The Frederick Market Street Mile: It hurt so good

Racing the mile has been on my running bucket list for a while. The thing is, there aren’t too many 1-mile races in my area.

So last year, when I saw that the Frederick Steeplechasers host the Market Street Mile every year, I excitedly signed up for it. But then I realized that the 2018 race fell on the same weekend as the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler, and I bailed.

But this year’s race was scheduled for the weekend after Bottle and Cork, so I again registered for it and had been looking forward to it for months.

I knew it would be hard. As I’ve said many times before, short distances aren’t really my thing. I don’t excel at making myself hurt and going hard and fast the way you have to in a 5K or even a 10K. So I really had no idea what to expect for the mile. I’ve run a 6:34 mile in a 5K before (which, by the way, was way too fast since it was the first mile of the race!) but haven’t actually been timed in the distance for years. I think I ran a timed mile in kickboxing back in 2015, and clocked a 6:56. I figured I could do better now, and was hoping for a sub-6:30.

My official time at the Market Street Mile on Saturday? 6:11!!!

I still can’t believe it.

Again, I went into this race mentally prepared for it to hurt. I joked to my coworkers the day before that I planned to run until I felt like I was going to die, then keep running. And if I puked at the finish, well, whatever. (Seriously. But I didn’t puke, so yay!) The name of the game, I kept telling myself, was to just feel the burn and know it would be over soon.

The race, now in its 38th year, was organized into five different heats — the women’s race, the youth race, the men’s race, the coed master’s race (for runners 40 and over — if I do this next year, I’ll have the option of running as a master or just running in the women’s open in the 40-49 year old group) and the family fun run. My heat was scheduled for 9 am, so Micah and I got to Frederick around 7:30 am for me to have ample time to get my packet, warm up and obviously, use the bathroom five thousand times (OK, just twice that morning!)

After I got my packet, I started chatting with an older man about the race. He was probably in his late 50s and said he had run it last year. I asked him what his time was. “5:10,” he said casually. Holy hell, I thought. So there are some serious runners here. We talked for a bit more and he said he had actually run as a pro in his 20s and tried to get to the Olympic Trials. I don’t usually feel intimidated by other runners at races, but I sort of did after talking to him, even though he was very nice!

I’m glad I had ample chance to warm up beforehand. I hardly ever do that, and maybe I should start doing it at least before 5Ks. I didn’t turn on my Garmin for the warmup, so I’m not exactly sure how fast or far I went, but I’d guess around two miles and it was at a very easy pace. I got back to the start line just as the announcer was telling the women to line up. I got in place right up front — confident? Cocky? The race website did say to start up front if you were going to be running a pace around six to seven minutes, and I did plan on breaking seven minutes at the very least.

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Go on. Look as awkward as possible.

The mile starts at the Frederick YMCA and ends right in the middle of the historic downtown area. I loved the fact that it was a point to point course — mentally, I think that was so much better for me than running four laps around a track. But of course, once the gun went off, the whole thing was kind of a blur and I barely registered my surroundings.

There were people calling out our times at each quarter of a mile mark. I hit the first quarter mile in 1:25, which is roughly a 5:45 pace. I honestly can’t tell you much about the race after that. I do know that when I hit the half-mile mark, a man called out “2:59!” and I was excited because I’ve never broken three minutes in the half-mile. (We do run a timed half mile in kickboxing quite a bit, and my PR is 3:09. So this felt like a big deal!)

It would have been awesome if I could have held onto that pace, but it was not to be. I positive split the hell out of the race. Still, the effort was there, so I can’t complain. I have no idea what my time was at the three-quarters mark — I’m sure someone told me, but I was in the pain cave and totally oblivious! Micah was stationed at the end, at around the 0.9 mark, and he called out, “One more block to go!” As I crossed the finish line, I saw the clock said 6:10, but when I stopped my watch, it said 6:13. My official result, as I mentioned earlier, was 6:11. I came in eighth out of 33 in my age group and 14th out of 74 women. It was a really competitive group! The winner finished in 5:01.

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This hurts.

I grabbed a cup (actually three) of water and walked around a bit to cool down. Micah joined me shortly thereafter and we settled in to watch the other heats. The men were sooooo fast. The top 15 men were all under five minutes. I can’t even fathom running that fast!

