Feel the Spirit – 22:02!

Today’s races, the Infant of Prague Feel the Spirit 5k is an achievement of sorts. Not only did I do so much better than my goal of getting under 23 minutes but I finished the race with enough gas to keep going….the 3 or so miles home! And the 22:02 represents a full 2 minute improvement from the last race a week ago. That is on top of the weather being cold with a brisk wind in the face for most of the first half of the race.

This is turning out to be one of my most favorite courses. It is mostly flat but the challenge is during the third mile where one has to go uphill on Beach Rd. and then a steeper uphill just before the finish line. I have done this race every year since its inception in 2006, the year we had the famous October storm that literally destroyed the area. Only once did I miss it and I can’t even remember why.

Just before the race, a lot of people came up to me and asked how I was going to approach it. My goal was to let it all out…to see what I have and what I am capable of since having the heart attack nine months ago. It was a moment of truth for me. And I asked God to give me that one opportunity to find out if the runner I want to be was still there. And during the singing of the national anthem, I could feel his presence over my left shoulder; much like I felt Steph and the angels during that fateful moment last July.

Typically, I usually have this bad habit of going out too fast. This time, my first mile was 6:53 which was a comfortable start. The one thing I didn’t do this time was look over my shoulder to see who was catching up. In the past, I would speed up just to keep them behind me but more often, that was their objective. It was to force me to go faster and wear myself out earlier. I just let a few selected people along side and kept pace with them.

The second mile was more of a continuation of the first at a 7:07 clip. From an experienced runners perspective, anytime you have less than 15 seconds between mile splits you are running a good pace. Because I used to go all out in the first mile, my second would be like 30 to 45 seconds apart. DREADFUL! It was during this second mile that I started yelling at myself and cursing myself out. It seems to help even though I probably scared the heck out of those around me or, they think I am a total nutcase.

The challenge became the third mile. This was the part of the course that was mostly an up elevation. When I made the right onto Beach and saw the hill, I said to myself “(bleep) it! You aren’t gonna stop me! I am gonna kick yer (bleep!)” In the meanwhile, certain dead rabbits behind me were expecting me to fade so they could pass me. Well, its too bad they weren’t on the same mindset as me cuz when I got to the last hill I was going even faster.

The last portion of the race which is an uphill approach to the finish line was the moment of truth. I said to myself “If God kept me alive that fateful day in July, He surely wants me to give it my all!” And true to His word I was. Like the name of the race…Feel the Spirit, there is no doubt I did! And post-race wise, I felt great…not totally out of breath and rolling on the ground gasping for oxygen. But more like a joyful relief knowing that I finished well ahead of my goal and a few selected dead rabbits that had been on my list for quite some time.

So now with the test out of the way and passing with flying colors, I am looking forward to many, many more and maybe that elusive goal of sub 21 isn’t out of reach after all! To celebrate, I went out and bought a brand new pair of ASICs GT-2150s and retired those last pair before I had my heart attack. To all of my friends and fellow runners, thank you ever so much from my repaired heart for all of your love and support! And thank you to my most favorite coach and photographer, Diane Sardes…and of course my wife, Stephanie!

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