I am always so slow to post these, but I figured it was finally time to share my recap of the Harpoon 5-Miler that I ran last week.
Harpoon is a hugely popular race in the Boston area, and I’ve always heard it spoken about with the kind of reverence typically reserved for races like the Boston Marathon. In the past, it had a lottery system to get in and I was never alert enough to actually throw my name in. But this year, registration was on a first-come, first-serve basis and thanks to some friendly reminders from folks in my running groups, I was actually able to sign up! And good thing I did right away because it sold out in 30 minutes.
I haven’t been doing any crazy speed workouts since Hyannis, but I’ve been steadily base-building and getting more serious about focusing on my strength and core routine so I knew I was in pretty decent shape. After the 5k PR at Run for the Troops, I was pretty sure I’d be able to run fast, especially on such a flat course. My coach suggested taping my watch for this race – something I’ve never done before! I was excited by the idea. I could just go out and run hard and see what kind of time I could throw down with zero pressure.
The morning of the race, my friend and I parked in the North End and then jogged over to the Seaport, about 2 miles. It was cloudy but muggy and we were both sweating and happy to peel off our longsleeve shirts once we got there. We had a little time to walk around and check my bag and then it was time to make the way to the start!
Because the race is so big, I was having lots of anxiety about getting boxed in during the early miles. I was probably a little too worried about this honestly. But because I was being neurotic, I made sure I got up towards the front, amongst a LOT of very speedy runners (like former collegiate D1 runner types). Haha, I was a little out of my league, but I just kept telling myself that I was gonna go out “hard but comfortable”.
Well, the gun sounded and off we went! As I mentioned earlier, my watch was taped so I didn’t know exactly how fast I was running, but I knew I was pushing it. I kept telling myself to be careful; that I had 5 miles to go, but I felt good(ish). There were so many fast runners around me and I kind of let myself get pulled along with the tide.
The first mile was fast, but ok. I told myself to ‘lock in’ to the pace and I think I managed to do just that pretty well. I hadn’t really thought about it, but of course being in the shipping district of the seaport – there weren’t really any spectators. I was also running without music so it was almost eerily quiet.
Just after mile 2.5, the course looped back on itself and I was able to see all the other runners. At this point, I was entering the pain cave so I was honestly pretty oblivious to seeing anyone I knew. I was also trying really hard to keep pushing – it can be so easy in the middle miles of a 5k or 5-miler to become complacent and ‘reserve’ energy and I was trying to avoid doing that.
By mile 4, I was in rough shape. My watch was still beeping at mile splits, but I was so out of it, I had lost track of what mile I was on and thought I was finishing when I really still had a mile to go. That was a bit of a slap in the face. I could feel my pace slipping and I was cursing myself for going out so hard in the first mile. I also swore to myself I would never race another 5-miler as long as I lived.
I got passed by a lot of people in the last mile. I hate that. I love negative splitting and finishing strong. I tried to be mentally tough and I would say I held up for a long time, but the last mile was pretty dark. When I crossed the finish line, I sat down immediately against the fence with the help of a nice volunteer who was clearly a little concerned about me.
I was having a lot of difficulty figuring out my watch for some reason (seriously, I was out of it!) but I finally figured out my official time was 34:59, 7:00 average pace. 1 second faster per mile than on the 5k I ran in April. 🙂 I had taken the first mile out sub-7 and while I held on pretty good for 4 miles, I did fade badly by the end. And I can honestly say that in all my years of running, this was the closest I ever came to puking at the end of a race (I didn’t, but it truly was a close call). Not sure I should admit that on the blog, but I really am proud of how far I’ve come in being able to endure hard efforts for extended periods of time and that almost-puking sensation felt symbolic of my newfound grit.
Once I had recovered a bit, I looped back up with my friends and was able to take advantage of my drink tickets, grabbing a cider, which tasted pretty awesome by this point. The finish area filled up quickly as runners came in and the place took on a festive, party vibe. I was able to relax and soak in the accomplishment of what I had done.
Initially, I was kind of beating myself up for going out so fast, but I had a good conversation with my coach about it. As she pointed out, rarely does anyone execute a perfectly negative split race with a taped watch. That’s not the point of it. You’re supposed to just throw down and see where the chips land. I never would have guessed I’d be able to average 7 flat over 5 miles. If I had run with my watch untaped, I probably would have aimed to be around 7:10/mile and I never would have discovered what I was capable of.
So overall, I’d say Harpoon was a tremendous success and I hope to continue to run it in future years!