If there’s one thing most people remember about gym class in middle school and high school, it is having to run the dreaded mile. For some reason no one minded in elementary school; running around in the school’s field as fast as you could against your classmates was actually fun. By the time you turned 12, though, being told you had to run the mile – in gym class, no less – was among one of the “OMG worst things ever” for most people.
Admittedly, I don’t remember having to run the mile in high school. We definitely had days where we’d run outside in elementary school, and we were taken to the track a few times a year during middle school (it was right across the street), but we were never told to run a certain distance in a certain amount of time. By the time high school rolled around, we never ran. I think I remember one of my gym teachers taking us for a “jog” around the block once. In four years. Sure I was exempt from gym during swim season (usually mid-November to early March), but that isn’t prime running weather anyway. My school district just didn’t include running in it’s physical education curriculum. Most people are shocked when they hear this since for most, it was their least favorite day of the year in gym. Even though I didn’t run growing up, I’m not sure how I would have felt about running the mile in gym. Knowing me, I would have enjoyed it.
When I finally started running after college, I joined the local road race scene which meant 5k’s and longer. I didn’t know of any shorter road races, and the thought of hopping on the track intimidated me. Every race distance requires a different approach, and as I’m getting more comfortable with racing (it’s been 5 years!), I’m finally learning the “tactics” and applying them (albeit slowly) to my racing strategy. So when I heard about a local 1 mile road race, I knew I had to sign up. Plus, knowing one of my fellow NJ Oiselle birds, Jen, was racing made me want to run even more.
The College Avenue Mile runs two loops in New Brunswick, on you guessed it, College Avenue! This was actually the third year for the race, but the first time it actually worked out for me to run. Since I’ve never raced a mile, I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous knowing I’d have to race hard from the gun, but tried to reassure myself that the pain would be over in 6-ish minutes, a solid 14+ minutes less than any other race I’ve run! When registering for the race, you had to select what heat to run in – elite (sub-5:30), emerging elite (sub-6), masters, sub-7, or sub-12. I checked off the sub-7 option during registration, knowing that the McMillan pace calculator predicted me at 6:01 based on my recent half marathon PR. I was wary about running in the emerging elite heat and posting a 6-something mile. After much debate and some encouragement from my Twitter bud Sarah who was manning the registration booth, I decided to hop in the emerging elite heat. They were running over an hour before the sub-7 heat, and I figured running with a group of women slightly faster than me would be motivating… and I’d get home earlier! Plus, seeing that the race was relatively low-key, it was no problem for me to hop into a random heat. Probably the only time in my life I’ll be called an “emerging elite,” ha.
I warmed up three miles around College Ave. while the earlier races were going on, and before I knew it, we were being called to the start. As we waited for the go-ahead, I couldn’t help but think, “What have I gotten myself into?” along with, “Try not to come in dead last.” Everyone in my heat was friendly, so we were able to distract ourselves a bit by chatting about how we just wanted to get the race over, how hot it was, etc. And I finally met Meghan! You can see us in the picture below talking strategy, ha.
When the race started, the first quarter felt relatively slow. Of course it wasn’t, but in my head I needed to be going balls-to-the-wall immediately. I held back, though, knowing that there was at least someone I was running with that knew how to race a mile. We ran the first half mile in a pack, and started to thin as we reached the halfway point. Two laps of just one block meant 8 left-hand turns, which proved to be somewhat difficult for me. Since I was running so fast (for me!) and had a younger girl right next to me against the curb the entire time, I wound up swinging out a little further than I would have liked. At one point, the girl even had the nerve to put her arm out to make sure she had enough room for herself. I wouldn’t have minded, except for the fact that she started the race on the right-hand side of the road, cut across all the way to the left, and hugged the curb the entire time running the exact same speed as me. Guess it’s good the race was only a mile! I tried to focus on my own race, and realized I was really working based on the fact that I could hear myself huffing and puffing within the first quarter of the race.
Before I knew it we were on our second lap, and as I started the last quarter I somehow had a little gas left in the tank to pass two women that were right in front of me the entire time. Thankfully we finished on the right-hand side of the road, so swinging wide on my last left-hand turn worked out in my favor. I kicked my legs and pumped my arms as fast as I could as I rounded the corner and saw the clock slowly ticking away in the 5:50’s. I wound up crossing the mat in 5:56.06! As it turns out I did belong in the emerging elite heat – go figure!
In addition to the race, because I do my long runs on Saturday, I wasn’t getting away with just running a mile for the day – I had a total of 10 on the schedule. So after my three mile warm-up and one mile race, I set out for another 6 miles to finish off the day. When it was all said and done I was tired and all my legs wanted to do was relax, but it was a fun way to get in 10 miles. I also won’t lie – my legs (and core!) were pretty sore on Sunday which I wasn’t expecting. It made my recovery run more of a slog… but it was nice to know I pushed myself the day before. Next on my schedule is a 4 miler on the 4th of July, followed by a bunch of 5k’s. Aside from the heat and humidity, I love summer racing!
Did you have to race the mile in school? Love it? Hate it?
What’s the shortest race (distance-wise) you’ve done? Longest?