Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Time When Five Miles Sounded Impossible

I never would have guessed I would be a long distance runner.

When I first started loving running enough to do it as a sport in middle school and high school, I thought "distance runner" meant you ran the 5k.  I even thought the people who ran the 2-mile race in high school track were batty.  Who wants to run around the track 8 times when you can train instead to run around just 1/4 of a track!?

So I started out as a sprinter.  I ran the 100 meters in middle school, and if you run the 100 you by default also run the 200 meters. And being fast also helped propel me into the long jump sand pit.

Long Jump 2001

I learned I was fast from playing soccer.  I had a few coaches who would instruct the teammates to just chuck the ball over everyone's head towards the opposite goal and let me chase after it.  It was always easier to run fast when I had a ball that I wanted than to run fast on a track.

I did well enough in these sprints for a white girl, knocking out 13.1 seconds in the 100m and I think my best 200m was a 26.4.  Eventually I was pushed towards the 400 meters, which was a distance that would make me soak through 3 shirts with nervous sweat.  This distance made me nervous because I was so untrained for it! I would burst out in a full sprint that would last for the first half-lap; as I turned the curve my legs would begin to tighten; and by the time I was sprinting the last 100m straightaway, I was certain that I had no legs.  They fell off around the 330 meter mark every time.  I just wasn't training my body to be strong enough to finish with the power that I started with.  Is this an allegory for how I run the marathon and half-marathon, or what? My best in the 400m was 60.x, I would guess 60.8.  Pretty good if you remember I had no legs for part of it.

Looking back, I wish I had recognized that I had the ability to run fast for longer.  I wish I tried the mile, or the 2-mile.  In that fresh state, I'm sure I could have broken 5:00 in the mile, no prob.

I was also a relay girl, through and through.  Oh, I adored the relays.  Loved them! I ran the 4x100 and 4x400.  The relay teams I was on set a school record in both races while I was in high school, and the 4x400 record still stands!  You can see it here, if you don't know my real name, the first and last both start with a "C", but the rules in here are that we don't write out my real name.  Professional security, ya dig?

4x100 Relay, 2001

I remember when we did "fitness" for soccer, we would sometimes warm up with a 1-2 mile run.  I was fully cognizant of the fact that running aerobically at a steady pace for longer than 10 minutes was super challenging, and I would play mind tricks to help myself last.  I would think things like, "pretend that your mom's life depends on running one more mile! Some evil guy has a gun and is saying if you don't finish this mile, she's a goner!"  I would take that a step further, and ponder whether I could run 5 miles without stopping if my life depended on it, and I'd be like "well, I guess I'm dead either way, cuz I would die at the 4 mile mark."  I swear, once I pushed myself to finish a 3-mile run by imagining that N*SYNC was watching me, and would like me more if I finished.  And give me concert tickets or something.

Well, now 5 miles is a short run.  And Justin Timberlake is a nobody.

Another change from teenage RoseRunner to adult RoseRunner is....that now, for the life of me, I cannot say "yes" to an invitation to join a relay team.

Every year my name gets thrown in the hat when people ask around for a runner who might be able to join a relay.   I have said thanks, but no thanks, a lot lot lot of times.  Once I said yes, and then because of law school finals, I had to say no.  Which was kind of a relief.

Here's all I really know about adult distance relays:

1) They are usually huge fundraisers for what I imagine are worthy causes
2) They involve sleeping for 1.2 hours in a van.
3) They involve running between the hours if midnight and 5:00 a.m.
4) They involve sleeping in your own stank.
5) They can make for incredible memories.

I'm not your token prima donna.  I love camping. I don't like primping.  My insomniac brain seems to love not sleeping well.  I love running.  I love memories.  I like other runners.  But I haaaaate being in cars, and I haaaate trying to sleeping in cars/buses/trains/airplanes.   I also dread the jet-lag feeling that follows for a full week when you skip a night of sleep.

I was going to write a classic RoseRunner "divisive" post about relays about a month ago when I was asked to join a relay.  Then the influx of Hood-to-Coast and Nuun relay stuff started developing on many running blogs, and so it seemed too obvious and desperate to devote a post to it.  Especially because I didn't (still don't) really have anything to say about relays, except that I can't bring myself to do one.  I wish I could say I was a good enough person to do it just for the charity aspect.  I will run for charity during the day between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., but after that, these legs are hibernating.

I do think that running on a relay team for the purpose of competing -- like really competing, for one of the top 3 spots in a relay race -- would be fantastic fun.  And even more fun if the relay was during the daytime. 


Today I ran 14 miles, and threw in 3 one-mile "efforts" at miles 5 (6:49), 8 (6:15), and 12 (6:29).  I'm all over the place...the fastest one felt the easiest, the slowest one felt bloody hard.

