Third time’s a charm? Not always. Training in winter kind of sucks. Granted, this winter was not as cold and snowy as last winter, but it is still cold, dark, icy, and wet. Too many workouts end up on a treadmill. Waking up at 5 on Saturday morning seems completely insane.
The payoff? Chilly early spring mornings spent with thousands of other runners who have been trudging through the same conditions only to squeeze into packed corrals listening to the National Anthem and listening for the starting horn.
This year, payoff for me was back-to-back races in Washington, DC. The National Half Marathon on March 26 and the Cherry Blossom 10-miler on April 3. The weather was beautiful for both, the crowd support was terrific – running through the tunnel at Dupont Circle with all the spectators above is just cool – and the cherry blossoms were stunning. I had a lot of fun, even if I had to share my National finish line with an ambulance. (They really didn’t have another access to medical?)
Oh, and I ran really well.
I need to say that, because if I don’t, I’ll forget. I ran a little faster, but more importantly, I ran with more confidence and more intention than ever. It started with National, as I realized about 6 miles in that I had a good race. I wasn’t going to fade at the end. I finished passing people, not being passed. I took that experience and went for an ambitious goal in Cherry Blossom that I missed by two seconds. In fact, in Cherry Blossom, I was running so strong and steady that another runner used me to pace him and he thanked me at the end for being so steady.
The results? I took almost three minutes off last year’s times for both races, with a new 10-mile PR at Cherry Blossom and a vertical half-marathon PR at National (I’m not counting the Baltimore, where someone had to push me over the finish line in 2009!) More importantly, I know I can run faster and stronger than ever.
The reminder here for me is that whatever I’m doing is worth doing well, even under adverse conditions. The payoff is the equivalent of a strong run to Hains Point under a canopy of blooming cherry blossom trees. To quote Lance Armstrong, “Live Strong.”
I think I get it now.