by speed and distance, and I can see visible changes both negative and positive.  I love when I can run outside and in nature…looking at trees and flowers, or shops and pretty houses.  It makes you feel strong and healthy and can be exhilarating at times.  And when you are done, all is good with the world.  Races are so much fun, all the supportive people cheering you on, the chance to run for a good cause, free goodies…and you get to compete against yourself – be your personal best.

Issues I have with running:  Hard on knees and ankles; seasonal (I just want to run outside in the mid 60s!); some days are good and some days really suck and you can’t be fast; treadmills are dreadmills;  can get boring; for some reason, it makes my stomach hurt so I have to watch what I eat before I run.

Anyways, do you workout/run in the morning? How do you motivate yourself to get up and going? How would you deal with the old grouchy lady (talk to her, ignore her, make some compromise, get to the treadmill before her)? What are your favorite songs to jam out to on a run (right now I’m loving some Armin Van Buuren!)?