In my last blog post I talked about the Reno Tahoe Odyssey (RTO) and how it is probably my favorite race of all the ones I’ve done so far. The best part of the RTO is that it led me to what I consider to have been my running epiphany, and the key to ensuring I reach my running goals this time.
For a long time I hated hills, not the running down part, but definitely the running up. So for years and years I only ran on flat courses (at least as much as possible anyway). The only time I couldn’t really control the flatness of a particular course was when I signed up for professional races where someone else had the decisions about how to make up the route.
My dislike of hills was further cemented for me by another one of my favorite races, the Austin (Half) Marathon, when I hit this hill around Mile 12.
It doesn’t look all that bad in the picture, but in person, and after 12 grueling miles of similar terrain before that, it was a beast. I can also tell you that it took every ounce of my remaining strength and willpower at that point to just to keep going up it, I honestly even considered laying down on the side of the road for a while, lol.
It wasn’t until I started looking at the various legs of the Odyssey (trying to determine which would be the least painful for me) that I stopped to consider that it was only the running up part of hills that I disliked. The running downhill part was totally fine by me. And often, those were about the only parts of most races that I would actually run.
Again, as a terrible runner and one that rarely would train before a half marathon, I would tell myself I had to at least try to jog the flat stuff, and I could walk up hills, but I would actually try to run whenever I hit a downhill stretch. So as I looked at the options I had to choose from, and began to rule out the clear no’s (obviously anything with a long up-hill section) I began gravitating towards the Runner 8 slot.
More specifically, I was drawn to leg #20.
Leg 20 starts at the summit of a mountain pass and drops straight down from there. Although people with joint problems would find this particular leg to be unbearable; for someone like me, I figured this would be the one part of the course that I wouldn’t have to worry about.
I also decided that I should probably practice for this one in case it proved to be more challenging for my joints that I anticipated. After all, 4.3 miles of a steep decline can tear up even the best of runners. So that’s how I started running in my parent’s neighborhood (very hilly) and discovered that not only didn’t I have a problem running all downhill, I loved it.
For the first time in my running career, I could run fast, and far, and even enjoy myself.
This was a huge breakthrough for me. For the first time I was averaging in the neighborhood of 8.5 minutes per mile as opposed to my regular 10 to 12+ and I was able to maintain a fast pace for 4-5 times as long as when I tried to run on a flat surface.
So this has been my focus for the past few months. Trying to manage the logistics of finding and setting myself up for all downhill runs has been tricky, and I will get into that piece of this puzzle in my next blog post.
In the mean-time, do you have any recommendations for downhill or mostly downhill races I can enter? If so, please comment on my blog!