Consistent pacing leads to a comeback at the Veterans Day 10K

Photo taken from the starting corral of the Veterans Day 10K. Runners and trees can be seen in the photo.
Here’s the start of the Veterans Day 10K in Washington, D.C. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I trained for the Marine Corps Marathon for four months, so I was disappointed that I didn’t have a great day. I’m still proud to have finished another marathon, and it was a well-organized race, but I didn’t have quite the experience I wanted. It wasn’t just that I ran the race much slower than I’d hoped, but also that I just did not feel good, even early on.

Two weeks later, on Nov. 10, I ran the Pacers Running Veterans Day 10K, which was in Washington, D.C. Part of the 10K course overlapped where I’d run for the Marine Corps Marathon. I was able to run this race for free as a writer for RunWashington (read my stories here).

I couldn’t have felt more different between Oct. 27 and Nov. 10. The weather couldn’t have been more different, either. The morning of Nov. 10, I was excited to run.

I’d put a decent amount of pressure on myself for Marine Corps, stressing myself out a little bit about my sub-4:45 goal (I ran the race in 5:34).

With my goal 10K coming up this weekend and the Veterans Day 10K falling just two weeks after Marine Corps, I felt like I didn’t have much pressure to run a great time. I wanted to run fast and see what I could do, but I didn’t put any goals out there publicly.

It was chilly out, but the weather felt basically perfect for me. I wore a long-sleeved shirt and shorts, which seemed just about right.

View of a couple somewhat-bare trees and a fuller tree with red leaves, with grass in the foreground and water further back.
I took this photo before the start of the Veterans Day 10K. Anyone who ran Marine Corps can confirm that it looked nothing like this on this year’s race day. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I went back to my race map from Marine Corps and double-checked what parts of the course had been the same, because it really did look unrecognizable. The Veterans Day 10K course included parts of West Potomac Park, East Potomac Park and Hains Point.

The day of the Veterans Day 10K, there were clear skies, blue water and no flooding. Two weeks earlier, the water we ran alongside had been gray-looking and a little bit rough. It looked like a completely different place.

The race began at 8 a.m., and the Metro didn’t open till 8 a.m., so I drove in from my grandparents’ house, where I’d stayed the night before. I basically followed where the runners were coming from once I got close and parked in a parking lot that was about 0.6 miles away from the start — I did a warm-up run to the race starting area. I got my race shirt, which is really nice but unfortunately is too small for me (why can’t all race shirts have consistent sizing?). I tried it on once I got home, so I didn’t think to see if I could exchange it while I was there.

We got free photos from Swim Bike Run Photo!

I think it’s cool that Pacers Running offers options for its swag — a race shirt, Retail Bucks for Pacers Running stores, or a donation to the race charity. This race charity was Team RWB, and since I chose the shirt, I made a $10 donation to the organization on Veterans Day.

Vanessa Junkin's race bib (1470) for the Veterans Day 10K, with the Washington Monument in the background.
Here’s my race bib with the Washington Monument in the background. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I put my new shirt in bag check and pinned on my bib. Then, I got into the starting corral, not right on the starting line but not super far back. I decided that I would only look at my time for each mile when my watch vibrated to signal that I’d hit a mile; I wouldn’t continually check my pace throughout. Overall, I did a good job with this; I did check it a few times toward the end.

I was excited to see that I ran the first mile in 9:10. That’s a pretty fast pace for me, and I didn’t feel too bad.

As the race continued, I kept myself motivated by seeing how consistent my miles were. Sometimes, running by feel really can be the best. My next miles were 9:14 and 9:09.

The course was pretty much an out-and-back, with just a tiny part different at Hains Point. When I turned around, I looked at my watch and saw that I was a little past 3.1 miles at about 29 minutes.

I ran Mile 4 in 9:13. There was a water stop set up a little before the two-mile mark and the same spot on the way back, a little after the four-mile mark, but I didn’t end up stopping either time — the first time because it seemed early, and the second time because my miles were so consistent. If I really needed it, of course I would have stopped, but I was feeling decent.

Vanessa Junkin wearing a red shirt and blue shorts with white accents, posing with her medal in front of a tree.
Here I am in my patriotic outfit after finishing the Veterans Day 10k on Nov. 10.

It was not an easy pace for me, but I never felt terrible, like I just couldn’t keep going, or like I’d hit a wall. Probably primarily because it was in the heat, I did have some tough moments during my last 10K, the Mike Sterling 10K, which I run every year on Labor Day Weekend.

At the Veterans Day 10K, I ran the fifth mile in 9:18, and decided to pick up the pace for the last mile, since I knew I was nearing the end of the race. There was a runner near me that was continuously saying “Push,” in a motivating way — I figured he was trying to motivate others, but he could have been motivating himself, too. I talked to a different runner very briefly and we talked about how great the weather was.

I ran the sixth mile in 9:00, and picked it up even more for the last bit — my watch had 0.25 — running that in 2:02, an 8:01 pace.

I crossed the finish in 57:07, a 9:12 pace on the results and a 9:08 pace on my watch (since I had just over 6.2).

Vanessa Junkin holding her medal for a selfie in front of the RunWashington Timing truck.
Here I am posing with my medal and the RunWashington Timing truck. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

That was my fastest 10K since I ran 55:55 at the Mike Sterling 10K in 2017. It was more than four minutes faster than the most recent 10K I’d run, this year’s Mike Sterling 10K. My time at that race this year was 1:01:23.

I was pleased about many things regarding my performance at the Veterans Day 10K. I felt strong, I ran consistently and it was my fastest 10K in a while. This increased my confidence.

Afterward, I received a finisher medal, along with a bottle of water, banana and granola bar, plus my shirt from the bag check.

My time of 57:07 likely would have put me in contention for an age group award at one of the smaller races here on the Lower Shore, but not in D.C. According to the results, I came in 104th of 267 female runners in the 20-29 age group. I am still completely happy with my time; that doesn’t change how I feel at all.

I also liked the scenic, flat course, and everything seemed well-organized. I’d love to run this race again next year — maybe I can finally get my sub-50 10K at this race if I really work on my speed.

Veterans Day 10K medal against the navy blue race shirt.
Here’s my race medal against the backdrop of the race shirt. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I’m hoping to use a similar strategy at the Norfolk Harbor 10K this weekend: Staying consistent, mostly running by feel, and not looking at my watch aside from when it buzzes at each mile. I’d like to see if I can cut a little bit more time off what I was able to accomplish at the Veterans Day 10K.


Mile 1: 9:10
Mile 2: 9:14
Mile 3: 9:09
Mile 4: 9:13
Mile 5: 9:18
Mile 6: 9:00
Last part (watch had .25): 2:02 (8:01 pace)

Final time: 57:07/9:12 average pace (57:08/9:08 average pace on watch)

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