Two Hours, Two Races (or, Things I’ll Never Do Again)

Before you run a race, there will at some point come that moment where (despite the amount of nervousness before and after), you believe you can do anything. Climb Mount Everest? No problem. Bench press 3000 pounds? Piece of cake. Fortunately, said moment passes pretty quickly. The problem, I’ve discovered, is when you are given something much more sane but still slightly nuts, because then later on you might still want to do it. Like, oh, run two Thanksgiving Trot races the morning of Thanksgiving, two hours apart, a mere 11 days after your marathon.

8:00am brought the first race, the Arlington Turkey Trot 5K. This is a new race, in its second year, that runs through the neighborhood streets of Clarendon. The combination of it being Arlington (we love our running) and a gorgeous, 70-degree day meant a huge turn-out, probably over 800 people (last year was around 400) and general chaos. I got to walk to the start from my apartment, and the area was festive and exciting. Of course, what I was forgetting was that since this race is in Clarendon, that means it is a race full of hills.

I’d set out to beat my 5K PR from two years ago (a 26:23), which was on a nice flat course and where I was much more rested. Still, anything was possible. I actually ran into my cousin Ann about a mile into the race; she’d caught up with me, but then quickly dropped back. When two miles in I was at 16:15 total, I knew that barring disaster it wouldn’t be a problem to PR. About half a mile later, I also knew that I was suddenly and without warning out of energy. This was a problem. Gasping and dying on those hills, I did the only thing I could; much to my shame, I walked for about 30 seconds until I got to the top of another colossal hill before I carried on. I finished in a 25:40 (meaning the last 1.1 miles were at an 8:34 average), which while not the finishing time I was hoping for (heck, I ran my 3-mile training run in May at a 23:46) was still good enough.

Afterwards I hung out with Ann, ran into no less than two different acquaintances through running (Ted and then Deborah), and decided that running the other Turkey Trot was crazy. Completely ludicrous. I was still a little sore from the marathon, it seemed, I should just stay home. But one more race meant an extra helping of Thanksgiving dinner.

And so…

10:00am brought the second race, the Alexandria Turkey Trot 5-miler. This is a much older race, on its 32nd iteration. (I’m not that much older than the race!) Crowds were huge here as well, and I told myself that I was allowed to quit if necessary, it was no big deal. Really. I only have ever done one 5-mile / 8-kilometer race before, and while on a normal day my 44:35 finish time would be easily beatable, I was suddenly not very sure.

The first mile? Horrible, to the point that I almost quit on the spot. My knee was stiff and sore, and more importantly? I was tired. Maybe I shouldn’t have stayed up to watch Project Runway the night before? (That 10:00pm start time is killing me.) And I had just run another race. But come on Greg, pick it up, it’s not that hard.

At mile 3 I looked at my watch—26:16. That’s an 8:45 average. My old PR involved an 8:58 average. So I just had to keep up the pace. Except, just like earlier in the day, I was no longer sure I could do that. I wanted to just go home and take a shower; this was a bad idea, and at this point I was only sure of one thing, that I would never do this again (or at least not without proper rest and being injury-free in advance).

And then, finally, the finish line. I pushed as hard as I could, although people were inexplicably stopping just on the other side of the finish line, creating a longjam leading up to the finish line. Oh come on people, move it, this is going to be close and I’m not happy about my finishing time as it is… and then it was done, a 44:10 by the skin of my teeth. This is a finish where I know I could (and would) have done a lot better with only one race for the day instead of two. Next year I’ll choose one or the other and call it a day.

But on the bright side, I can now say I did it. And going back for seconds? So absolutely worth it.