Today I ran for the 200th time this year, fulfilling a promise I'd made to myself ten months ago. That makes me very happy. To make it extra special, I deliberately (since a couple of weeks ago) scheduled my runs so that #200 would be during the Genesis Battlegreen 5K right here in Lexington. Here's a picture taken for me by my lovely wife close to the 4km (80%) mark.
No, it's not the best picture of my face and I sure don't look like I'm having fun, but my form looks pretty good IMO. Anyway, here are some details.
I've run courses very close to this one many many times. More than 80% of it overlaps with my most common routes, which I know literally better than the back of my hand by now. I've run this exact course with a different start/end point maybe half a dozen times. On Friday I ran the absolutely same course as kind of dress rehearsal, mostly to gauge the best pace for each section. I got a good time, and felt great initially, but that night the upper-outside portion of my right calf felt a bit tender. Running as much as I do, that wouldn't necessarily keep me off the road, but on Saturday morning I was seriously thinking about whether I wanted to risk it with the extra adrenaline of an actual race. I did everything I could to help it heal, and this morning I was relieved to feel that it was good to go.
Because of the potential for injury, I changed my strategy a bit. I certainly wasn't going to risk injury going for a new personal record. This particular type of injury is characteristic of overstriding, which is usually something I don't even need to think about, but at my very highest pace my form does break down a bit. My stride lengthens, I shift my weight back a bit, and I'm sure that's exactly what almost got me on Friday's home stretch. So, no top speed. Instead, I resolved to keep my pace down on the flats, and focus on maintaining speed on the uphills - two steeper short ones, and a longer but very shallow one over almost the entire third kilometer. This is where I was glad I know how every inch of that course feels under my feet.
Of course, I didn't quite follow the plan. I did a pretty good job on the first kilometer or so, consciously slowing down and letting others pass me on a stretch where I'd usually be trying to shave seconds off my time. After that I definitely ran faster than I'd meant to. My leg was feeling fine, though, so I just went with it. While I didn't pass too many people on the steeper uphills, on the longer (and later) one I had a pretty steady rhythm of passing someone every ten seconds or so. The biggest challenge to my self-imposed discipline was at the end. Besides my normal inclination to blast through that part, I knew I had three people right behind me - one oldster like me, and two middle-school kids - trying to squeak past. I felt myself starting to speed up in response, but I kept telling myself that's exactly the kind of running I needed to avoid. If I had held them off but injured myself doing it, I'd be beating myself up over it for months.
I'm pleased to say that, despite explicitly making it a non-goal, I did get a new personal record. 22:40 beats my previous true-5K time by forty seconds. My "dress rehearsal" on Friday was very slightly faster, but also slightly shorter because I misjudged exactly where the start/end points were (plus maybe I ran a bit further today going around people). Most importantly, I reached run #200 and my legs feel fine. I'll probably even run again tomorrow.