Tuesday, July 16, 2013


My typical Fourth of July through the years has consisted of parades, Frontier Days, family, food and fireworks. This sounds like a pretty standard Independence Day for most families across America. A year ago, if you told me running an 8K really early in the morning to celebrate this country’s independence was fun, I’d call you crazy.

Well, this is exactly what I did to start off my Fourth of July morning. I signed up to do the Rockford MELD 8K (4.97 miles) run with Ellen, her dad and mom. The race would be my third of the year and a step up from the two 5K races I had done in June. Rockford MELD’s mission is “guiding young parents to build a strong family and lead a responsible life by providing shelter, education, and life skills training.”

The weekend prior, Ellen and I ran five miles on the bike path by the Rock River to get ready. The  actual course started just in front of the Madison Street bridge and went out on the bike path to a little bit past the 1 ½ mile marker. Once you reached that marker, the halfway point, you would turn around and head back for the last half of the race.

It was a warm morning on what turned out to be a warm day. We got to the event early enough to stretch out and mingle. I looked around me and pretty quickly realized that this race would not be like the Biggest Loser 5K that I took first place in three weeks prior. We liked to joke we’d see the “Who’s Who” of Rockford runners there, and it became clear they were there and rearing to go.

I wanted to start up near the front of the pack because I like getting out and going rather than being bunched up at the start. The horn sounded, and we were off.

I put myself near some legit runners.
After about 20 seconds, it was clear that two runners would be competing to win this race. They were absolutely hauling out of the gates, nearly sprinting the first half mile or so. I was situated in the second pack of runners behind them, but after about a half mile it was clear that it would be very hard for me to keep up with that group.

I soon realized these runners were out of my league and accepted the fact that I needed to run my own race and not try to chase runners who were moving at breakneck pace. Even after deciding that, my first mile still only took me 5:40 to complete. I knew this pace was not sustainable.

I felt strong in my second mile as we made our way out the bike path, but several runners who started out behind me began to pass me. I had to try to not get discouraged and tell myself that it wasn’t a big deal. I completed mile two in around 6:00, but I knew I couldn’t possibly keep this clip up.

Once I reached the turnaround point to head back, I began to feel tired and could feel myself slowing down. I saw Mr. Larson, Ellen, and Mrs. Larson as I made my way back. I began regretting my fast start and doubts crept into my mind. I thought about walking. I thought about pulling out of the 10K I was scheduled to run in three days. I thought about not wanting to race again.

Me shortly before finishing the race.
The winner, Dan Kremske, finished with a time of 24:25 (4:55 mile pace). A native of Woodstock, Ill., Kremske ran collegiately for U of I. He definitely qualifies for the “Who’s Who” of the runners.

I was able to finish, crossing the line in 30:38 (6:10 mile pace), taking 22nd place overall out of 411 participants. I placed fourth in my age group.  I learned a valuable lesson about not expending too much energy in the early stages of the race.
Mr. Larson came in next with a time of 39:07 (7:52 mile pace). His goal was to finish under 40 minutes, and he did that.

Ellen finished with a time of 41:44 (8:24 mile pace). I’m really proud of her because she ran a 8:35 mile pace for the Biggest Loser 5K and it was awesome to see her pace was 11 seconds per mile faster for a race that was significantly longer. Also, she is doing this all with cross training shoes (just wait until she gets a pair of running shoes).

Ellen cruising into the finish line.

Mrs. Larson came in with a time of 45:21 (9:07 mile pace), better than what she was expecting as well. And to top it off, her bib number was drawn in a random raffle drawing and she took home a $200 cash prize.

Mrs. Larson was surprised to win the drawing.
I learned a lot about racing from some stellar runners in this particular race and feel the experience gained in a race like this will only help me in the future. I also wasn’t serious about quitting races. I want to get tips from experienced runners and truly improve with a structured plan rather than just going out and running without a plan.

I thank God for giving me the ability to even run. He helped me during this race, and I leaned on him to get me through it.

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