2012 and Negative Splits

Every race so far has been the race of my life. The best races are run in negative splits, and while that particular ideal is not something I always achieve, 2012 was a year where I ran ‘negative splits’ of sorts. I was faster in the second half of the year, than I ever was in the first.

Since my last post, I’ve run two races, and they were my two best ever. I ran the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon in 1:52:50. I ran the 5k at the Detroit Fifth Third Turkey Trot in 24:15. A few months later, I have to look those numbers up every time I try to recall them to assure myself that I didn’t make them up.

I would say that the times speak for themselves, but they most certainly don’t. While the 1:52:50 at Detroit was a PR by over 5 minutes, that sound bite doesn’t tell the story of the race. From start to finish, each of those races was a triumph, a day that felt like the best of my life.

Detroit was a blazing fast race on a perfect race day. I ran over the Ambassador Bridge as the sun rose over Windsor, and I was cheered on by strangers, as these things always are. Returning through the tunnel, I tucked my trusty saucony running beanie into the back of my running tights, out of which it fell, never to be seen again. After the race, Stephanie and I drank cold beer out of a cooler on the roof of a parking garage, swapping stories, offering congratulations, and extending sympathies with near strangers. I honestly couldn’t have been happier if I’d won the race. That camaraderie among runners is something that has snuck up on me, but I’m glad I’ve witnessed first hand now.

The 24:15 in the turkey trot, is almost a miracle. If you’ve ever run in a Turkey Trot in a big city, you know what I mean. With a field of over 20,000 runners, it would seem impossible to make any kind of PR attempt. But because I wanted to run the Turkey Trot (Steph and I both ran it that morning!) and I wanted to get an under 25 minute 5k, I made it work. Lining up in the first corral, surrounded by teenagers, by rail thin runners, by excited track teams from local schools, I felt alien. That was the right place to be though, within a few seconds from the front of the pack, because of how many people estimated wrong, or were just excited, but not determined. The first mile of the race was a melee. Moments from the start me and an exuberant passer exchanged flailing arms. Not long after that I had a ‘crossing ‘ runner step directly into my path and I had to push him with two hands to keep from crashing into him headlong.

But soon it opened up, and redlining my heartrate the whole way, I finished in that sweet sounding time. 24:15… under 25 minutes, with no room for doubt.

When I ran the “Run for the Detroit Zoo” two years ago, I proudly printed out and brought in a copy of the race result, and hung it on my wall. I circled my name in red, 4 places from the bottom of my age group, and wrote in large letters “NOT DEAD LAST!!!” which felt like a triumph at the time. Now, just a couple years later, out of the entire 5k field of over 11,000 runners, only 363 finished before me. In my age group, I was 19th place.

Every race I have run has been even more gratifying than the ones that have come before. I am almost sick with joy when I think about how lucky I am to have found so much self-affirming success with running. I know the improvements will taper off with time, I don’t think that the joy will.

There are times, especially lately, that I grapple with the stress of life, the constant distractions of keeping my head above water in a complex and competitive world. Running changes that for me. Perhaps the above reads like a comparison; like I’m looking to win. Please don’t misinterpret it that way. Instead just see that I am overwhelmed with the gifts that my body is giving me.

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