The race kicked off Frederick’s In The Streets festival, so afterwards we walked around downtown, checking out some of the local stores and browsing at the booths. We ate an early lunch at La Paz, a Mexican restaurant where I’ve eaten before with friends. Drank a Bloody Mary with tequila, which sounds weird, but I think it was an excellent way to recover from a short, hard, fast race!

I would love to do this race again. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keep thinking about the fact that I was 12 seconds away from breaking six minutes. I know 12 seconds is a lot of time in a mile, but I think I might be able to do it if I really trained strategically for the distance. That’s the thing — do I want to actually train to run my fastest mile ever, or would I rather focus on the longer distances? I guess I have to decide that.

If you’re a runner who’s looking to test yourself at the mile, I highly recommend this race. Learn more at FrederickMarketStreetMile.com.

The Tough Pumpkin: No basic 5K

As cliche as it may be, I love fall. Where I live, it’s still pretty warm through October and even November, without the awful humidity that defines a Maryland summer (although this fall has felt awfully summer-like at times.) I love the colors on the trees. And I love anything that’s pumpkin-flavored. Bring me all the pumpkin spice lattes. If that makes me basic, then so be it!

So several months ago, when my friend Staci asked if I’d be interested in running the Great Pumpkin Run 5K, I was all in! Our other friend Cinnamon, who lives in Frederick where the race was held, also said she would run with us. Team Thrashing Pumpkins (Staci came up with the name) was born! At my husband’s urging, I signed up for the “Tough Pumpkin” option, meaning I would run the race with a pumpkin that weighed up to 10 pounds.

Cinnamon said afterwards that she was proud of herself for running the race because it was out of her comfort zone. I also felt like I stepped out of my comfort zone. I may run a lot of races, but I do not run while holding gourds or anything else, for that matter. Also, most of this race was on a trail, and I have very little experience trail running (although I do enjoy it.)

Even though temperatures topped out around 75 degrees the day before, the morning of the race was only in the 40s. Brrr. Fortunately, the race started at the very civilized time of 10 a.m., so it did warm up a little. I got there a little early so I could pick out my pumpkin, which I am guessing was around five pounds. It did not feel heavy when I picked it up, but I knew running with it was probably going to be a real pain.

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Me after the race.

That was correct. I’ve been running 5Ks lately in the 21-22 minute range, and I knew I was never going to hit that pace with a pumpkin in my hands. And I also knew running on a trail would slow me down. So I tried not to think about my time too much and focused on just enjoying the experience.

And despite having to constantly move the pumpkin from arm to arm (while the stupidly long stem kept jabbing me), I really did enjoy the run! The race was held at a place called Crumland Farms, which was still all decked out with haunted Halloween attractions. The first three-quarters of a mile or so was on a gravel road, then runners headed back into the fields, where the terrain was muddy, uneven and littered with fallen corn stalks. The race organizers did a nice job of placing funny signs all along the course (“What’s the best place for a pumpkin? In a pie!” was my favorite. I happen to agree with that.)

I was proud of myself for passing quite a few men out there (though maybe they carried larger pumpkins; I really don’t know.) At one point, one guy yelled out to me, “You’re doing great! I’m here drooling on myself, and you don’t even look tired!” I’m glad I made it look easy, because, again, it was not!

I took a few brief walk breaks when I felt really pooped, then just tried to keep going as fast as I could. In the end, I crossed the finish line in just over 25 minutes. A volunteer told me that I was the first woman to cross the finish line carrying a pumpkin, but there was no awards ceremony, so I’m not totally sure. Still, I was happy with that time!

I need to add that I wasn’t the only one running with a little extra something — Staci is about three months pregnant, so she also was carrying a little pumpkin! Maybe with the early exposure, her little boy or girl will grow up to be a runner!

The swag for the race was on point. Runners got a hoodie with a pumpkin face on it — even though some people look down on those who wear race swag the day of the race, I totally did anyway — a big medal and a pumpkin to take home, even if you didn’t run the Tough Pumpkin. Tough Pumpkin runners got an extra medal. They also advertised apple cider, but it was apple juice (womp womp). I heard someone complaining about that.

This was also Staci’s third 5K race, and she summed it up accurately when she said every race is a new and different experience. That, to me, is the best and worst part of running! You never know quite what you are going to get every time you line up at the start of a race. But that’s what keeps it interesting! I’d definitely run this one again.

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