2016 First Down 5K & Training Update

Yesterday I ran the First Down 5K & Pacers Combine for the third year in a row. It's the only race for which I'm a streaker. In 2014 I ran it with Scot. In 2015 I went alone. This year Rachael joined me. This race is an out & back course on Hains Point (East Potomac Park) in Washington DC. It's right along the Potomac River and overlooks Reagan National Airport on the Virginia side. It's flat. Yesterday it was cold, as it has been every year for this race.

The bundled-up runners ready to start
Rachael and I talked about how neither of us was doing a great job of consistent training. We had no time goal for the race. We were simply there to get in a run and a bit of a workout doing the Combine: the pushups, sit-ups, jump squats and lunges after the 5K. It's been a while since I've done any of those, so today I'm sore.

Barry runs ahead juggling footballs
Rachael smiling in the final mile
The race itself was good. Rachael's Garmin was set for run/walk intervals, so we stuck to those and ran an easy pace. We only walked a few steps extra to grab some water. We even ran up the only hill. We talked about upcoming races and marathon tourism. We observed the other runners, some of whom wore the jersey of their favorite football team, whether or not that team was playing in the Super Bowl. Barry the joggler was there juggling footballs. We chatted with him for a little while after we finished our 5K and the Combine. And then we were cold, so it was time to go home.

Selfie by the Tidal Basin with the footballs we earned for doing the Combine

The best thing I got out of this race, aside from a fun time with a friend, was a wake-up call. It reminded me that my lack of training and sub-par fitness are absolutely unacceptable. It made me question my readiness for the Tokyo Marathon in just three weeks. I haven't been running consistently throughout the fall and winter, let alone running long distances. I know that I can physically go out there and finish a marathon, but being so under-trained, I worry about my finish time. I don't care if I'm slow, but I do care about beating the time cut-off. I'm not traveling all the way to Japan to run one of the World Marathon Majors without finishing. I am absolutely LUCKY that the time limit is 7 hours. I might need it.

Three weeks is not enough time to substantially improve my fitness, but it is enough to make some small improvements. I have committed to stop making excuses and get in a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day. Power walking is acceptable, running is acceptable, doing floor exercises on a mat is acceptable, but inaction is not acceptable. Ideally, I'd do some work to get my heart rate up, but at a minimum, I will simply move. I should also do at least one long run of half marathon distance or greater. There are only two weekends left in which I can do that. I NEED to do that.

I made the 30 minutes per day commitment on Saturday, even before the First Down 5K. On Saturday evening I walked almost 2.5 miles; it wasn't much, but it was something. Then yesterday I ran the 5K and did those exercises. That's 2 workouts for 2 days. Today is Day 3 and I plan to go out for a walk, if not a run, after work. I need to stretch out my sore muscles, and a walk will be good for that. Tomorrow night my running club meets. As long as the trail isn't slippery, I'll go run with them (otherwise, I'll hit the treadmill). And I'll keep this up through Tokyo. I wish I hadn't let myself fall off the wagon, but I can't change that. I can only go forward.

Long-term, I need to find a better way of dealing with stress and grief. I have not handled these things well over the last few months. Running should be the medicine, but I've made comfort foods and Netflix binge-watching my drugs of choice. It's not working. I never kidded myself that it would; I simply didn't care enough to do better. Not caring also doesn't work. I'll be figuring these things out during my mandatory 30 minutes of exercise per day leading up to Tokyo.


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