Last, in case this motivates anyone else to take the GU giveaway, I'm also forking over two of these big powder packets of Gu Roctane: lemon-lime and tropical fruit.  They have caffeine in it.  I'm keeping the no-caffeine grape one for me.  We're now up to 9 Gu, and 2 of these.

If you have run, or would run, an overnight relay: why?  Why are you so much braver than me?

Did anyone else run track events, at any age?


  1. Hi Rose, I'm a first time poster, one week reader.

    I would do an overnight relay for the challenge and experience.

    I wish I had done track events in HS but I never learned to run and would struggle to complete one mile in under 12 minutes which is pretty sorry for a boy. I recently took up running and learned that I'm pretty good at it and I really really enjoy the feeling and the challenge that it gives me.

    As tempted as I am to try caffeine for the performance aspects, I kicked my addiction to the stuff a few years ago and only indulge in a cup of tea every once in a while.

    I'm enjoying your blog and sense of humor, thanks for sharing your experiences.

  2. It was so fun to read about your track experiences! I was more of a middle-distancer myself. The 800 and 1600 was where it was at for me. I was Slo Jo with sprints and the 3200 scared me. Ooooh-I did do high jump and almost made it to regionals. Too short though. The tall girls kicked my ass.

    I have no desire to do a relay in a van in my stank the middle of the night. Not my bag, baby. My girlfriend tried to get me to do Ragner. Pass. And the Hood to coast hype? Ugh. So tired of seeing on my blog feed. At least it makes it easier for me to sift through blog posts. NEXT!!

  3. I would run an overnight relay if I found the right people. As in, friends who would not drop me after being holed up with me in a van for 24+ hrs.

    I didn't do track in high school; I ran a bit in field hockey and Tae Kwon Do. I remember feeling so scared of being timed in the mile for field hockey tryouts! I think my fastest time was in eight minutes; 15 years later I trump that quite easily, ha. We never ran more than two miles back then.

  4. no running track in HS....I was dead afraid of running back then
    I swam and played basketball

    relay: HTC yes for me. just once I want to do it for the experience. maybe it is because now that I am a stay at home mom I need personal adventure just for me.does that make sense? So I tried but I am not holding my breath. :)

  5. Yup, ran the mile and 2-mile (and occasionally the 800 which was a shit show) in hs. Even then I knew I was build for distance...I am not fast...I believe my 800 PR was a 2:45, which is certainly nothing to write home about. Likely something to avoid writing home about!

    Anyways, HS track was stressful, but I am still good friends with some of those girls...because they are awesome and we had a lot of shared experiences. Who knew! I'm surprised your coach never moved you up to the 800m. What's up with that?

  6. I fucking hated running in high school. Hated. I didn't learn to enjoy running until my senior year in college when my rowing coach told me that because I was the smallest person on the team, I should try to make my 'mark' by being one of the faster runners during land workouts. I remember thinking "Whatever..." It wasn't until post-college that I embraced running...though still as cross-training for rowing.

    If I had more of a social life and more time away from my daily grind of kids and potty-training and Barney, the allure of the overnight relay might not be as strong. I ran Hood to Coast last year and it was life-altering. Totally cliché, I know. But to be with 5 other people who just wanted to run their best and deal with whatever came their whining, no prima donnas...just hanging out and talking (without being interrupted by kids) and running in weird places at weird times of day after eating weird things...such a test, such a challenge. Re-entry when I got home was super hard because I was suddenly faced with complaining and whining and everyone else's "me, me, me!" Gah! I just wanted to run away!

    I definitely would do it again...but you already knew that :) Thanks so much for your help!

  7. I'm just not sociable enough to do a relay. Nor am I a team player at all - group work in school was bad enough, and that related to subjects I didn't give a damn about. Goodness knows what I'd be like in a group running situation. I'm very much a lone wolf (well, built more like a pug...) when it comes to running. I'd be in a no-win situation with a relay: either I'd be with slower people who I'd get frustrated with, or faster people who I'd be continually scared of letting down (the latter situation is far more likely). I don't have the ability to mix running and socialising, not whatsoever.

    I wish with all my heart I'd been a runner, or any kind of athlete, in school. I was useless at all sports: I'd try out for every team and end up on the reserves, who never really got to play - it was just a polite way of saying 'you suck, but we'll make a figurative team for you just to make you feel better about sucking so badly.' I was the strangest entity then: the fat kid who desperately wanted to be athletic, played a lot of sport (badly) and then ate the entire contents of the fridge after a 'practice' of sitting on the sidelines (probably munching on a packet of Skittles to pass the time...)

    I respect your stance on relays, and on everything else. Keep writing the 'controversial' posts whenever you feel the need to speak out!


  8. I would totally run a relay. Except I only know about 3 people who would want to run more than 3 miles and hang out with me, so the experience isn't on the table.

