Dave – 5K race, a Half Marathon (by accident) and a new running club

So 4 months after my hip replacement I had just completed my first 5K race in a time of 26:41 but I was beat by my 14 year old nephew who had a time of 22:17. I vowed at that time to beat him next year if they came back over from England and so my 1 year training plan began. Now I had got over the barrier of being able to complete a 5K without stopping I thought this was going to be easy, but I quickly found that running is not only a physical challenge, especially after the operation, but also a mental challenge. Running by myself along the beach, without much of a background of running and also the uncertainty of what I was going to be capable of, it’s just too easy to stop, rest and then start again. I know I should still had been glad of my accomplishment of getting out and running 3 – 4 miles a couple of times a week, I was stopping from 2 to 6 times per run and not running as fast as I did during the race. I definitely went through various emotions beginning to think I would never be able to get faster and compete, which was something I wanted to do but couldn’t while playing soccer and thought I would be able to after that. But now I was 51 and with a hip replacement and even though I had the desire didn’t feel I had the ability, I had ran a 19:12 many years earlier in one of my only handful of races so how would I ever get better.

Well my birthday wasn’t too long after the 5K race and my 3 children Sarah, Andrew and Richard clubbed together and bought me a Garmin 210 GPS watch and various running apparel. Now I could at least look and feel good even though I wasn’t running great, but I think the watch was the start of what was to come and I would recommend to everyone. Now I’m able to record all my runs, keep notes and measure progress, albeit slow, and this helps encourage you to work harder and continue moving forward. Almost 4 months later I was still about a minute off my 5K race time but at least I was able to complete the run without stopping now running by myself. I was running 2  – 3 times a week, mainly along the beach with each run being between 3 – 4 miles. I would walk the half mile down to the beach as my warm up and then do my run and walk back to cool down. For me I liked running on the beach as the surface is a little softer but yet still firm near the water line. At this time I was still running in cheap sneakers, nothing fancy but feeling no pain. By the end of September I had cut my time down to just under 24 minutes with just 1 stop half way into the run, almost 3 minutes quicker than my race time so I now felt a time of 22:40 was achievable to beat my nephew in the return race in April if I kept my training up. By mid-October I had built my long run up to 7.21 miles without stopping at just under a 10 minute mile pace, the second longest distance I had ever ran, the longest being 11 miles about 14 years earlier during the off season in Soccer.

November came and I hadn’t run more than 4.3 miles in over 3 weeks since the long run when I headed out of my house for my usual 3 – 4 mile run along the beach. As I was walking down the street I saw Ted doing some work in the front yard and I stopped to say Hi when his wife Helen came out, she was heading out for her last long run of around 10 miles 2 weeks before her half marathon so I said I would run a couple of miles with her. We header off on a sunny October day, weather probably in the mid 70’s and when we got to Gulf Blvd she headed north to Clearwater. We continued running and I was feeling fine, running around a 9:45 pace and just chatting. We went past Sand Key which is about 4 miles in but as I was still okay continued running, by the time we reached Clearwater bridge it was over 5 miles in so I said to her let’s just continue because I would never probably do a half marathon if we didn’t do it now so over the bridge we ran. I wished we had water or something as the hot sun was beating down and neither of us were prepared. We ran to the circle on Mandalay and turned round and made our way back. Around the 11th mile Helen started tiring but I was still feeling okay, we hadn’t stopped for anything and didn’t even have a drink. By mile 12 I was feeling tired and wished I could stop but having someone with you helps push you along. Everyone of the miles including the 2 bridges were under 10 minutes so we pushed hard to not let that slip. By the time we made it home we had ran 13.16 miles in 2:07:08 at a 9:40 average pace without any refreshment and for me also completely unplanned. I had completed a half marathon with a new hip not even 2 years old and had no pain whatsoever.

