Thursday, March 1, 2007

My Virtual 20K Race

What is a virtual race?

That's what I call a "race" I run of a real event that I don't attend due to cost, distance or circumstances. It's a run that I do by myself in a local venue of equivalent distance as the actual event. My "race" starts on the same date and at the same time as the specified program. Later I look up the results and see where I would have placed.

Although it's more than a tempo run, I rarely go at actual "race pace" because when I'm running alone it's hard to force myself to go at that effort for the entire distance. That's why I'm always slower in a virtual race than I would be at the real race. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

I do two or three "virtual races" a year of real races that I wish I were actually running. Although my times are unofficial, of course, and I don't count them for PRs, I do record them in my personal results because my running mindset during them is different from even a hard training run. I call each one the "Virtual [insert name of actual race here]".

Virtual races are fun. They enable me to participate in any race in the world. One rule I have is that I always try to approximate the actual terrain of the race.

For instance, last May 21st, I "went" to Wheeling, WV and "ran" in the Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic. Only I ran it on the last half of the first National Marathon course here in the DC area. This superseded course is devilishly hilly, as I imagine any race in West Virginia must be.

I remember it was already hot on that Sunday morning when I pushed off at 8 am from the "starting line" at the John Philip Sousa Bridge on Pennsylvania Avenue. I ran over the shimmering water of the Anacostia River and turned north at Minnesota Avenue. That was the end of any level running.

Running alone through the blighted streets of SE and on the soulless highways in PG County was depressing. I didn't see one other runner during the entire time and pedestrians seemed surprised to see me running by. Several cars honked and drivers gesticulated at me to get out of the way.

I wilted on the hellacious hills east of the Anacostia, especially the gargantuan one in Fort Dupont. I hit it in my third mile and could barely manage it. As I ground up it, I reflected on my friend Bex's first marathon on the same course two months earlier. I pictured her running up the same hill in the fourteenth mile, alone, hair flying, right knee severely gashed from a fall, with the seven hills of hell on Central Avenue still to come in the last six miles. I wondered if her first marathon had scarred her for life, then I remembered her tremendous resolve and decided, Naww.

An hour later I was on those same infamous hills, only I thankfully reached the "end" of my 20K race on the third hill. I barely shuffled over the imaginary finish line in 1:59:47, a gruesome 9:38 pace. If it hadn't been a "race" I would have quit the run long before that. I gratefully boarded Metro to ride back to my car in the District.

Oh, I placed 402/617 in the Virtual 2006 Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic. Not a good showing at all.

1 comment:

jeanne said...

hey, you could have been last! sounds hellish.