I just took 30 seconds off my best 5K time. That feels good. I'm also not one to brag about place, since my place is only as good as the other runners who show up to race, but this is still fun to see:

I've never been a charity runner. As a runner since I was 12, it's hard for me to even imagine using charity as an excuse to run or an excuse to get into an exclusive race. For instance, I will never use charity as a reason to run the Boston Marathon. I'll only be getting in there if I earn it.

Then, one day a few months ago, I received an email from the Boston Red Sox. This local team of mine was asking for runners to sign up for the Run to Home Base 9K. This race would begin on Yawkey Way and end on home plate in Fenway Park. OMG OMG OMG... That's all I could really think. OMG OMG OMG...

Then I saw the price tag: $1,000.

$1,000 to run a race? No, not really. It was $1,000 to run a race for charity.

My immediate reaction was that this goes against all of my rules. Then I looked at what the charity really is.

There are three causes I support regularly for various reasons in my own life.
1. ALS research - This horrible disease has taken someone dear to me. I'll do whatever I can to help this cause.
2. Our troops - These people risk their lives every day so I don't have to worry about mine. My grandfather stole away to WWII at the age of 16 and I still hear the stories today. I have a deep respect for military men and women.
3. Animal welfare - Some people are people people, some are animal people. I don't own pets anymore, but I can't stand to see an animal hurting for any reason. I consider myself a bit of an animal person.

That said, when I saw that the Run to Home Base supported our troops by raising money for brain injury and traumatic stress disorder treatment... I was in. I didn't sign up right away. I still don't like the idea of raising money to run a race. Just seems weird to me. But for such a great cause I couldn't resist. A few weeks later, I signed up.

Not long after, I was recruited to join the Remy Team's race crew. This was a lot of fun and provided me with extra fundraising support, which I was grateful for. Not many of my friends have a money to give to a fundraiser. Not many of my friends understand my need to run either, but that's another story.

The one problem with the Remy Team was all the talk about starting and finishing the race together. This is when it becomes charity running again. I love to RUN. Not dilly dally and fool around for some cute photos. The morning of the race, I skipped out on meeting my team so I could line up near the front of the race.

Race Start

We were asked to get to Fenway early. Then we basically sat there for an hour. It wasn't bad though... had the best seats of my life. :)

About half hour before the start, the announcer asked runners to head to the corrals on Yawkey Way. We had 30 minutes till the start, but I headed over anyway. And waited. And waited. They finally started the speakers, all 50 of them, around 8:00 and we started running about 25 minutes late. Many of the speakers were great and had stories to share... Others were sponsors I could have done without. One racer next to me asked me if I remembered how to run when they were all done speaking. It did feel like forever.

We finally lined up at the start. Me right near the front. And we were off!

The Run

First mile was way too fast - a result of starting in the front. I clocked a 6:52 first mile. It actually didn't feel all that bad, but I thought I'd run this race around 7:30 pace, my last 10K time. I tried to stay around 7:00 but it definitely caught up to me later. Let's just say I didn't have negative splits.

We ran out of the Fenway area, down Mass Ave., over the bridge to Memorial Drive, down Memorial to the right, then looped back to the left, then looped back again to Mass Ave, over the bridge and back to Fenway.

It was a VERY fast run. It went by fast and felt fast. Great flat course with lots of water stops! It was so well organized, especially for a first time race. I just loved it.

As I was running, I realized that not that many women had passed me. I thought there was a chance I was in the top of my age group, but I wasn't entirely sure. I'm also not even sure I like that stat at all. How well I place really only depends on who I'm running with, right? So if no one good runs, then what does that tell me about me? Nothing. It is fun to place near the top... especially when telling family who don't know the difference between a 7:30 and 8:30 pace. I'm Just not sure place matters much to me personally.

