Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Wings for Life World Run 2016

After running the Wings for Life World Run in 2015, I was so excited to run it again this year. Before sharing my experience in this year's race, let me tell you why you should register for this unique race:
  1. Every Penny for Charity. Really. Every bit of your race registration fee goes to spinal cord research. Not only were adaptive athlete racing, they were at the finish line, giving out finisher medals. It was truly inspiring to hear the stories of those who are living with spinal cord injuries and to know that my participation in this run is making a difference.
  2. The Catcher Car. There is no finish line, sort of. The finish line chases you. Runners start at 7am (at least here in the U.S.) and the Catcher Car starts at 7:30am. The car begins at 15km/hr and gradually increase speed. When the car catches you, your race is over. You have just met the finish line.
  3. A Worldwide Event. The race takes place at 30 locations on 6 continents. The finish line area features a giant screen tv which lives streams footage from the races happening across the earth. It's awesome to know see that you're part of something global. 
My Race
This year's Wings for Life Run was very different from last year's run.
Last year I was busy meticulously calculating exactly how far I would probably go. This year, I didn't even visit the website beforehand-- not because there isn't excellent information there-- it's because I was trying to avoid too much personal hype.

In January, I made the mistake of jumping milage too quickly. By the time I ran the Miami Marathon, my legs were pretty trashed. After the marathon, they said, "Absolutely NOT!" to any more running. They sentenced me to nearly two full months off.

I'd only been running again for a month. My longest run recently had been 5 miles. So, I was planning to go out conservatively and take it slow and easy. (Ha!)

Similar to last year, I was ready for race day packet-pick up and bag check was once again free. What I wasn't ready for was the crowd. The numbers I heard were consistent with what I felt-- Wings for Life 2015 hosted around 1800 participants and in 2016 there were around 3000. Next year, I will arrive much earlier.

Like last year, the race began promptly. And I was out of the gate a little too fast. As I neared the 5k mark, I realized I was on pace to run a 25 minute 5k. Not blazing fast, but too fast for this runner on this day. I slowed somewhat and settled down.

The aid stations were well stocked with water, electrolytes and a Red Bull/electrolyte concoction. Some also had gels and Cliff bars.

Before I knew it, I was at the 10k mark. And it was then that I really started to wonder how far I would go. After all, my pace was still good-- I hit the 10k at 56:55. Again, not speedy, but much faster than I had anticipated. I vaguely remember last year's calculations. I knew I had reached around 1:40 before I got caught. I was surprised to realize that I was on pace for a similar finish. However, as my legs continued churning, I began to feel the miles. My left hamstring was calling out, wanting to cramp. I walked through the aid stations, drinking a full cup of water each time.

In the end, the car caught me just short of last year's finish. I completed 9.88 miles. Last year, I finished 10.44. Quite happy, but frustrated, I walked the mile and a half back to the actual finish line, not waiting for the bus to take me back.



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