How Far Was It Really?

Tom and I watched our friend Liz finish the Danskin Women’s Triathlon last Sunday. We stood against the fence that defined the corridor that took the runners the final 100 meters. They came around a curve that emerged from the trees and bushes in Genessee Park and charged over the sunny grass to the finish. I was so thrilled for all of them, and so inspired! As I watched the different running styles, different degrees of tiredness, different ages and facial expressions, I envied and admired them all. A daydream—a visualization, you might say—bubbled up in my head: I’ll finish my run with a cartwheel.
What? I can’t swim and I hate running. But I can’t get that image out of my head!
Today I spent some time researching how to train for a 5k run, which is what the Danskin finishes with. I learned that it is useful to estimate your 5k time and pace, and to use the pace in various ways as a basis for training workouts. Calculate the estimate by running 3 x 1600 with a one-minute rest between each. Take the average of the three times and multiply it by 3.125 for a 5k estimated time. It took me about an hour and several emails to Tom before I understood all of the details behind that—for one thing, you’re using a 400-meter track, which doesn’t go evenly into 5000; and ultimately you’re finding a pace in minutes per mile for a metric race and metric workouts. Wha?
Anyway, I thought tonight I’d run the 3 x 1600 and find my estimated 5k time. Our nearest high school track is torn up as the whole place is under construction; our next-nearest high school track, where I went on my scooter tonight, also turned out to be unfinished. I had gotten the nerve up to go work out in an unfamiliar place doing something I’m not accustomed to, which took a whole afternoon of self-persuading, so I didn’t want to go straight home.
I went to Seward Park, which has a beautiful paved 2.5-mile loop around the edge of a wooded peninsula on the lake. Lake views all the way around on my right, forest breezes from the left, peaceful lapping water on the shore. The problem: 2.5 miles was even less intuitive for calculating anything useful than was 5k divided into miles. I decided I’d just time myself running all the way around it from where I parked the scooter, and then continue on past for whatever felt like another half mile. At that time I was thinking the loop was 2.6 miles (as I’d read online), so adding a half mile would make it 5k. (Right?)
For my own future reference, detailed notes on where I stopped: going counterclockwise from the shore parking area east of the tennis courts, I continued until the trail bent noticeably to the left and there were three conspicuous, straight, narrow, parallel, white trees on the right between the trail and the water. There were lots of trees but three narrow straight white ones stood out. Okay. So to reach that point, my time was 27:40. This is right within the range I calculated based on timed mile runs I’ve recorded in the past year or so. Maybe it was 5k, maybe I didn’t go far enough.
The run felt fine and I had no trouble completing it. From time to time I focused on what Dave has described as feeling like shortened steps and a pedaling motion (as opposed to reaching out with the heel to lengthen the steps, or scuffing the front of the foot to shorten the steps). I concentrated most of the time on: breathing into the diaphragm to push my stomach out; relaxing my midsection so it wasn’t too stiff; and keeping my shoulders down and relaxed. I’m really happy with how this went, and the surroundings were beautiful. I treated myself to a barefoot wade in the lake when I finished running.
As I walked back, retracing the extra part of my route, I finally noticed that there was a mile marker along the trail. It said 2 on one side and one-half on the other side. D’oh! If I’d known those existed, I could have started in the right place and could have known when I hit three miles. The next question was where is the first marker, the one that marks the start?
I wandered around for a while and I think I found it by the main parking area and building where the clay studio is. I’m not 100 percent sure because although it’s the same style and same stone, its lettering doesn’t say “loop starts here” or anything clear like that—instead it says “the mile markers were donated by the Friends of Seward Park,” states that it is a 2.5-mile loop, and shows where you can usually see blue herons and so on. I guess I’ll start there next time, go all the way around, and continue to the half-mile marker so I’ll know I ran three miles. But 5K is 3.125 miles. I won’t be able to know when I’ve run that extra eighth.