Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Longest 6.5 Minutes Of My Life

It's that time of the year again: the time when we all gather around Running Central on a steamy Friday night and instead of joining hands and singing Kumbaya, we run 'til we nearly puke and then drink a lot of beer. I am, of course, talking about the Main Street Mile: a screaming-fast downhill one-mile race in downtown Peoria that ends with the best post-race party in town. It sounds great in theory, but this race terrifies me to my very core.

I know what you're all thinking. A one mile race? You're a marathoner, Emily.... How hard could it be for you to run one little mile?

Ha. Hahahahahahaha!

See, that's the problem. I'm a marathoner. I excel at running LSD (long slow distance). Well, maybe "excel" isn't the right word, but it's my preferred modus operandi for running. Given the choice between a 5k and a half-marathon, I will pick the half-marathon every time. To put it bluntly, running fast sucks.

So what compelled me to register for the Main Street Mile again? Well, the price was right. That is to say, it was free. Us lucky (and I use the term "lucky" pretty loosely here) FASTies got a free entry into the race just for signing up for the Summer/Fall season of FAST.

Also, I was told there would be free beer at the finish line.

So on that hot and sunny July evening, I toed the line with my fellow FASTies and ran like hell in a very short but very painful attempt to reach the beer as quickly as possible.

Some of you may remember that I ran this same race last year, and surprised myself with a finish time of 7:10 (under the pseudonym of "Unknown Runner"). My goal this year was to run under 7:00 (under my actual name). All I wanted was to have a 6 in front of my mile time, even if it was 6:59.

This year, the race was divided up until three heats (versus last year's two heats). I was told that the first heat was for anyone planning to run slower than 8:30, the second heat was for paces from 6:00 to 8:30, and the final heat was for anyone faster than 6:00. That meant I belonged firmly in the second heat. And that meant I had plenty of time to stand around and get nauseatingly nervous while the first heat ran. It seemed to take forever for the second heat to begin.

Off goes the 2nd heat! I'm buried in the middle of that pack.

The race started and I ran as fast as I could. And then I quickly realized that I wasn't going to get very far at that pace, so I slowed down a little bit. I felt like a flailing idiot. I am not used to running that fast, and it feels very strange to do so. I probably looked like a flailing idiot too. Fortunately, there is no photographic evidence of this (at least not that I'm aware of). So when you all think of me running this race, picture me moving quickly and gracefully like a gazelle.

For reasons I cannot quite explain, although I suspect it has something to do with the space-time continuum and the general theory of relativity, a 10-minute mile feels much shorter than a 7-minute mile. I felt like I was running and running but time had stopped and I wasn't getting any closer to the finish line. The air was unusually dry for this time of year, and my throat was getting sore from breathing so hard. I just wanted to be finished.

You wouldn't think running downhill would be so difficult!

Finally, the finish line was in sight and it took every ounce of strength I had left to keep running toward it. After I crossed the finish, it took every ounce of strength I had to not throw up. Once I got over my nausea, I finally looked at my Garmin and was shocked and very pleased to see 6:35. Not only was that sub-7:00, it was way sub-7:00. It was a PR by almost 40 seconds!

According to the official results, my time was 6:33.45. Incredibly, I also somehow managed to place 2nd (out of 45!) in my age group. Not only that, but many of my fellow FASTies had amazing PR's, and there were many who placed in the top three of their age groups. And to top it all off, Team FAST was second place in both the men's and women's team competitions, getting beaten only by Team RC (who are pretty much impossible to beat). There were many FAST victories to celebrate! We headed over to the post-race party at Sully's where the music was thumpin' (thanks to local band O-Face) and the beer was flowin'. It was going to be a very good time.


It didn't take long before we were all dancing and singing along with the music. I'm actually fairly certain I got even more of a workout from the dancing than I did from the race.

Gettin' funky, FASTie style!

The highlight of the evening was when our very own Coach Brad was invited on stage to sing Roadhouse Blues. And for someone who claims to be completely tone deaf, he wasn't half bad. But maybe that's because we had all had a couple beers by that point, and anyone would've sounded good (kidding, Brad!).

Belting out the tunes!

I could tell a lot of fun stories about the post-race party, but I think most of them are "you had to be there" kinds of stories. So if you want to know how much fun the Main Street Mile post-race party is, you'll just have to come and find out for yourself next year. But no partying if you don't run til you nearly puke first!

Peace. Love. Train.

(all photos courtesy of Steven Blanchard)

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