66:28 – PR by :14
501/11690 OA Male
This was my fourth consecutive year of running the Army Ten Miler. In every year, I’ve taken a big chunk of time off the previous year’s ATM performance, on average about 2.5 minutes. But I knew that would be tough to repeat this year. Still I went ahead and set myself a goal for this race of 65:00 which would represent yet another 2:30 or so improvement. I figured, why not? It’s aggressive but you have to aim high, right?
I set myself an alarm for 5am the night before, but when I got up I quickly found out that I must have accidentally reset the alarm for 6am! So much for taking the metro, I’m driving now…luckily it’s not that far and I still had plenty of time. I parked, made a quick bathroom stop in the Pentagon City Mall, and I even got over to the bag check a good bit earlier than I probably would have had I taken the metro.
I checked my gear, grabbed a bottle of water and started casually walking towards the start. At this point it was about 54 degrees and I felt fairly comfortable in my singlet. By the time I waded through the crowds and got to the second corral, the wheelchair racers were about to start. Good, still lots of time to stretch and everything.
About two minutes before the cannon was to go off I took in about 4 Gu chomps and felt ready to go, as good as I’ve felt before a race in a long time. I had a feeling good things would happen today.
Soon the cannon went off and about 30 seconds later I was across the line. 65 minutes meant going at 6:30 miles but I also didn’t want to be a slave to that every mile, especially early with all the crowds to wade through. I tried to stay relaxed and run evenly. First mile – 6:32. Perfect, I said to myself.
At this point the race crosses into DC over the Memorial Bridge, the Lincoln Memorial straight ahead. This is also where some initial jockeying begins as runners try to settle into their cruising pace and sometimes mark off another runner. There is a team competition after all and especially for the military base teams, it seems to be a pretty big deal. I wasn’t too concerned about this as I felt I was already where I wanted to be. I missed the 2-mile split mark and after that came a water stop, which thanks to having a bottle of water beforehand, I didn’t need water yet, so I continued on past it. Not far after that was the 3-mile mark…2 mile split – 13:08. Still right on.
At this point we turn onto Rock Creek Parkway and head briefly underneath the Kennedy Center. This was a bit of a relief as there was a cool breeze blowing. Then it was onto Ohio Drive heading towards Independence Avenue and the 4-mile mark. Split – 6:35.
I then bypass yet another water stop, telling myself I’ll take water at Mile 6 if I need to. But right now I’m still feeling fine on hydration. My legs are starting to tire just a little bit, however. So I concentrate on working my arms more, letting my upper body do more work and that seems to help. Still my pace does slip a little. Split – 6:40, but that still leaves me averaging 6:35 at the halfway point.
Now follows the long straightaway on Independence, passing so many well-known landmarks — World War II memorial, Hirshorn Gallery, Air & Space Museum, to name just a few — and lots of spectators. This is also where you get your first glimpse of the leaders, as they head in the other direction back towards the Pentagon. I saw the eventual winner Reta, and man he was booking. Meanwhile I am trying to hold on to my aggressive pace, but it’s getting harder. I feel a hint of dehydration kicking in too, so I grab a couple more Gu chomps out of my pocket before the 6-mile aid station, then grab a water and within seconds I’m feeling fine again. Amidst all that I forget to hit my watch for a 6-mile split but get a split at 7, after the quick loop on Constitution, across the Capitol and back onto Independence. 2-mile split – 13:25. It’s getting tough; 65:00 is fading away but I know I can still beat my PR of 66:42 (set in Columbia MD, Feb. 2008 ).
Here the wind gets pretty tough. It was already blowing against the way we’re now running but the buildings on each side add the wind tunnel effect. My quads and calves are starting to burn a little from the effort but once again I focus on the upper body to propel me. I hope like hell that my pace doesn’t drop into the 7s as I yo-yo back and forth with some guy in a red singlet from some Army base. We turn the corner and there’s the water stop. I take just a little for the final push. Next up is the 8-mile marker. Split – 6:48…I’ve survived my worst mile of every 10 miler.
We head past the Jefferson Memorial towards the 14th St. bridge, which is feared and loathed by many who run this race and the Marine Corps Marathon later this month. I’ve never found it that tough, but I have to say this time it felt a little more taxing. Still I’m faring better than a lot of others. I drop red singlet guy only to get caught by somebody in Virginia Tech ROTC singlet. We work off each other a bit and then he really takes off on me at around 8.5. I decide it’s too early to go with him, to just keep my pace. Split – 6:46, coming back now. What is it about that 8th mile?
We’re now across the bridge and back in Arlington County, with just one more hill to climb. I know what comes next: downhill and then the furious sprint to the finish. Checking my watch I know the PR is still there for me, but I’m going to have to work for it. I step it up a little bit each 60 seconds, until the final downhill drop comes with about 800 to go. This is my time, I tell myself, now bring it! I’ve even caught back up to VA Tech guy. Now it’s around the hairpin turn for the final 200 and I’m in my element as the old track guy…full sprint to the mat. It’s the best feeling in the world when I see that I’ve nailed the PR. Not only that but my last mile turns out to be my fastest of the day at 6:31!
After the finish I run into a friend of mine and we chat for a while and then next thing you know we’re both talking running with the mayor himself, Adrian Fenty. In addition to being mayor of the nation’s capital the guy’s a triathlete and marathoner, and a really good one at that. It turns out he’s running the same 5k as me next weekend. Hmm…maybe I’ll finally take him down there. Admittedly it’s a pretty lopsided rivalry so far.
I can’t say enough how thrilled I am about this race falling together for me. After a spring injury, that led to a difficult day at Boston, and then to a lengthy rehab, to be back in top form so soon has me really excited for the prospects at my other big target this fall, the half marathon at Philadelphia next month. I’m hoping with some more endurance runs under my belt I can go out there with this same pace and nail a monster HM PR!