In any case, I kept chugging along and my quads started screaming. I am only 3 weeks out from my marathon, which had me limping for a week. So really only two weeks of more comfortable running before I went out and ran this all out. I didn't care much though... It was fun. :)

Race Finish

As we headed down the back way to Fenway near Jillian's, I started trying to pick it up. I didn't have a lot left in the tank, but I got the pace back up to 7:00-7:10 after dropping down to the 7:20s. One chick passed me, but she was nice and cheered me along. I appreciated that and didn't mind that I couldn't keep her from passing me. My legs were screaming. I wished her well and was happy to see her passing some dudes ahead of me. Go girl!

Then we turned onto Landsdowne, I knew I could go faster, but it hurt. Know what kicked me in gear? A spot of pink in the corner of my eye. Another girl was sneaking up on me. Oh nononononon. I may not care what place I'm in, but I'm not letting someone draft off me only to kick my butt in the last quarter of a mile. So I found 5th gear and took off.

We turned sharply into Fenway... me, pink and this guy who I leapfrogged back and forth throughout the race. We then turned sharply onto the warning track near the Green Monster.


Fenway seemed packed to me, even though it wasn't at all. I can only imagine how it feels to be a player. I felt like a rockstar or something. So cool.

Now I'm on the warning track, having cut off a few folks (sorry!). Then I did whatever I could to get faster and faster and a little faster. I pulled away from my merry crew... Only to get passed by a Prefontaine wannabe in, where else, the last 10 feet!!

Oh well. It was FABULOUS to run that race.

Fenway and the Troops

I was sad to be done, but awed by Fenway. I slowly walked around and started seeing soldiers along the way. I shook every hand and thanked every one of them for all that they do.

Before the race, I wrote names of military men that I know all over my arms. When I had to dig down and get those quads moving, I just thought about my grandfather, the men who lost their lives in war and those who are in Iraq and Afghanistan now. It was an honor to wear their names and an honor to raise money to help them recover from the stress they have to bear now. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

As I approached home base, I saw Army Chief of Staff General George Casey. I got to shake his hand. It was so cool to meet him... Even if I did miss actually STEPPING on home base as a result of that handshake. Only me. My husband will never let me live that down.

I'll just have to do it again next year. :)

Final tally on fundraising - $1,070!

I loved the experience of this charity run. I loved helping that cause. I loved the race. And I'm happy to be able to share photos and videos of it all with troops in service now. If you want to support our military or just wish some great people well, check out the Facebook Group for B Company 412th Aviation Support Battalion (B Co 412 ASB). The real heroes!

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and give thanks to our troops!
Do you ever spot a race promotion and immediately want to sign up? At first you may not think about anything else on your plate, or if you're even free that day, but you'll want to Run That Race.

I love races. They keep my training in check and ultimately make me a faster runner. They also provide a welcome change of scenery. (Running along the Charles can get boring to those who do it often.) Every so often, though, I regret signing up for a race. This happens when I register for an event that:

a) Does not fit into my regular routine
b) Doesn't coincide at all with my training
c) Falls on a day when I'd rather be resting

For instance, I walked into my apartment building one day after a 6+ mile run and spotted a mailer for the Boston Marine Corps Honor Run 5K on May 8. Immediate reaction: Sign up! Thoughts to follow on my train ride into work: That's 6 days after my marathon. It's also during a month when I've already signed up for the Run to Home Base 9K on May 23 and the Hyannis Half Marathon on May 30.

I think I have one too many races already planned for May. Must skip Honor Run, but I'm tempted!

Another example: I recently ran the Ras na hEireann 5K on a day when I knew I'd have to run 20 miles for my marathon training. Why would I run a 5K on the day of a scheduled 20 miler? I  decided to compromise by running the 5K followed by a 17 mile run. Not a bad plan, right? Well, I did terrible at both and beat myself up over the decision for days after. I  won't do that again, though I wouldn't be surprised if I did it anyway. If a race sounds fun to me it's hard to resist.

Anything like this ever happen to you or am I the only one who gets sucked up in the excitement of race registration? My nonrunning friends will probably think I'm nuts for even asking that. :)
I finally ran a 10k!

Seems odd that I hadn't run a 10k sooner. I've tackled everything else from the 400 meter through the marathon, including a bunch of 5ks, a 7.5 miler, 16 miler, 4 miler, etc. Never the 6.2 mile distance. Super Sunday 10k on Boston's waterfront provided the perfect opportunity.

