As I’ve written here before, I started running as an adult. I have zero athletic background and never participated in any sports as a kid. Part of that was lack of interest — I preferred to spend my free time reading (and I still love to read.) And part of it was, honestly, lack of talent. I sucked at team sports and was always picked last in gym class when it was time to play volleyball or basketball or whatever kind of ball.
Sports were just not my jam.
And when I did start running races about eight years ago, my goal was never really to be “fast.” I just wanted to have fun with it. But then I started winning age group awards in races and realized I was actually a decent runner. I was more surprised than anyone, but it made me love the sport even more.
Fast forward to May 2020, just about two months before my 40th birthday. I did something I truly thought was beyond my capabilities and ran a sub-6 minute mile — 5:56 to be exact.
When my watch beeped, I screamed and yelled out a “holy *$$#!” (sorry to my neighbors). For a brief second, I wondered whether my Garmin was broken. A 5:xx mile? Me?! Only really fast people can run a mile that begins with a 5.
I hadn’t been training to PR the mile or anything. In fact, I haven’t done any speedwork in more than two months, stopping once my spring marathons got canceled. That said, I haven’t been really running “easy,” either. When I was training for Coastal Delaware, I was conscious of not running my long runs too fast and keeping the easy days easy. Now that I’m not training for anything, all that is out the window and I just run what I feel like running. These days, my pace tends to vary between the 7:50s and the 8:20s. The paces don’t feel difficult, but I know they aren’t my true easy pace, either, which would be probably around 8:45-9:00.
That said, maybe this strategy is working for me, at least for shorter distances. I ran a 21:35 a few weeks ago in the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K, and now I’ve had this huge breakthrough in the mile.
It happened at the beginning of my fourth sprint duathlon in Rip It Events’ V5 Virtual Duathlon series. For the sprint, you have to run one mile, bike 10 miles and then run two more miles. I decided at the beginning of the series that I was going to try to go all out with the beginning mile just to see how fast I could do it.
I ran the Market Street Mile in Frederick last September in 6:11, and was insanely proud of it (and thought it was insanely hard). I hadn’t raced a mile since then, so when I ran a 6:25 mile in my first duathlon, I was happy with it. The following week, for my second duathlon, I ran a 6:11. Then for my third duathlon, I ran a 6:14.
Two weekends ago, it was hot and I honestly wasn’t sure I had it in me to push really hard, so I told myself to just do my best. I started at my house and set off on the one-mile loop around my neighborhood that I’ve been running.
The mile itself was, of course, a blur. It hurt. I honestly don’t really remember any meaningful details, though at one point I glanced at my watch and saw I was running a 5:40 pace and thought “whoa that’s really fast.” Then it was over. And I saw the final time on my watch. 5:56! (I stopped my watch at 1.01 miles, so it read 5:59, which was the time I submitted for that portion of that virtual duathlon.)
Even though this was not part of a standalone mile race, I’m still counting it as a mile PR — I mean, it is the fastest I’ve ever run the mile! That said, I would still like to see what I could do in a real mile race, whenever we have those again. The 2020 Market Street Mile is still scheduled to happen in September, but I suspect it will be canceled like everything else this year.
I’m proud of myself for being able to go as hard as I did even though I wasn’t at a real race. I’m hoping that’s a good sign for when races do come back — whenever that is!