Walking the BAA 5K

I had decided a month ago to enter today’s BAA 5K. I had a number and it’s part of the Boston Marathon weekend celebration. It was nine weeks after rib surgery and I was not yet cleared to run. So I was prepared to walk it. I aimed for 45 minutes, a 14:20 pace.

I had been mostly water running and StairMastering to maintain some aerobic fitness. A bit of walking – but no more than three miles at a crack. So two weeks before the race I went for a brisk six-mile walk. Averaged 14:53 and found the last mile really taxing. A 45-minute 5K was looking ominous. Then the week before the 5K I upped the tempo for 4 miles to a 14:00 pace. I started thinking 43 minutes might be in the cards. Two days later, I walked 5 miles with two one-mile intervals of 12:47 and 13:17, for the first time throwing in some light jogging along with walking.   Now I was thinking sub 40:00! Then two days before the race, I did two more mile splits with more jogging at 11:59 and 11:46. I was being cautious but testing the ribs. None of it hurt – I had no interest in setting things back.   But my sights were now set on sub 38:00.

I seeded myself with the 10-minute/mile runners. All shapes and sizes were there, along with a party atmosphere I was not used to. As we crossed the start line I jogged for a bit before walking, keeping to the outside to avoid anyone coming up and tripping me from behind. Not to worry, there were a number of other walkers/joggers near me. I’d walk, then jog, pass some people, then walk again. I passed the first mile in 10:46 and felt good. No apparent strain on the ribs.

I began to experiment with my jogging gait to minimize the bounce. My natural gait is a midfoot strike.   I spend very little time on the ground, which means I come down on my feet with some force.   But as the race progressed, I adopted something of a “marathon shuffle,” which felt strange but not uncomfortable. I was able to glide along without much bounce or force. The second mile was 10:30 and I was gaining confidence this was all OK. I picked it up a bit in the third mile to 10:20. The last tenth I jogged the whole way and crossed at 33:05, a 10:32 pace.   I was the 6,351st finisher out of 8,921 runners and while 12 minutes behind the winner in my age group, was 43rd out of 82 – almost in the middle!

Clearly I had jogged more than walked, whereas the plan was for a 50/50 split. I went to the gym for some light weights and stretching and then worked a shift at the Adidas Run Base. But was not worse for wear, and if anything things felt a bit looser around my ribs. Certainly no pain. I’m even more convinced I will be cleared to run next week!

I pondered today whether every coach and competitive runner would benefit from spending some time towards the back of the pack. Some interesting things happen there. There’s a lot of verbal support among the runners and most are working pretty hard. Some are a bit heavy, but you can tell they are proud to be out there, doing their best. You can even sense some of their hopes and dreams playing out step by step. It was inspiring and reminded me what a wonderful and inclusive sport running is!

Today ended my streak of 15 age-class wins in BAA Distance Medley events (5K, 10K, HM.) No one else cares or even knows about that. It was fun but in this case had to end. I’m better off for having done the race. And just like the UCONN women’s basketball team, I’m ready to start a new streak!

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