With 3 weeks until the start of autumn and those same 3 weeks until the Rochester marathon, the Saturday before Labor Day was the last long run for the Fleet Feet HFM (half/full marathon) training program.
As a member of the Advanced Marathon training program, I had 22 miles on Saturday. I also had a 12K race on my training schedule. However considering the 22 miles on the previous day, it was intended to be run as tempo run and not a race.
But this is not about HFM or my 22 mile run. I told you that so I could tell you this...
The NoBos, as they are quaintly called, have this graduation event to show off their newly crafted, hard-earned running skills. For many, Sunday would be the furthest distance they had ever run. Each participant brings their own motivations to the start of No Boundaries, but they all finish with a common understanding, "Running Changes Everything." The No Boundaries Graduation race can be a defining moment and a catalyst for many great things in a person's life.
So it is with that attitude that I tried to approached Sunday's race. With so much inspiration floating in the air, it didn't feel right for me to treat it as just another training run. As much as I spent the morning telling myself and others that I was not racing, I needed a meaningful goal. If I were racing, I'd aim for a PR... something around around 56:00 or just over 7:00/mile. So I decided if I could get in under an hour after running 22 miles at 8:30/mile the day before, that would set a good tone for a potential 3:40 (shudder) Rochester Marathon.
As the time for *not racing* grew near, the start line was oddly not filling up. For whatever reason, most people were reticent to get right up on the line and sort of mingled a few yards behind the colorful, inflated arch. (This is in direct contrast to most races!)
So I found myself in the front row, *not* racing... and GO!
Here is how the first half of my race went:
- First mile - 7:28.
Okay, back off a bit, you're not racing.
- Second mile - 7:40.
A little better, make up for it by walking through the water stop. And walk through the rest of the water stops (mile 4 & 6) too.
- Mile 3: 7:58.
This feels better. Just run like this rest of the way.
- Nearing Mile 4: It's okay that you are being passed even though you can run faster. You are not racing. Here comes some more water, stop and hang out. Check.
So I ran 8s for (most of) the remainder of the race. I walked slowly through water stops and chatted up volunteers. Along the way, I had the opportunity to have a few nice words with some of the NoBos as they worked their tails off along the course. All of whom were positive and cheerful. (Yeah... they were cheery. For real.)
The morning was grey and full of rain which gave way to tech-wick soaking humidity. Yet here were hundreds of people who were completing a race of a distance they had previously not thought possible. And smiling-happy to be doing it. And I got to be a part of it. In short, it was fun and inspiring.
With so much inspiration in the air and such good vibes coming from other runners, I started to get the urge to run faster; To do as well as I could. After all, this wasn't a day for sandbagging.
At mile 6, I started to pick up the pace... partly to get out of my wet clothes, but also because I realized my now leisurely pace had put the hastily crafted goal of "under an hour" in a little bit of jeopardy. Maybe it was imagined, but I felt the others around me also running a bit faster as they realized how close they were to their goal.
The finish line was excellent as all the 5K runners who had just completed their racer had gathered around to cheer on the 12K finishers. An enthusiastic group of supporters is always a welcomed sound at the end of a run.
As if all that fun wasn't enough... at the conclusion of the 12K, it was time for the kids to run. What a great site to see children of all ages running 1/4 and 1/2 mile races with all the families and other runners cheering them on to the finish. The smiles on their faces as they cross the finish line and earned their medals was heart-warming.
A fitting finale to a day of running and health and family.
As one NoBo put it,
"Thank you No Boundaries and my 2.0 friends for giving me the motivation and courage to run with my family. For this, I will be forever grateful"
... See, Running Changes Everything.
Congratulations to everyone in the No Boundaries program. And thank you for letting me run with you.
As for me, I snuck in at 59:27. Which was surprisingly good enough for 3rd in my Age Group. The winner of the 36-39 group, my buddy Prem Kumar, prior to the start of the race had claimed he was just going to try for his time of last year which was around 59:00. He beat it by nearly 3 minutes. When he accepted his first place award, he remarked "If you hadn't run 22, you probably would have beat me." I'm not sure... I think Prem had a pretty meaningful goal in mind too and probably wouldn't have let me get past him. Regardless, it was a pretty great run.