On Sunday I ran Bloomsday, and I have never felt better at the end of a race.
I was told that there would be a lot of people at Bloomsday, but even so, there was no way for me to know what it would look like, or perhaps more important, feel like to run with 50,000 other runners. Before the race even began, I tried to get into the "orange group" (the folks who thought they would run a 12-minute pace), and I could barely squeeze in. Riverside Avenue was absolutely packed with runners.
Once I ducked under people's arms and slipped into tiny spaces between people, I waited patiently for my turn to start the race. I could feel the excitement all around me; it was almost like there was electricity in the air. People were talking, laughing, attempting to stretch, throwing their extra clothes into the trees, and (already) building up hype about the dreaded Doomsday Hill. I couldn't help but smile.
At the first hill, the crowd starting thinning out (a little). Even though there were still a ton of people, I could no longer hear the collective breath of the pack. (This is real, by the way. At one point I remember listening to the sound of thousands of people all breathing.) I made a conscious effort to find a group of people who seemed to be running at my desired pace, and we climbed the first hill with no problems.
The rest of the race followed suit. I was basically able to run at my desired pace from that point on, alongside hundreds of other people doing the same thing. The walkers either stayed to the right, or they were easy to pass. I found that I had a lot more energy than I thought that I would (perhaps because of the sheer number of people or because of my Revive Mint and my 5-Hour Energy combo). I ran all the way to Doomsday Hill (and in the whole race, the only time I walked was in the second half of the hill), smiled for the cameras, high-fived kids on the sidelines and the Doomsday vulture, and even clapped for the 29 bands performing on the streets of Bloomsday.
At around the four-mile mark, I felt my energy level spike. Something happened to me, and I don't know what it was - a second wind, or a mini runner's high. Regardless, I felt a smile spread across my face, and I felt my legs lighten and energize. I picked up my pace, and passed some of the folks that I had been following: the ladies with matching shirts that said, "Doomsday doesn't scare me; I work at a junior high school!" and a gal whose shirt announced that this was her 31st Bloomsday.
Admittedly, the last couple of miles were tough. I didn't have a side ache and my legs weren't tired, but for some reason, one part of my mind wanted me to walk. Thankfully, though, another part of my mind was more determined, and it kept my legs moving at about an 11:30 pace. I kept it up until the final corner before the finish line.
That final corner, well, it was just spectacular. As I turned the corner, I could see the final downhill stretch, the purple balloons, and the finish line. And from this image came an energy that I didn't even know I had in me. I started running as fast I could toward those balloons, and along the way I watched the sidelines as people cheered. I felt myself smile so big that it probably looked like I was laughing for a full two blocks before the finish line. I ran like a person who had not just completed one of the longest runs of her life.
I crossed the line, clicked the "stop" button on my Garmin, and checked out my results:
Garmin Data: (Mile/Pace)
Mile 1: 11:22
Mile 2: 11:17
Mile 3: 11:47
Mile 4: 11:25
Mile 5: 11:19
Mile 6: 11:48
Mile 7: 11:28
Mile 8: 10:11 (.56 miles)
Total Distance: 7.56 miles
Total Time: 11:26:08
Average Pace: 11:24
I was super-happy with my consistent pace, the fact that I ran so far with so little walking, and the fact that I had just run my very first 12K! And as a bonus, my body felt great - no shooting pain in my knee, no side aches, and no exhaustion. I was tired, but I was happy.
Bloomsday Official Data:
Total Distance: 7.46 miles
Total Time: 11:26:06
Average Pace: 11:32