Race Recap: River Bank Run 25k
After the half marathon in Nashville, I felt very undecided about how to approach the River Bank Run. I registered for the 25k several months ago, maybe as early as January. When I finished the half marathon two weeks prior, I really didn’t know if I’d be able to repeat that distance plus another 2.4 miles. I seriously contemplated dropping down to the 10k. In reality, the 25k in and of itself was not my ultimate concern. It was more the fear of wrecking my legs right before I start marathon training.
I weighed all my options and ultimately knew that I’d regret not attempting the 25k. I knew I had to be incredibly smart and be willing to pull myself off the course, if need be. The freedom to take a DNF helped immensely. I didn’t want to let that be an easy out, but not be too proud to know when to stop. God knows I’ve done it before. I also knew I needed to approach the course with no real time goals.
This year marked my fifth time running this race (previously in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2015). By this point, I know the course like the back of my hand between training runs and the race itself. There’s both good and bad in that. I know better than ever how to pace myself and run a smart race because the course gets tough in the second half. But, I know that the course gets tough in the second half and spend much of the very flat first half thinking about the upcoming hills.
For the first time, the knowledge worked to my advantage. This year was the smartest race I’ve run on the course, to the effect that I ran the first eight miles without walking, except for the briefest moments through water stations.That alone felt I conquered Everest. I don’t know that I’ve ever run that far without walking. Maybe once. Maybe.
It’s not to say I didn’t want to walk, or even quit for that matter. In the first mile, I contemplated just stepping off to the side of the course, taking off my bib, and calling it a day. Let’s be honest, I contemplated turning my alarm off, going back to bed, and skipping the whole thing entirely. But, if I thought I’d regret dropping down to the 10k, I’d really regret either of those decisions. So, I ran. The first couple miles of the race are largely through a more industrial part of the city and its as boring to run through as it sounds. Fortunately, there’s still a really solid pack of runners at this point and the energy is high. I focused on that, turned up the volume on my headphones, and zoned out while trying to fall into a comfortable pace.
Soon enough, we were into the paved trail section of the course. It’s gorgeous scenery, all along the Grand River. On the years it rains, it’s miserable with a humid greenhouse-like feel. Fortunately, the weather was absolutely perfect this year, a rare feat for this race. I knew I had a couple friends volunteering at the 6 mile mark. I made it my goal to get that far without running. The weekend before, I ran almost that far and I wanted to see if I could repeat it, and then some. Soon enough, an hour passed and my friends weren’t far away. Seeing them was a huge moral boost, and gave me some extra energy to keep running. I felt great and decided to forgo my original plan of walking after I passed their aid station.
Not long after that point, we reached the turnaround point and were heading back towards the city. Don’t worry, your math isn’t off. It’s not a true out-and-back course, as the turnaround isn’t actually halfway. Seven miles came and went, and I was still running. What is happening?! I worried I was overdoing it up to that point, but I felt great, so I (literally) ran with it. At eight miles, I was finally ready for some walking. At this point, I was on track for a PR, but I knew that would fade in the coming miles. It’s not to say I didn’t keep that in the back of my mind. A PR is huge at any time, but it would feel unbelievable. It was the carrot that kept me going.
We were in the early stages of several miles of rolling hills. It’s the part of the course that wrecks me, year after year. I wanted to approach them with strategy, so I took the same approach as Nashville – as much as possible, walk the uphills, but run the plateaus and downhills. After the Tennessee hills, these felt like nothing. Okay, maybe not nothing, but certainly not as challenging as previous years.
Around the 11 mile mark, the wheels started to fall off and it was at that moment I loathed the fact I was running a 25k rather than a half marathon. Another 2.1 miles? That I could do. But, the remaining 4.5 felt like a marathon all on their own. Just keep running, just keep running. I had come too far to quit at this point. Although I was sore, I wasn’t hurting in the way I usually did during this race. And so, I kept going, one foot in front of the other.
At 12 miles, we were done with the hills, sans a couple small ones near the end. Because why not throw in some hills where it really hurts? But, I was grateful to be back on flat ground. I was definitely walking more than running at this point, and I knew any hopes of a PR were gone. At the half marathon mark, I teared up, much like I did at the finish line in Nashville. It felt like a new beginning after a hard year.
Those last couple of miles were a blur. I was exhausted and dehydrated, but also felt like I could throw up at any moment because I was drinking too much at the aid stations. I weighed my need to go to the bathroom with my desire to see the finish line. My sore muscles started to get the best of me, so I stopped to stretch my back and hamstrings.
Finally, blessedly, I hit the 15 mile marker and had just a half mile to go! I ran the majority of that last stretch at an easy pace. I wanted to keep running, especially as the crowd support grew, minimal as it may be at that point in the day. Soon enough, the finish line was in sight. I focused on the runners in front of me and made it my mission to pass as many as I could. I had just enough gas left in the tank to sprint my way to the finish line, so much so that the announcer called me out for it!
That medal felt like such sweet victory. Although I didn’t PR, the combination of this race and the half in Nashville reminded me what I’m capable of, that I can do hard things.
Time: 3:11:05 (average pace: 12:18)
More than ever, I’m excited to start training for the Chicago Marathon. Although still slower than I’d like, I feel stronger as a runner than I have in a really long time. It’s a motivating place to be. I am anxious to see how I can improve in the coming months, and what I can do come October.