Last Saturday morning, I sipped my coffee and ate my typical pre-race breakfast of almond butter + oatmeal. And to the pit of my stomach, I felt the race nerves building.
Here is a little confession: I was nervous for my virtual 10k I was running in a couple hours. You might think this is funny. And I can see why, but I was actually really thankful for the nerves I felt on that virtual race morning. From the outside world, it might seem strange and even silly to be nervous for a race that has no crowds or audience or big outcome. But internally, this is the greatest sign to me that I deeply care about being the best runner I can be, not because of the major marathon on the calendar or the applause of the crowds, but because I love the sport and every time I step on the line (or virtual line) I want to perform at my very best.
In college, the nerves often stemmed from a fear of disappointing my coach and my team. The pressure I felt collegiately ran deep.
The first year postpartum, the nerves stemmed from wondering if I was even that good at running anymore after a couple years off and a baby.
But last Saturday morning, the nerves were my friends. They reminded me that I care about running no matter what the stage is.
It is easy to care and be nervous and feel the adrenaline when you are running on the track with some of the best collegiate 5k runners in the region. It is easy when you have crowds cheering and yelling for you. It is easy when it feels like a big deal. But how you respond, when it is very much not a big deal, to me, that is the better indicator of your drive and motivation and love.
So those nerves Saturday morning over coffee and oatmeal, were welcomed. For those that have run virtual races in the past, you know that one of the hardest parts is not having the adrenaline of a typical race full of crowds and a big finishing line. I knew those race butterflies would be helpful to get a little adrenaline to push me through.
The nerves seemed to quickly subside when I started running. Taylor Swift’s Reputation began on shuffle right as I started my Garmin for the 6.2 miles. With music booming in my ears and the lightness of my racing flats beneath me, I focused on the back of my husband, ready for him to pull me along.
The first mile felt easy and controlled. 5:50.
Miles 2 and 3, I settled in and got comfy. 6:04 and 6:03, respectively.
Miles 4 and 5, I started feeling tired and the reality that I did not have the normal race energy and crowds to pull me through, hit me. I was suddenly made very aware that I was running through a relatively empty street. I turned Swift up a bit louder in my ears and tried to not let my husband run away from me. 6:07 and 6:06, respectively.
Mile 6, my legs came alive again. I took a quick glimpse down at my watch and knew I would definitely be under the 38-minute mark. At this point, I was definitely feeling fatigued and a bit unmotivated, but as we were getting closer to the “finish line,” I saw a group of familiar faces clapping for me. This was totally unplanned, but seeing familiar faces from the local running community, including my high school coach, who I adore and look up to, really made a difference.
With a bit of extra energy, we stopped our watches right when we hit the 6.2 mark at 37:20. Hands on knees, I smiled and high-fived my wonderful pacer.
A Year Ago
To be honest, I was hoping to be sub-37, but I was still really proud of that time. It was even more significant because almost exactly a year ago I ran LA’s Race to Remember. It was my first race back postpartum. I ended up winning the 10k with a time of 38:04. That race was really special to me. It was a reminder of my love for the sport. It was a reminder that I was not only still a runner; I was a competitor. You can read the full race recap here.
Even though this past Saturday, I did not get to run through finishing tape or get interviewed at the end, it felt like a lot of progress to be 44-seconds faster in a non-traditional race setting.
This makes me excited for future races (both virtual and in-person).
It makes me excited to keep chasing down times.
It makes me excited that my progress as a runner does not need to be dependent on a race or crowds.
I can still push myself. All I need is a watch, my flats, an empty road ahead, and my speedy husband.
Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to pushing myself on big stages, like Boston, but for now, these virtual races are a welcomed and needed friend.
Rambling Runner Virtual Race Series
Thanks to Matt Chittim from the Rambling Runner Podcast and the sponsors for making these virtual races happen. There are still two races left! The half-marathon and full-marathon. You can find all the info on how to join, right here. It has been a really key aspect to keep me focused, motivated, and excited to keep stepping out the door.