Lately I’ve been thinking about the necessary ingredients of a personal record. Last Saturday everything came together for Grete’s Great Gallop, a half marathon in Central Park.
First, I had slept poorly and woke up feeling exhausted and slightly on edge, as I always do before a race. So: check. The weather was excellent, cool and dry. Check. I considered putting on the Flyers jersey but it’s heavy, and I went instead with a favorite feather-light Saucony singlet, Nike shorts, and my light prescription-strength sunglasses; the details count. Check. Ate a banana and a bagel, enjoyed strong coffee. Check. As I jogged to the start, I began to loosen up, then saw my running friends, which lifted my spirits. Check and check. Finally, one tasty Hammer gel before the start, and go.
None of this guarantees success, obviously. So what else?
The hard work this summer and fall toward ‘Amsterdam’ on October 17 is starting to pay off. I feel strong. Experience counts, too. Compared to the pre-NYC days in the fall of 2009 and the spring of this year (pre-Boston) I am more confident and able. The marathon is no longer a scary beast or an unknowable, intimidating, gorgeous woman. I am beginning to understand her, or it, and myself in relation to it.
The half marathon I have felt comfortable with for a while now, perhaps because I have done so many. I recall surprising myself even back in 1993 with a 1:30 in Holland – the days of smoking and drinking and never thinking about real running. Last year a PR in Staten Island (1:27) made me feel ready for New York.
So I went out at 6:22, not afraid of the pace this time, and the runner’s high came soon. Running continues to be a form of meditation for me, where I find peace and focus inside of the extreme activity. Saturday things clicked in my mind and legs and lungs.
The pace stayed just below 6:30. When I felt it drop on the hills, I made it up in the next mile. Sips of water and Gatorade did the rest, along with a cute runner racing near me for most of the second half. Sensing and seeing her at that pace helped, somehow.
Finally: shoes. I am in love with my Saucony Kinvaras. They are 7.7 ounces, thin and fast. I now own three pairs, with red, blue and green soles. The latter ones will carry me through Amsterdam. On these shoes I cannot strike hard on the heel. I am forced to run well and lightly. I need to mind every step, land midfoot, lift the feet.
From my neutral, heavier Muzinu’s I moved to the Brooks Racer ST4, for everyday running. Then this summer I discovered the Sauconys. The process was sometimes painful. You need to transition gradually to light and minimalist, while embracing the trails and choosing dirt over the roads whenever possible. If you’re ready to do that, I would recommend these shoes warmly. For me, wearing ‘less’ of a shoe has led to much less back and knee pain, a better stride, and a PR of 1:24 on a perfect October day in Central Park.