Yesterday I had the opportunity to run my first Nike Women’s race event, and I finally understand the hype behind the very popular, global race series. There were 10,000 women in attendance, of all shape, size, and ability, excited to run, jog or walk the 10k!Hosted in Victoria Park, the race day setup reminded me more of a concert or festival than a race. There were multiple stages, DJ booths, tents and activities for pre and post race including a nut butter bar, braid bar, champagne tent, and of course, a Nike shop.
Before the race, Charlie, Margaret and I met Zoe and others for pictures and some pre-race relaxation in the media tent. Having the opportunity to check our bags and relax a bit before the race made a huge difference.
As our group walked over to the starting area, we discussed our strategy for the day. Charlie, who starts Chicago marathon training today, didn’t feel she was in the best shape while Margaret just ran the Nike Women’s 10k in Paris two weeks prior. I suggested to the girls that we make sticking together our primary goal. As we entered the crowded starting area, we agreed to make it our goal to run the entire race together and finish in under 60 minutes.
Due to our predicted race times, we were towards the front. This meant that we had prime view of Ellie Goulding, a popular British singer and runner who was on hand to get the crowd pumped before the race. As she pumped the crowd and assisted in warm-ups lead by an Equinox instructor, you could feel the electric energy radiating from the sea of peach-colored Nike race tanks and shirts. Women of all sizes and abilities were chatting, supporting each other and nervously waving to their supporters and friends.
While waiting for the race to start, a wave of emotion hit me as I realized this would be my last European race for a while. Charlie and Margaret agreed that running my first Nike race in a new-to-me area of London was the perfect way to bid farewell to European running.
After a 15 minute delay, the three of us crossed the starting line with the biggest smiles on our faces. The weather was sunny with a gentle breeze and the day felt more like Spring than Summer.
We ran without music, taking in the sights and enjoying the motivating spectators, many of whom were holding signs for moms and girlfriends.
The first mile (8:35) felt surprisingly easy considering that my 10k PR pace is an 8:59. After last week’s Oakley 10K, I knew that my body was stronger than an 8:59 pace and that my goal would be to keep as fast a pace as our group was willing to run. Suddenly, I found myself in a very new role. I was our leader, keeping a faster clip and pushing us forward versus holding us back. The second mile, which included a few small hills, wound us past Zoe’s mom and boyfriend as well as a gorgeous lake. The second mile (8:29) still felt comfortable, perfect motivation to keep pushing versus pulling back the speed. We all agreed that walking through the water station was a smart idea to ensure we didn’t find ourselves parched towards the end. After a quick walk, we returned to our previous pace, cruising through the third mile (8:13) and towards the second lap.
As we veered to the right, towards the second lap, I asked the girls if we could try and steady our pace a bit. While I felt strong and didn’t doubt my body’s ability, I knew that maintaining the 7:58 pace I suddenly saw on my Nike Plus app wasn’t realistic. We pulled back a bit as we started to recount our path on the second loop, this time taking more time to move to the right so we wouldn’t collide with the walkers and joggers.
During this second loop, we took the time to enjoy the many signs Nike placed along the course, motivating and supporting the multiple running groups. We saw many familiar teams such as Zoe’s team and the London Barry’s Bootcamp team. One sign, in particular, resonated with me, motivating me to push through the pain I was starting to feel.
At Mile 4 I saw that our pace was 8:17, still far faster than I expected to see during a 10k race. So much for slowing down, right? Mentally, I took a second to reign in my emotions and realize that I wasn’t only in PR range, but I was in range of setting a new PR by more than a minute or two.
This is the part of the race where every single step became a mental game. A year ago, I would have started slowing down, not realizing that pain is only temporary and that sudden surge of lactic acid and sweat is totally normal. Instead of slowing down to a “normal” pace, I tried to figure out what pace I could maintain for two miles. I knew it wasn’t 8:17 or 8:15. I bartered with myself and decided on somewhere in the 8:30 range, telling myself that if I was in too much pain as I entered the final mile I could slow a bit more and still PR.
We hit mile 5 at 8:37, perfectly on point. For the next 10 minutes, I focused on two things:
- “The final miles and minutes are supposed to hurt.” – Charlie and Theodora have both told me that the final miles and minutes of a race or supposed to hurt. A new PR doesn’t come easy, and this is where runners prove themselves. I kept telling myself that it is normal for every step to feel like running through quicksand and every breath to be a bit heavier.
- Listening to Taylor Swift. Charlie started her iPod around mile 4, blasting our favorite songs including one especially for me, Welcome to New York. Since we didn’t have speakers or individual headphones, it was hard to hear the lyrics. I focused my energy on trying to hear the lyrics, which made sure I stayed within a step or two of Charlie.
As we passed the incredible RunDemCrew cheer station and turned the corner, I knew the end was near. I could do anything for just a few more minutes.
As we started to see the countdown signs, I started to smile more and more. For years, I’d dreamt of breaking the 9:30 and then the 9:15 pace. Just six months ago I broke the 9:00 pace during a 10k. Now, I was about to break at least the 8:45 pace!
As soon as we passed the 200-meter marker Charlie urged me to sprint my heart out. Never one to disappoint, I gave these meters every ounce of effort, sprinting towards the finish line as fast as possible, keeping a 7:30 pace according to my Nike Plus!
We finished in 53:05 – a brand new PR and 8:33 pace per mile, or 5:19 km per mile – faster than even my 5k PR pace!
I was in shock for a few seconds, refusing to believe it until we received the official results. Margaret and Charlie both gave me huge hugs and told me how proud they were that I’d broken through running’s mental barrier.
As soon as the PR sunk in, I immediately requested a jumping picture in front of the iconic #WERUNLONDON sign. This picture is a framer friends as it shows my emotions perfectly – JUMPING FOR JOY WITH FRIENDS I LOVE!
Yesterday reminded me why I love running. Charlie and Margaret supported me for each of the miles, reminding me just how strong we each were as well as motivating me to achieve what they knew possible. Each of the fellow women running motivated me as their passion for the sport brought them all the way out to Victoria Park on a Sunday morning.
Your turn – Why do you love running?
Thanks to Margaret and Charlie for some of these pictures!