As I've increased my mileage over the past few weeks, I've come to love my 6/7/8 mile runs. That's my new fun run zone. Whenever I finish any of those runs, I feel terrific... like I could run 100 miles farther. I was looking forward to this 10k, knowing that I could run it well and maybe even fast. My only concern was my recent knee pain.

So I asked myself:

"Should I run this race all out?" (Maybe.)

"Should I take it easy?" (Not likely.)

"Should I skip it and give my knee a full week off?" (Not a chance.)

I decided: "I'm going to run this race smart." That for me entails:

1. Not going out too hard.
2. Negative splits.
3. A hard pace, but one I know I'm capable of running.

I set my sites on a 7:30 pace. My last 4 miler was about 7:15 pace, so I knew I could do another two miles at the slower speed.

I arrived at Super Sunday 10k to meet my friend Jeremy who was running the 5k distance. It was his first 5k ever - his first road race of any distance in fact - and I would be his privileged pacer. He was concerned about running a respectable 5k time, and just knowing him I figured he could handle about a 7:30 pace. Still, I wanted to be sure we started out easy so we could both adjust to the race and not get too caught up in sprinting out of the gate.

We walked up to the starting line and settled in about half way back in the mass of people. Unable to hear the announcer back there, we just waited and waited for everyone to start running. Luckily we could hear the starting horn.

The horn blared and we were off!!

Not really. We sort of shuffled for about 20-30 seconds before reaching the line.

Then we were off!

Kind of. We were confronted with a wall of people and fairly narrow streets. I hadn't run this race before, obviously, so I hadn't thought through the crowd issues.

Trotting along. Trotting along. This was way too slow, I kept thinking, but I didn't worry too much about it. My knee wouldn't hate me and Jeremy could start to find his race.

After about 1/2 mile, I was done with trotting. It was time to start picking people off.

We surged ahead single file as best we could.

Passed 5 people. Passed 10 people. Passed a whole bunch more.

Mile marker 1: 8:50ish.

YIKES. I'm never going to run a 7:30 pace. Time to GO.

I really started picking it up. Jeremy stuck with me the whole way, although often having to slip along side so we could fit through the groups of people.

Mile marker 2: 16:00ish

SWEET. We made up some time and we were both running strong. Keep on going.

About half mile later, I lost track of Jeremy. It was just too crowded and I was still surging ahead. I knew he was running strong close behind me, and would be able to finish strong. I just hoped he would know when the end of the race was near so he could kick it. This race was going by fast and I figured that 3.1 mile finish line would sneak up on him.

I found out later that it did. But he had a fantastic first 5k, finishing 25th in his age group! Woohoo! Way to go J!

Meanwhile I had another 3.1 miles to go. Another full loop. I usually dislike loop courses, but this race was ideal. In that second go-round, I knew exactly when to push it.

I decided to focus on the "pick offs" to keep me moving forward. No one was passing me, except for two guys toward the end, so I was feeling great that I could keep going strong.

I focused on a girl in green.

Caught her.

I focused on a dude in black.

Caught him.

We were on the last mile, running along fan pier, and I knew it was time to go. I started finding a bit of my kick in anticipation of the final stretch.

I set sights on two girls in different shades of blue, one slightly ahead of the other. I focused on the closer one, then decided to just gun for the girl in front. I caught them both at mile 6, right before the final .2.

I started pushing it, on the verge of puking at this point. Oh, and there it was - some guy stopped right ahead of me to puke. I could feel his pain.

Last stretch and there are my friends cheering me on. I let out everything I had left and crossed just under 47:00 on the clock.

First thought. Damn. I didn't make my goal. I could have gone faster.

I found out later that I netted 46:34. That's a 7:30 pace on the nose! Exactly what I set out to do. What shocks me more is that I clocked the first 5k in 23:41and the second in 22:53 -- that's only about 25 seconds slower than my best ever 5k time.

Hmm. Just how fast could I run now if I really let it all out?

Can't wait to find out. Until then, happy road running!