Five weeks ago, doubts were swirling in the back of my head if running the Charleston Distance Run would even be possible. My quad and hamstring seemed to be going in the wrong direction. Instead of climbing the hill of improvement, sliding backwards felt like the direction that I was going.
But as each week passed, they seemed to be getting a little better. Good enough that I found myself standing on Kanawha Blvd in front of the West Virginia Capital building ready to run 15 miles. “Ready” is probably too strong of a word to use. Hoping, fingers crossed, or praying might all be better ways of describing how I felt. Never the less I was committed. May be more committed than I was in March when I attempted the Emerald Isle Marathon. Even if I had to walk the last whatever miles of this race, there wouldn’t be another DNF added to my running resume – not today, not ever.
To the many that don’t know, the Charleston Distance Run race starts with the firing of a cannon. The announcer lets everyone know that no two wicks are the same. Translation, no two wicks burn at the same rate so just be ready to run when it does finally fire. And, yes, it does take while, but it finally fires.
I move away from the starting line and head west on Kanawha Blvd. Settling in to some 6:30 miles, I hope I am doing the right thing.
Before the race, I came of up with 3 goals. Sub 1 hour and 40 minutes would be my “A” goal. 1 hour and 40 to an hour and 45 minutes would be my “B” goal. Over 1 hour and 45 minutes would be my “finish” goal.
Having not really did much in the way of training this summer, a 1 hour and 40 minute run was a stretch for me. But what is life without some lofty goals.
I crossed the Kanawha River and headed toward Capital Punishment hill. They call it Capital Punishment hill for two reasons. First, this hill last for a little over 2 miles. Two, it isn’t for the faint of heart. It goes up and up. Then, when I feel like I am at the top, it turns in a neighborhood and continues to up. Testing not only a runner’s aerobic conditioning but a runner’s strength at their core, most runners just want to walk at some point.
Then, the course makes an abrupt change in direction and we head downhill back in Charleston. This portion of the course is so steep that it tenderizes what’s left of our guads.
Once I started up hill, I settled into a comfortable pace. With each step, my brain was constantly monitoring my hamstring. Would it give out? Would it hold up?
Perhaps, I was worried as much about the going downhill as up. Whipping of my lower leg forward stresses my Bicep Femorus specifically. Several runners flew by me during the downhill, but I stuck with my plan.
Crossing the bridge back in to downtown Charleston, there were 7 more miles to run – all flat miles for the most part.
I followed these two guys until we came 12 miles. Up to this point, I felt decent. No hamstring or quad issues. Other than general fatigue, I felt good. About 12 and half to 13, I started going in the other direction. This coincides with us moving away shaded areas of Charleston and out into the direct sunlight.
Talking Danny before the race he said weather conditions were lots better this year. If 72 degrees at the start and 93 percent humidity is better, I am glad that I didn’t run this race last year. My singlet and shorts were soaked early in the race. Coming down the hill into Charleston, my shoes had the squeaking of being water soaked.
At 13 miles, I knew a sub 1 – 40 time was out the picture. Miles 14 and 15 were some of my slowest miles. I lost nearly 2 minutes off of the pace I had been running up to 13. The lack of running and conditioning showed up.
Strangely, I was both disappointed and happy all at the same time. Disappointed in the fact that I was slowing down when I wanted to run faster. At the same time, happy because I was going to run the entire 15 miles with no hamstring or quad issues.
Finishing 17th overall was nice and first in my age group. My time was my slowest ever: 1:42:47.
Looking back, this race turned out better than I even expected it. The heat and the humidity don’t do me any favors. Of all the races I have run, this is the only one where I routinely dump water over head. I even held ice cubes on top of my head and in my mouth. No trick goes untried during a hot race.
But I would go back again and again. There are some races that you can just indentify with. The Charleston Distance Run is one of my favorites and always will be.
Sweat soaked and tired,
The Cool Down Runner