Then on December 5th I learnt of a new running group on meetup that was starting on the 7th running Wednesday evening along Indian Rocks Beach, how perfect was that. Now I would have support of additional runners to help me prepare for my race which was now 5 months away. There were 6 of us on that initial run and we ran 3 miles right along the beach where I normally ran, we ran as a group about a 9 minute pace so it was a nice run to get to know everyone. The next few runs were actually a little slower but the timing was perfect, it was getting dark earlier and cooler and without the group I think it would have been very easy to just run once at the weekend, with this new group I was now running 3 times a week to get fitter, there were a couple of faster runners that I wanted to be able to keep up with. What was also good was being able to talk to other runners to learn how they trained to run faster so I started back up with a longer run, at least for me 6 miles, and also started to do some speed intervals, I bought some new shoes, the CloudSurfer from On Running and they really feel like I was running on clouds compared to my heavier cheap shoes. I ran one half mile and 4 quarters at a 5:56 pace I felt so good and excited about the possibility of running a fast 5K. The week after I ran 5 quarters at a 5:48 pace. By the end of January I had got my 5K time down to 22:36, just 19 seconds off my nephews time in the race 9 months earlier. I started to pay more attention to my breathing and my running style, which to this point was more of a heal strike. One of the guys from the running club ran barefoot along the beach and started talking to me about mid-foot strike and minimalist running shoes so I started to experiment with shorter strides and landing mid-foot. It felt odd but was comfortable and made more sense to reduce the impact of running, however when I tried to run faster I quickly reverted back to my heel strike, It was going to take some time for this to be normal for me without having to think about it. I did then buy a pair of Merrell Road Glove minimalist shoes but didn’t start wearing them as the race was now just 2 months away and all the reading I was doing talked about how you had to gradually start with these only increasing the distance by a short amount each week which would give me a lot of time. My On Cloudsurfer’s were great but did leave quite an impression in the sand with their pods and I thought having a flatter show would be better for the beach race.

My sister called and informed me they weren’t able to come in April for the race but were hoping to make it in July, I had got my best 5K time down to 22:05 and really thought I was going to be able to challenge David in the race, know I had to set myself a new goal. I looked at the results from last year and found someone that only lived a couple of blocks away in the same age group who had ran a 19:52, he was now my new target. I know the goal was probably beyond me but it would help me continue to push but I wasn’t making any progress. I had now switched to running along the road once a week to try to improve my time but I wasn’t able to get under 22 minutes without several stops and if I only stopped once wasn’t able to get under 23 minutes, had I reached my limit? I switched over to the Merrell’s in a desperate attempt to see if they help, they felt much lighter on my feet and although didn’t provide as much support they were perfect for running on the beach with a mid-foot strike. With 10 days left to the race I practiced the 5K on the way out along the beach with the running club and had a time of 22:38 without stopping. This was my best time on the beach but still a way off my goal but the shoes felt great, then I switched back at the weekend for a practice along the road in my On’s and ran a 22:07 with one stop. I had considered running another 5K race to prepare for the Guppy Gallop as I hadn’t ran an official race for 12 months as I prepared for this race but decided against it as this was the special race. In those 12 months I had ran just short of 400 miles, not great but still a good start for my first full year after surgery, was it enough for the race.

Guppy Gallop 2012April 7th came and I warmed up along the beach, feeling good but not optimistic about beating Lee, wishing my sisters children had made the trip as I was confident I could have beaten them. I decided to wear my Merrell’s and lined up at the front of the pack, I heard someone shout “Good luck Lee” and the person next to me wave back at them. My target was standing next to me so I introduced myself and wished him well. The gun went off and off we went, it’s a small race of 221 runners and about 15 runners went ahead of me, including Lee. I ran the first mile in 6:43 and was still feeling okay, by the turn I was tucked in behind a younger runner about 18 years old and kept pace with him which helped me to the second mile in 7:01. As we ran through that I could see him starting to slow but I wanted to get my best time. I ran alongside him and encouraged him to continue which he did as we pushed on together, as the finish line grew closer I started to stretch out and he responded as we found ourselves racing to the line. We completed the third mile in 7:01 and now it was a sprint to the finish and I’m glad I practiced some short sprints as I pulled away from him and finished the race in 21:08. Lee had finished with a time of 20:10 but I was still very happy with my time, in those 12 months reducing my time by almost 6 minutes. I had also ran a half marathon, had no pain, changed my running style and now had proper shoes and a GPS. What next, would I wait another year to race, would I be able to beat this time, well I happy to report I have raced and beaten that time and will continue my journey in next weeks blog.

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