The first year I ran the Bastille Day race was 2009 when there was only a 5K option and it ran through West Town (ironically enough, close to where we live now). I had a great time and it was one of my first 5K races in the city. It was early enough in my relationship with racing that Brett even came out to watch! Now unless we travel to a race, nothing short of a marathon gets him out to the course. I ran again in 2011 after they added the 8K option and moved it to Diversey Harbor by the Nature Museum where I ran a great race finishing in 37:01. There aren’t many 8K races so this was my PR until – spoiler alert! – last night.
The race is always held the Thursday before Bastille Day at 7:15pm (I’m going to write in the post-event survey that they should change that to 7:14) and although it’s pretty warm in mid-July, the evening start time makes it much more tolerable. This year I had plenty of company and met Heather and her roomie Meghan at the start along with some BuRu! girls who I hadn’t seen in a while since I’ve had clients during our usual group run. It was fun getting to catch up and while I didn’t have a specific goal in mind, I made my way up to the 8 min/mi pace sign before the start.
We took off and with no watch I was going by the 1 mile mile split clock which had me under a 7:50. I was pushing but could hold it and surged forward whenever I felt I could. Any race under 5 miles I have a mantra that has stayed with me for years; surge when you can and hold on when you can’t. If I feel good I try to speed up but when it gets tough, especially mentally, I focus on hanging on to the pace I’m at because giving it more gas seems impossible.
By mile 2 we were nearing the soccer fields by the golf course, a place I did many long runs over the spring and was also featured in the Proud to Run 5K/10K. We kept on the lakefront path heading north and as we neared the turnaround I was on exact pace with a guy a little older than me (i.e. different division). For the next solid 2 miles we were pushing each other; we never said anything or acknowledged each other but he was making me push myself to hang on yet I couldn’t pass him. It helps SO MUCH – especially in smaller distance races – to have that person who is slightly faster than you to latch on to and focus on not losing ground. Between him and blue shirt a few strides in front of me I didn’t need my Garmin as a pacer.
I could feel my right quad saying “hi, hello?!” since mile 3 and while it didn’t hurt – just straining – I didn’t want to push it more so I hung at that pace figuring if I had anything left in the tank I better save it until past mile 4, closer to 4.5. We joined with the 5Kers past mile 4 and luckily it was never crowded but it kind of throws you off when someone breezes by you and you realize it’s an elite 5K runner.
There had to be maybe a half mile left and I finally shook my pace bunny and had blue shirt just up ahead. Sometimes a quote will pop in your head and give you that boost you need at the end. This time around it was, “leave it on the course”. I was close enough to the finish not to worry about blowing up so I dug in and cursed to myself when the finish line was in sight but still seemed far. “Leave it on the course”, went through my mind immediately followed by, “but not puke. Don’t puke on the course”. Luckily I did not and crossed the finish at 36:11, a new PR and 6th in my division/77 overall! I waited for my friends to finish and cheered them in, but not before taking a selfie of my post-race glow.
We had made plans earlier in the week to try a Thai place near the course and before the start it sounded like a great idea still. Once we met up and grabbed our gear we admitted not only did Thai sound unappealing but any food at that point was not sounding good. Instead we walked a few blocks to Halsted where Heather and Meghan headed toward their apartment and I biked the rest of the way home to a refreshing shower and cereal for dinner. Perfect!