I didn’t feel my best at the Mike Sterling 10K on Labor Day weekend, but I appreciated the feeling of heading toward that finish line — marked by a crab pot arch.
That feeling is something I just don’t think can be duplicated in a virtual event. Plus, I, along with my blog, got a shout-out from Race Director John Phoebus at the end.
This was my second in-person race since the COVID-19 pandemic really started affecting the United States in March.
It was also my ninth year running the small-town race, which was smaller this year because of a cap on entries because of the pandemic. The race course in Crisfield, Maryland, was the same as usual, and instead of cups at the water stops, there were small water bottles. There was also prepackaged food available at the end.
Since I haven’t been racing much, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The only recent in-person race I’d completed was the Naylor Mill 7K, which is on tough trails. I try to keep up a decent speed for the terrain, but the speed I am able to run on that terrain is not too fast.
That week, I guessed maybe I’d be able to keep up a 10:15 average pace at this year’s Mike Sterling 10K. Last year, I ran the race in 1:01:23, a 9:53 average pace.
I started the race with the second wave of runners, with paces in the approximate eight-to-nine-minute range — there were waves this year because of COVID-19. I figured my time may start with a 9 (although I didn’t think it would be 9:00), I saw someone in my age group there and hoped being with a slightly faster group would help me keep up with the other runners. However, I realized I really should have started with the third wave of runners.
I ran the first mile in 9:55, but I could tell I wouldn’t be able to keep up that pace for the whole run. I felt some pain in my shins during the first two miles and decided to walk at each mile, which gave me something to look forward to. I also stopped at the water stops.
It wasn’t even that hot on Sept. 5 — probably one of the best-weather years for this race since I’ve been running it. However, I just didn’t feel great (and not because I was sick!). I had donated blood one week prior, which I don’t normally do when I have races coming up. However, I figured I’d have a week, I haven’t been that fast lately anyway, and the blood bank really seemed to need blood donations, so I wanted to help out.
I’m still glad I donated, and I have no idea how much of an impact the donation actually made on my running. It’s now been three weeks since the blood donation, and I am back to feeling normal on runs now (it’s also cooler). It took me longer than I’ve remembered it taking in the past to get back to feeling good.
I also hadn’t been doing speed work and have mostly been doing run-walk intervals all summer. And once I started seeing miles that started with an 11, I’m sure I lost some motivation as well.
It was nice to participate in one of my usual traditions, even though afterward, I was disappointed. I felt like I finally had an opportunity to race on the roads, and I ended up with my slowest 10K race time, 1:09:27.
But now that I’m reflecting on it, I really shouldn’t have been disappointed. I got to run an in-person race. I didn’t end up in the hospital (like I did the first year I ran this race, with heatstroke). Thousands are dying from COVID-19, and I have been able to stay healthy. And I did have fun, even though I struggled.
Although I wore a mask when not running and tried to keep distance from people, it was nice to reconnect with fellow runners. I will also be able to remember this race with a shirt featuring a crab wearing a mask and COVID-19. It was also the 41st anniversary, and I happened to have Bib No. 41.
Mile 1: 9:55
Mile 2: 11:09
Mile 3: 11:28
Mile 4: 11:43
Mile 5: 11:36
Mile 6: 11:02
Last part (watch had .26): 2:32 / 9:28 pace
Official time: 1:09:25 / 11:10 pace, Watch time: 1:09:27 / 11:05 pace (6.26 miles)