As the end of the workday neared, I slipped into the bathroom and changed into my spandex running tights and pulled on my winter running hat.
“You’ve got track practice tonight, Heather?” someone asked after I emerged from the bathroom. (Clearly, my coworkers know me too well.)
I explained that no, it wasn’t track night, but because I didn’t get to track this week I was going to do a tempo run with a group downtown.
“I live a wild life, trading in track practice for a tempo run,” I added.
Another coworker chimed in, “It sounds like you’re trading in meth for opium.”
“I like to think it’s like choosing to drink a Cab instead of Syrah,” I replied.
A few minutes later, after a conversation about the merits of wine analogies to running, I jogged out the door and was on my way to my first run with the Foot Traffic Group. It was a brisk evening and while I was happy to be running, I was also SOOO tired. The idea of running 7 miles with strangers seemed OK, but the thought of being finished with those 7 miles sounded even better.
I arrived at the store and milled around making small talk. When it came time to start, the organizer explained that there were 3, 5 and 7 mile options. “Who’s going to be doing 7 tonight?” he asked. I raised my hand and looked around expectantly, but saw only one other guy – a very fast looking guy – raise his hand. “Oh no..” I thought, “I won’t be able to keep up with him, so I’ll just hang back.”
But as soon as the run started, I found myself running the first block next to Fast Runner Guy. I thought to myself, “This can’t possibly last.”
We took off down the waterfront with Fast Runner Guy and me leading the small pack. He started to chat about the weather and the city and running and this and that and something else. If I hadn’t been so busy trying to run AND answer his questions AND form questions of my own, I would have noticed what a graceful efficient runner he was. But that was just not possible. I chatted back as much as I could. Not far below the surface of my conversation I kept asking myself, “How long can I keep this pace.” and “This pace seems fast. So fast I can’t even look at my watch to figure it out.” I didn’t know what my pace was, but it was fast enough that if I did anything else but run, I knew I’d break the fragile bit of control that I had over pace and effort and I’d go completely to pieces on the side of the road.
So we ran. I locked into a pace that felt doable and even though I felt like I was dying inside, the dying part seemed manageable somehow. Does that make sense? Like it was difficult and fast, but doable, uncomfortably doable.
The miles slipped by. It was time for the turnaround and we headed back to the store. When we got there I stopped Phil (my Garmin 405) and glanced at the time, but didn’t register what it read until someone asked me about it later.
It said 7 miles in 45 minutes.
Could that be right!?
It was right.
7 miles in 45 minutes!!!??
That is… wait, I need to think about this… that’s like a 6:30/mile pace!!
Still, some part of me refuses to believe that I actually ran THAT fast. I don’t know, that just seems so crazy fast!