    Track... oh boy... I ran the 100 dash, the 200 dash, the 400 dash, the 4x100 relay, 4x200 relay, 4x400 relay. My team also set the 4x400 relay record. I assume it stands, but I haven't been back to high school in a while and my school is not technologically advanced enough to put that kind of stuff online.

    And now I'm off to drink a cup full o' hot, steamy caffeine.

  9. Those are some fast times on the track. I didn't run in school, so the first time I ever did a relay EVER was this Monday! We did 3x400's and they were fun...although we did them after a 400m time trial so we weren't really screaming fast (like no one on my team could break 70 secs, me included). BTW that was also the first time I ran just a 400, not part of another workout. Pretty track-inexperienced.
    I doubt I'd want to sacrifice my whole weekend for one of those overnight relays, but there is a relay called Rouge Orleans from Baton Rouge to New Orleans that I might think about. It's not that far, it's not a big deal, and I could walk home and get in bed from the finish line. But it isn't something I'm dying to do. I like my sleep.
    So, let's talk about slow. How the heck are you so fast at short AND long distances? I am not the fastest marathoner, but I am proportionately much better at distance than anything short (example: my HM pace is faster than my 10k pace. Ponder that). I look like a dumpy child on the track and my version of an all-out sprint is hilarious. Looking at your pictures one thing stands out: my legs don't look like your legs. See how your legs are like in the AIR? Mine are barely an inch off the ground. Do you think I need to pick my legs up??

  10. ummm yes, why in HS the 400 was a death march. I hoenstly don't think my team "trained properly" back in the mid 90's. I ended up running the 800 also... don't you wish we could redo HS track, I would be so much better than back in 95-98. damnit.

    anyway, I was begged to do a the Arkon Marathon Relay marathon(running fm 3-8miles per leg, varying) last year due to a last minute person that dropped out and it was one of the best races I ever did. I LOVED relays in HS and it brought back this same feeling. We weren't "competitive" as the other runners were more recreational runners than I am, and I still had a blast! you shold def do one!

    I was conned into Ragnar this year too...after months of the peeps on the team asking, I caved. I think it will be fun... Will let you know, it's in Ocotber.

  11. Hah. This is so timely. I was dog-sitting for my mom this week and I decided I'd run around this park that was nearby. I used to play soccer and one lap around that park was how we started EVERY practice. It was a death march. I could've sworn it took 45 minutes and it NEVER got easier. Yeah, I found out it's 2 miles. I did several laps yesterday and passed by a soccer team who looked like they were struggling like I used to.

    Also, I don't really have any desire to do a relay. Mostly because of the van thing. Maybe one day. Maybe not.

  12. Ugh I'm with you on the whole sleeping on a bus thing. Does not sound fun to me. I enjoyed looking at the high school records; I didn't even realize schools were savvy enough to have websites... I'm so out of it. What's the deal with kids these days though? It seems like no one has broken any of those records for a while. Are kids getting slower??

  13. I ran the Napa-to-Santa Cruz relay in '09 & '10, and I have to say that I doubt I'd ever do it again, for all the reasons you mentioned. Nothing against charities, but the fundraising is HARD (each team had to raise $1000, in addition to the $1000/team reg fee), and even though I was with good friends, after about three hours I was kind of done being holed up in a van with them & all our disgusting/stinky/muddy gear. There was very little sleeping (in spite of much trying) and I did feel kind of hungover for a couple days after. Also I was NOT excited to get up & run in the cold (and rain, the first year) at 3am. I'm kind of glad I did it at least once for the experience, but what I learned is that it's definitely not my thing & I doubt I'll ever do it again).

    I did, however, run track in high school, and it was great fun!

  14. I also hated distance runs for soccer. In fact, I would either a) fake an asthma attack or b) cheat and not run the full distance.

    When my eligibility was up in soccer at college, the track coach convinced me to try track (he was hot and the only reason I agreed). They didn't know where to put me so I trained with the sprinters. I ran one 200M indoor race and immediately quit. I did not finish last but the unitard they forced me to wear was humiliating.

    Its amazing I now enjoy running. Weird.

  15. I have done the Ragnar relay twice, and it is a blast, despite the stink, no sleep, and swerving disel trucks that we were dodging on the edge of the fwy at 2:30a.m. Yeah, that was safe...not!

    High School, ran track all four years..800 and mile mostly, but would do the 4x400 relay which was the last event (and I was not on the "fast" team- we had the studs on that one), it was more for fun and experience. Back then, I loathed the 3200 and was forced to do it on occasion. Funny how it seemed so far at the time.
    I ended up getting roped into Cross Country when the coach caught me in the hallway with an open container (of soda, but it was a no no). He told me the only way he would not send me to the office is if I would come to the first CC meeting that afternoon. Who would have thought? I ended up loving it and have been running distance ever since!

