Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Mile Story

You may remember my 5-minute mile quest last year. I've spent some time reminiscing this week, and finally wrote this post about my overall experience. Down below, I've inserted links to all my mile reports. I figured it's about time I removed it from my side bar. Besides I may need to start a new quest this summer and need the space.

Speed. It’s something I had always wished I had. Actually, when I was little, I thought I had it. Some of my friends even called me “Speedy Reidy.” Then, when I joined the track team in middle school, that perception was smashed to pieces. I couldn’t believe it. Everyone was faster than me! Sprints, distances, you name it. I just couldn’t keep up. Luckily, I loved to run enough that it didn’t discourage me too much, and I ran on the track team all the way through high school. Over the course of the next six years, I was determined to get stronger and faster, and during my junior and senior years, I actually started winning a few races.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Those are words that most runners are probably familiar with, and they describe most of my life as a runner. It was in the fall of 2007 when I first discovered the author of this quote, Steve Prefontaine, in the film Without Limits. His dedication and determination inspired me in a way that I had never imagined. After watching the movie with my wife, we discussed my running goals, and where I could take my running. I decided I really wanted to get faster over shorter distances like the mile. So the next morning I went out for a mile run just to see how fast I could do it. 5:36. Hmm, that’s only 10 seconds slower than my all-time fastest mile. Was a 5 minute mile possible for me?

Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right as I was just starting my Boston Marathon training. However, after the marathon, I would be able to spend the summer working toward that 5 minute mark. And that’s when the quest began. As soon as I recovered, I went out for a time trial, and, what do you know, I ran a 5:36. I was picking things back up right were I was with that first mile.

After a few attempts thrown in with my regular runs, I realized that I needed to focus my workouts and approach my goal less casually. Once I started some intense interval training, I saw my times drop from the 5:20s to the 5:10-5:15 range. I was really seeing the benefits, which motivated me to do more of my workouts at the track. And I was really enjoying it!

While training, I learned about an inaugural 1 Mile Race. Whoa, perfect timing! How cool would it be to reach my goal at this race? I worked harder and harder and was able to get down to 5:09 before the race. I was feeling pretty confident that I’d get it with the added competition and emotions inherent in the race atmosphere. The race was awesome. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it. In fact, it was pretty slow compared to some of my recent times. What happened? Was I getting burnt out?

I needed to do something different, so I called on my blogging buddies to come together and run a mile with me in the form of a virtual race. What better way to reach this goal than with dozens of friends from around the world. I received an overwhelming response from so many, even people I didn’t even know. How could I fail with so many people pulling for me and believing in me? I couldn’t let them down!

After a couple weeks of excellent workouts and words of encouragement from many new blogging buddies, my confidence was brimming. My wife and kids accompanied me to the track this time, fully expecting today to be the day. After a slightly nervous warm up, I was ready to go.

I took off at what seemed a comfortably hard pace, but ended the first lap 6 seconds ahead of schedule. I didn’t think I could keep that pace up, but I didn’t want to slow down too much. After adjusting my pace, I was still 4 seconds ahead at the half-way point. I was still in excellent position to break that 5 minute barrier, but I could feel my strength waning. After 3 laps, I had dropped to 1 second behind pace, but, based on my recent workouts and previous mile attempts, I had confidence that I could pick up the pace and finish strong. With a half a lap to go, I was right on pace, but was exhausted. I was sprinting as fast as I could go. As I came around that final turn, I could see my family waiting for me at the finish line. I was almost there. All I could think about was crossing that line. As I did, I stopped my watch and slowly looked down. Trying to keep from falling in exhaustion, I turned to my wife, and with a huge smile on my face, simply said “I did it.” 4:59.95. But it wasn’t just me who did it. My wife did it. My kids did it. My blog readers did it. Their friends did it. We did it together, and I couldn’t have done it without all that support.

Speed. Did I finally have it? Sure, I got tons faster than I was before. But I gained much more than that. Pre was right. If you’re not giving it your absolute best, you are definitely sacrificing the gift. But I think more is needed to reach some goals. You need motivation, dedication, and inspiration. For me, the thing that helped the most was knowing it wasn’t just me out there. I was no longer giving my best for myself. I was giving my best for others. And that helped me learn that maybe my best is a little better than I thought.

Attempt #1 - 5:36
Attempt #2 - 5:26
Attempt #3 - 5:25
Attempt #4 - 5:29
Attempt #5 - 5:26
Attempt #6 - 5:40
Attempt #7 - 5:21
Attempt #8 - 5:13
Attempt #9 - 5:10
Attempt #10 - 5:09
Attempt #11 - 5:14
Attempt #12 - 5:16
Attempt #13 - 4:59!

Mission Accomplished.

This post can also be found at the Runners' Lounge by following this link.

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