By Sam Carter, M.D. Orthopaedic Specialist Medical Director, Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon
For those of you training for the Triple Crown of Running, the first leg is now in the books. We have been fortunate in Louisville to have a mild winter and get in some good outdoor February runs with temperatures in the 60s. However, race day for the Anthem 5K was not one of those days. With temperatures just above freezing, it definitely made for a brisk morning run. It is very interesting to see how runners dress differently for the cold. Some people were bundled from head to toe and, it was hard to tell if they were going skiing or running. Then there were the hard-core runners who just wore running shorts and a thin tank top. I always make sure to cover my ears for a cold weather run, but this cold morning made me realize how important it is to also protect your hands from the weather. I didn’t notice my hands getting cold waiting for the race to start, but that was probably because I kept them covered in my shirt. Once the race started and they were exposed, especially with the breezy conditions, they started to get numb and tingly, which progressed to pain and burning by the end of the race. Luckily it wasn’t cold enough and the race wasn’t long enough to develop any more serious problems like frostbite, but I will definitely have gloves at the ready if the temperatures are low again for any of the other races.
It was fun to participate again in a race after more than 10 years. It’s hard to explain the rush that you get standing in the starting chute with about 9,000 other people, listening to the national anthem and then hearing that starter’s pistol. The beginning of a race this size is fairly chaotic, because there are so many people trying to run at different speeds in a confined space. I found myself near the front of the starting chute, and I got a little caught up in the excitement. I kept pace with most of the runners around me at the beginning, but the starting adrenaline can only last so long, and for me that “so long” was about a mile and a quarter. My first mile time was about 25 seconds faster than I intended to run, and it caught up with me quickly. I noticed that I was breathing much harder than I should be and I had to start adjusting my pace. My second mile was at my intended pace, but the third was over 30 seconds slower. The sight of the finish line and the scattered supporters on the roadsides cheering us on helped me get through. I basically had to relearn an important lesson about pacing: Don’t get caught up in the beginning rush – it’s not Pamplona; there are no bulls behind you. Start at the pace you want to run and don’t worry about everyone around you. Running 30 seconds faster than your intended pace in the first mile will usually cost you much more than 30 seconds later in the race, and it can make the run much less enjoyable if you are struggling throughout.
Overall, it was a great experience and it makes me more excited about the remaining races. Now, I’ve spent long enough at the computer, I have a treadmill waiting for me in the basement.