“I hope when the crowd calls out, they’re calling your name…”
2019 Monument Avenue 10k
1:04:30 (10:23 min/mile) 1/35 AG
April 13, 2019 – Jillian and I ran the Richmond 8k in November 2018 and she managed to average 11:04 minute miles and won her age group by just over 17 minutes. Pretty soon thereafter, she’d set her sights on the next longest race distance, which was the 10k. Over the winter, she claimed that she was going to run the Monument Avenue 10k with me, but when it came time to sign up, she was completely disinterested. Jillian loves the races, but isn’t really a fan of the training runs. I asked her several times if she wanted to run, but each time she declined. Slightly dejected, I went online and registered myself, and began thinking about what my goal time would be since I’d be running solo. Within minutes of registering though, Jillian had second thoughts and made me sign her up too.
We didn’t squeeze in as many training runs as I would have liked, but since Jillian had soccer practice and games three days a week, she was still getting in a fair amount of running. Our longest run together before the race was 4.6 miles, but it was pretty hilly since my neighborhood doesn’t have many flat spots. That was a tough run for her, but I built her up by telling her that the 10k was all flat, so the hilly 4.6 miles were probably harder than 6.2 flat ones. Whether I was right or wrong, she believed me and thought that she could manage the 10k, so that’s all that mattered.
I encouraged Leigh Anne to run the 10k on her own for training purposes (since she was training for a half-Ironman in May), but for reasons that remain her own, she wasn’t interested. Originally, I figured that she would just stay home with Jackson since a 10k isn’t much of a spectator sport, but since we were headed to my parents’ house as soon as Jillian and I finished the race, she and Jackson decided to come downtown with us.
The weather forecast for race morning wasn’t great, with rain and possible thunderstorms in the area. It was raining as we drove downtown, but when we parked at my office the rain had mostly tapered off. Leigh Anne and Jackson were equipped with ponchos, but I was hoping it wouldn’t dump rain on them as they were waiting for us. We walked about ten blocks from my office to the starting area, and after hitting the portapottys, Jillian and I took our places in the starting corral.
Due to our seeding, we had about a twenty minute wait, and Jillian kept making me pick her up so she could look over everyone and see how far back we were from the starting line. As we were waiting the rain picked up again, but thankfully it was still fairly light, and it was just warm enough outside so that we weren’t freezing cold. After a long wait, we finally got to cross the timing mat and take off.
Mile 1 (11:05)
The course is a simple out-and-back that goes west for about 3 miles and then doubles back to the east. We started out near the back of Wave SC, which was the first wave for runners who didn’t have prior times to qualify them for faster waves. Since Jillian had never run the 10k, that’s where we were put. It was designed for runners who were expected to finish around 1:05, so it actually worked out pretty well for us.
We began running at an 11:00 minute pace and we were holding hands to make sure we didn’t get separated in the heavy crowd. Even without a crowd, I think Jillian would have demanded to hold hands anyways, but we’ll call it a crowd issue. The initial pace was pretty easy for Jillian, and we were able to hold a conversation without any effort. The nice thing about the Monument Avenue 10k is that there are spectators on both sides of the road for the entire length of the course, and there are also bands every few blocks. I continually directed Jillian’s attention towards random people to keep her from thinking about the run itself, and that was working well.
At the end of the first mile my right hand was getting a little tired, so I asked Jillian if we could switch sides/hand every mile. She took my left hand for a few seconds, but wasn’t having it for some reason. We switched back to right hand and ran that way for most of the race.
Mile 2 (11:04)
The second mile was similar to the first, with lots of distractions to keep us occupied. There was actually a guy running in a T-Rex costume, which was pretty funny. His legs didn’t have full range of motion due to the costume, and we joked about how long his day was going to be. All in all, things continued to go well, and we continued to plod along at our 11:00(ish) minute pace. We finished mile 2 in 11:04.
