This weekend was the 12th running of the Papa John’s 10 Miler.
I’ve been training at 10+ miles for the past few weekends, but all those runs have included water/rest breaks. This would be my first attempt to run the whole time without walking. I initially gave myself a goal to finish in 2:00:00, but amended that to 1:45:00 right before the race.
The morning started off a little rough. I had planned to meet my friend, Eileen, near the starting line at 7:30. At 6:55, I groggily drifted out of slumber. Crap. I was already 25 minutes behind schedule. I jumped out of bed and started to throw on the clothes that I’d had the forethought to set out the night before. At 7:03, I was in the car and on my way to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. I still had plenty of time to get there – until I merged onto I-65 to see that it had been narrowed down to ONE lane due to construction. I started to
get nervous freak out that I wouldn’t get to the race on time. I left a quick message for Eileen and crept along the expressway with what was, no doubt, thousands of other frustrated runners. Fortunately for us, the traffic subsided and I was able to get off at my exit.
I pulled into a parking space at 7:35. Not bad, but I still had to walk a ways before I got to our agreed-upon meeting area. Eileen buzzed me to say that she had taken a different route, but was running behind nonetheless. We met up at around 7:50 (along with our marathoner friend, Lindsay) and made our way to the starting line. This was the first race where I missed the national anthem being sung, and we only had to wait a few minutes before the gun announced the start.
My running group has run the race route before – with one caveat. We avoided the hills in Iroquois Park. Southern Parkway is nice and flat, and the boulevards are wide with plenty of room to run. Eileen and I set off at a decent pace and chatted about that night’s Final Four game that had consumed the Commonwealth’s media all week. About a mile into the race, our friend, Brandon, buzzed by us. We barely had time to say hello before he was out of sight. He let us know that his girlfriend, Carrie, was somewhere behind us.
At the second water break, Eileen dropped off to grab a drink. She told me to carry on, so I kept pace as we headed toward the park. Entering Iroquois Park (at around mile 3), there was slow roar that built from the crowd up ahead. Glancing to my right, I could see the leaders of the race beginning to EXIT the park. They’d run twice as far as me in the same amount of time. I knew that Pius Nyantika had won the first two legs of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running – the Anthem 5K and the Rodes City Run 10K – and was trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since the 5K replaced the Derby Festival miniMarathon. It was exciting to see them sprinting down the hill and back toward the finish line. But that adrenaline rush would soon end.
To be completely honest, I think I’ve only been inside Iroquois Park once – and that was probably 15 years ago. The first hill was a doozy. I couldn’t see the top, and I wondered how far it would go. I was not mentally prepared for a hill of this magnitude this early in the race. I began to worry that all of the hills would be this bad, and since we had three miles of the race to cover inside the park, the thought that I would have to walk some started to get to me. Plus, people were passing me like crazy. An eccentric lone man yelled encouraging words to the runners along the way, but I think most people were concentrating on getting up this mountain. I started to worry if I’d make it in two hours, let alone 1:45.
I finally reached the top of the hill and was rewarded with a nice downhill slope. I coasted down and then we were headed back up again before I knew it. This hill wasn’t as bad, so I kept my pace from before. Up and down. Up and down. The hills weren’t too bad, and there was a nice water break around mile 4 nestled in amongst the trees. After awhile, I asked a woman beside me how many hills were left. Her response – “One. But it’s a monster.” Great. At this point, I began to compensate my lack of glutes by putting more pressure on my quads, which in turn started to tighten up my IT band.
I started up the last hill and told myself just to power through it. In all actuality, it wasn’t too bad. I thought the first hill was much, much worse. For all of the hard work of getting through the hills, the race organizers rewarded the runners with a HUGE downhill that took us out of the park and into a swarm of supporters. I was flying and felt like a rockstar with all of the shouts and cheers. But this adrenaline rush, like the first one, wore off fast.
At mile 7, my legs started to fatigue. People were still passing me, and I felt like I hadn’t passed anyone. I started to slow way down, and then I heard another runner shout out to someone. I looked up to see my friend, Sarah, running a few yards ahead of me. I caught up to her, and we chatted for a mile or so. This seemed to give me a boost. Sarah was outpacing me, so I told her to go on, but it was a nice break from the conversation I was having with myself in my head.
At mile 8, I ripped out a packet of Gu to get through the rest of the race. Unfortunately, I tore the packet a little too aggressively and spilled the sticky mess on my hands. Fortunately, there was a nice family handing out orange slices, and I happily munched on one as I neared the area where we started the race.
I’d heard horror stories from people who’d run this race before about the Central Avenue Bridge. It has a pretty steep incline, and at mile 9, you don’t have a lot of juice left. But honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I counted the flagpoles on the side of the bridge and mentally ticked them off one-by-one until I was at the top. Turning onto Floyd Street, I wanted to start kicking. I knew there would still be about ¾ of a mile left, and I didn’t want to burn out too fast, so I made myself keep steady.
Now, this race is pretty fun. The finish line is on the 50-yard line of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. You enter the stadium on the north entrance and make one lap around the field. Seriously, I have to hand it to the organizers. When you enter the stadium, you feel like an Olympian. There are supporters in the stands, and the finish line is projected up onto the big screen, so you can see yourself in all your sweaty glory. At this point, I couldn’t help it. I picked up the pace and started to sprint my way around the field. At the last turn, I heard my name and looked up to see my friend, Dawn, screaming her head off for me. That gave me the incentive to run even faster, and I crossed the finish line in a sprint.
I was so ecstatic to finish that I didn’t even look up for my time. I found Brandon, and we watched as Carrie and Eileen each finished the race.
A little while later, I checked the race site for my time, and I couldn’t believe it.
Official chip time: 1:39:54.
Not only had I beat my original goal of 2:00:00, but also I’d beat my revised goal of 1:45:00.
Elated, I chowed down on some Papa John’s pizza with my friends as we recanted stories about the race. It was a good start to a great day that ended with my Wildcats winning a Final Four game to make the NCAA Championship tomorrow night.
Keep running. And go CATS!