  16. There is a major difference between a 4 minute relay and a 4 day relay. Your high school relay love didn't involve sharing a van with stinky people for days on end.

  17. I didn't run until I was 25. One of my friends in junior high started running cross country (you could run for the high school team in 9th grade, even though that was still junior high in my district), and I remember seeing her weekly schedule and her older sister's weekly schedule for summer training on their fridge and thinking, "Why would you run 25 miles a week? In the summer? Or ever??" I also got dragged on one run my junior year of high school with a friend who ran winter track. We ran up a hill and I wanted to punch her.

    A marathon relay for you, maybe? All the fun of running with people, none of the smelly sleepless vans?

  18. When I was younger I HATED to run! I would never imagine that I would love running marathons so much as an adult! You just never know!

  19. When I was 12, I really wanted to run track - the hurdles to be exact. I sucked at running and did not make the track team. I also hated running from pretty much then on. It has been a long journey to enjoying myself running. I'm still not fast, but at least I like it! :)

  20. I never played any sports - I am the opposite of athletic. Plus I went to a nerdy boarding school that didn't even have a track team (I think I was a Mathlete, does that count? ha). I didn't run at all until I was about 24. I ran on a track for the first time ever this year (I am almost 30). I know. I am behind. I think I just didn't have the confidence in myself to even try when I was a teenager. Now I don't give a damn, which is liberating.

    We have some good friends that are trying to talk us into a Ragnar relay later this year, but I've gotta say I'm unsure about it. I think in the end I'll agree to it, but it seems like a lot of money and coordination for a run. I mean, can't we all just run our sections at the same time and get it over with during daylight hours? And I'm such a light sleeper I fear I'd be miserable sleeping in a van.

  21. Me too me too. 100, 200 triple jump, high jump and 4x100 relay. The 400 made me feel like death and the 800 might as well been a ultra. I too wish I would have given some time and effort into distance running back then. Even just mid distance. But maybe if I did, I wouldnt have fallen in love with LD running at this age. I wouldnt give this sexy love affair up for any success in HS or College. NOW is the time I need it. Then I had boys and parties and Bongo jeans.
    Now little boys, birthday parties and compression shorts. I'll take it.

  22. Track! Yea!!!!

    You know how much I loved track in high school, lol. This post was awesome, brought back a lot of memories. You are/were legit fast as a sprinter! My sister set the school record in both the 100m and 200m at my high school in something like 12.6 and 25.5 or somewhere around there. She made the state meet in both events which was amazing.

    Isn't it funny to think that running the 2 mile was a long way? lol

    High school track was special to me - my only regret was that senior year I qualified for regionals but didn't go since I didn't know I qualified.

    And you probably already saw this, but I did a huge post about high school track a while back:

  23. I was part of a Ragnar (Miami - Key West) team this year - I was a backup runner/aka support crew/aka pacer rather than one of the actual relay members. ... I ended up pacing 2 people on back to back runs at 2am & 4am (16 miles at the most ridiculous hours of the morning..yay) .. After our first leg was over (around 8pm) we rented a hotel room, took showers and chilled out until we had to head to meet the other van. Definitely worth the $10/pp for a few hours in a non-van environment. -- I would do it again in a heart beat - It was fun, and I LOVE Key West, and any excuse to go there is fine by me.

  24. Finally someone who agrees with me about the Relays. I've been asked so many times to join them and I always feel like such a loser saying no. My theory is I'm in my 30's, I've got 3 kids, If I'm getting away from them for 72 hours I choose to sleep in a nice hotel bed not a stinky van. I don't get the relay obsession. I LOVE my friends but I'll see you all for a run after I've slept 8 hours in my own home :)

  25. I LOVED track!! I ran all 4 years of HS. I ran all relays...4x100, 4x200, 4x400, and the 800 Medley (which was 100, 100, 200, 400). At one time we had school records for all 4, but slowly they have gotten knocked down. Except the 4x400. It has stood strong since '97!!:) However, unlike you, my speed doesn't sustain past 1 mile.

    I think an overnight relay would have been fun pre-kids, but now I think there are too many other things I would rather spend my free time doing! I agree with the comment above - If I am going to be away from my kids it won't involve sleeping in a van!

  26. I forgot to comment on the relay question - 2 years ago I was going to do the Tahoe relay, but I was in Vegas unfortunately. Then last year I was injured. Eventually I do want to do that relay, but I see your point about not wanting to spend 30 hours in a van, lol. I think it would be a fun experience though to try a relay once.

  27. You serrrrriously have the longest stride ever, and this just confirms it.

  28. I know you love controversial topics, did you hear about how Boston Marathon is offering people the opportunity to defer their entry to next year? No idea if this will impact the sellout of the race next year (ie, will people who defer to next year squeeze out some people who want to do the race next year).


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