Mile 3 (10:59)
Mile 3 also came and went without incident, and Jillian continued to be amazed by the number of spectators and bands along the course. She’d never run a race with so much crowd support, and it was easy to keep her focused on everything but the fact that she was running 6.2 miles for the first time. The miles were still coming easy for her, and we continued to talk about a lot of things. Every time that we got to a half-mile marker on my GPS, I would turn to her and say, “good news, we’re already half way to the next mile.” She was always surprised, so we were doing really well. I knew that we’d be able to run faster on the way back in, but I still wasn’t quite sure how much I could push her. We were averaging the same pace she’d run in the 8k five months prior, but this time around, the race would be 1.2 miles longer. Decisions, decisions.
Mile 4 (10:29)
We hit the turn around near the 5k point and I told Jillian that we needed to turn our hats backwards and get serious. If you’ve seen the movie “Over the Top,” then you know there’s a highly scientific basis to the fact that a backwards facing hat increases your performance. She agreed to the hat flip, and then I told her that we were going to run 10:30 for mile 4 followed by 10:00 for mile 5. We’d then run as hard as she wanted for the last 1.2. Jillian said that would be fine, so off we went. We finished Mile 4 in 10:29 and she was still doing very well. Her breathing had increased for the first time in the race, but she was still able to hold a conversation with me.
Mile 5 (9:56)
Things started to get serious in Mile 5, and due to our faster pace, we began to start passing people at a regular clip. Thanks to my M-dot tattoo and Jillian’s Ironman Chattanooga visor, we began to get questions about whether she was training for an Ironman. Jillian liked the attention, but I noticed that her talking had tapered off significantly. The faster pace and the mileage were definitely starting to take a toll on her. When we passed the 5 mile marker I told her that she was now running further than she ever had in her life, which seemed to lift her spirits a bit. She was doing great, and even though she was starting to show signs of wearing down, I knew that she still had more in her to give.
Mile 6 (9:09)
We decided to shoot for a 9:00 minute mile for mile 6 so we picked it up even more. We’d been running next to the same lady for about a mile and a half, and we began to leave her behind. She gave Jillian some words of encouragement as we pulled away from her. I decided that it was time to begin “picking off” runners ahead of us, and I pointed out people for Jillian to pass. As soon as we passed that person, we made it our goal to pass someone else. I was doing pretty much doing all of the talking by this point, so I knew that Jillian was pretty much running at her max.
Mile 6 – 6.2 (7:12 pace)
The last .2 miles were fast and frenzied. After passing the mile 6 marker, there was a young boy ahead of us, and Jillian said that she wanted to pass him before the end. She took off after him, but as soon as she did, he took off too. He didn’t see her catching up to him, and it was just coincidental that he took off at the same time. He was flying, and within about 10 seconds of chasing him, Jillian realized that it was a futile effort and let him go.
Still, she was running as fast as she could and I had to bear down a bit in order to keep up with her. She was passing people left and right, and just before the finish line we saw Leigh Anne and Jackson off to our left. I think they were surprised to see how fast she was moving, and she darted over the finish line for an official time of 1:04:30. That equated to a pace of 10:23/mile, which was 41 seconds/mile faster than her 8k pace from November. We’d beaten her 8k pace, but perhaps more importantly, we’d set a new hand-holding record of 6.2 miles. I’m not sure if Guinness tracks that record, but it should.
After finishing, we collected our medals, got some water and then found Leigh Anne and Jackson just past the finishing chute. Based upon the results in prior years, I knew that there was a chance that Jillian had finished in the top three of her age group. When the results were finally posted later that day, I was shocked to see that she finished 1/35. She was 1/5 in her age group in the 8k, but I’d warned her not to get her hopes up about winning her age group in the 10k since it was a much deeper field. She’d beaten the second place girl by about 1:30, so I guess I was wrong to have any doubts. I will take credit though for the pacing plan, and for the backwards hat motivation!
We’re still waiting for Jillian’s age group award to come in the mail, but I’m sure she’ll have it on her wall as soon as it arrives. She “ages up” next year to the 10-14 age group, so that will put her in competition with middle school runners. Thus, it will probably be a few more years before she can compete for another 10k age group award, but she’s already talking about tackling a 15k. I’m not sure she’s ready for that quite yet, but she continues to exceed my expectations, so maybe we’ll just sign up for one and see what happens. Either way, I fully expect her to be beating me before too much longer.