Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day 4-Miler Race Report

This morning I ran the Mother's Day 4-Miler in Reston, VA. I had never run this course before, and typically I run the Angel Kisses 5K on Mother's Day, but that race no longer exists. Ideally, I would have had a few more weeks to recover from the Boston Marathon and get some speed workouts in before racing again, but my coach told me it was okay to race this anyway.
2015 Washington Running Report Rankings

In 2015, Washington Running Report ranked me #6 for women ages 30-39. That happened unintentionally, and so I looked into what I needed to do to qualify for rankings this year. There's a list of ranked races and runners need to participate in at least six of them-- with three of them being before June 30, and 3 being after. They're all local races, and the 5K that I ran in February was not on the list, leaving me with zero ranked races. So, I chose three of those races to run in the first half of the year, the first of which was today's 4-miler.

I had not done any speed workouts since Boston, except for 13 x 30-second strides the Tuesday before the race. That workout got my legs moving quickly again, but they still felt a lingering tiredness from the marathon. I wasn't sure what to expect from the 4-miler. On one hand, I was in the best shape of my life on April 18. On the other hand, I hadn't really don't anything since then to preserve it. Also, I wasn't sure if my legs would be ready to race, particularly on a hilly course.

Pacing Strategy and Goal
I think I run my best when I have a ballpark idea of the paces I want to run for each part of the course. Even though I had never run this race before, I had done my homework and I knew that the first mile was the toughest. It was a net gain of 70 feet, with one of the hills being a 100 ft climb. I knew that the first mile would be the slowest of the race, and I determined I would push hard, and rely on my endurance to still have energy for the rest of the race.

As for a pace target, I looked to the last 4 miles of the Shamrock Half Marathon because those are the fastest consecutive four miles I have ever run: 7:01, 6:58. 7:02, 6:56. So I set my sights on sub-28:00, which would be a PR. My "official" 4-miler PR had been 30:08, set in 82-degree weather last
Mile 1
summer. It may sound like a soft goal to run a 4-mile race at faster than half marathon pace, BUT given that it was much cooler and flatter at Sharmcok with a tailwind during those final miles (and I hadn't just taken three weeks off to recover from a marathon), I thought that it was a challenging but realistic goal.

Before the Race
Greg and I arrived about 40 minutes before the start of the race and warmed up with our friend Allison. I ran into a bunch of people that I knew, which made it more exciting. The sky was partly cloudy so I decided against wearing my sunglasses. It was humid, and about 56 degrees at the start. Given that it's May 8, that's pretty good! My previous Mother's Day races have always been warmer, with last year's race being close to 70. Greg, Allison, and I lined up close to the front and before we knew it, we were off!

Mile 1: 7:04
I originally estimated that this would be a 7:10 mile, but Greg was running very close behind me, so I wanted to keep the effort level up. I just told myself I was still really fit and even though I was expending a lot of effort to get up the 100 ft climb at this pace, that once I hit the downhills, it wouldn't be as much of a strain.

Mile 2: 6:54
Greg was still nipping at my heels. I could hear him breathing, and I really wanted to keep ahead of
him! I'm not competitive with him, but I still didn't want him getting ahead of me. Partially because I knew I had the fitness level to run at his pace. This mile had some gentle rollers, but was fairly flat for the most part. I continued to push really hard, and expected my pace to be a bit faster, given the flatness, but it wasn't happening.

Mile 2, photo by Cheryl Young

Mile 3: 7:04
Shortly after the mile two mark, Greg passed me. It was a strong move, and he quickly put about 5 seconds in between us. By that point, I was kind of just hanging on and hoping I could keep him in my sight! This mile was comprised with a large downhill, followed by an equally large uphill. According to my Strava data, it was a net downhill mile, but it certainly did not feel like it! I flew on the downhill, but afterward, my legs just didn't want to run uphill anymore. By the end of the mile, Greg was still about 5 seconds ahead of me, which made me feel like I was still running strong.

Mile 4: 6:44
Boston logo on shorts! Photo by Cheryl Young

Note: All of my mile splits end in "4" which is cute for a 4-mile race! I knew that this mile featured a nice long downhill to make up for the first hill we ran. I was desperately looking forward to it. After a small uphill, it came, and I flew! Up until that point, I was just barely on track for my sub-28:00 goal and I wanted a stronger margin on it. Greg was still ahead of me, but it didn't look like he had widened the gap. I gave it everything I had in me and turned the final corner to finish.

Official time: 27:51

Goal attained! I ended up taking second place in my age group, and it was definitely a competitive field. Greg ended up finishing in 27:43, which was 4th place in his age group. I'm happy to see him running so strong after his ankle break last year. It's great that we can finally train together again.

I was really pleased with how this went, mainly because I felt strong throughout. I ran about the time I expected and executed mainly according to plan, and my post-Boston legs held out through the end. They were screaming at me afterward, however.

Overall, this was a great experience! I saw many of my friends at this race, I checked off the first of my "qualifying" races to be ranked, and I met my goal of sub-28:00 on a hilly course. And it's always nice to get an age group award too!

New Boston Marathon shorts are a perfect match for the racing singlet!


  1. Well done, Elizabeth!! You never know how quickly (or if) the legs will bounce back after a major marathon. Looks like they performed well...and it may be fortunate it was only four miles. Nice report!! Congrats!!

  2. Congratulations on a great first race post-boston, new PR, and placing in your age group! Hooray for being ranked, especially with a 10 year age bracket like they, you might be a bit higher if they did 5 years? I don't think we have anything like that here but then again, we probably don't have enough consistent runners in Charleston to hardly do that. I bet you'll just move up because you've gotten insanely fit from Boston training even if that race didn't quite go your way due to heat and things out of your control.

    Your shorts and singlet match perfectly (funny this was the first thing I noticed in the pictures). It looks like you had a strong race with good splits; you went in with a plan and executed and hooray for good weather at a race!

    1. I remember back in the 2007-2008 timeframe when I would receive my Washington Running Report magazine and idolize the ranked runners. I never thought I could ever be one of them! Maybe you could check with your local Charelston running publication to see what they could organize? Honestly, the thing I was most excited about for this race was the matching outfit. Ha!

    2. Girly... this is Charleston. Running has no publication here. Races are lucky to get a little blurb in the local newspaper, and they only get that because the sports reporter is a runner. There is a USATF list of top 10 runners in the state but I am obviously way too slow to ever make that :).

    3. Why don't you start one? You'd be the perfect candidate to do so because you know all the races, you know a lot of people, and you're already doing the bulk of the work with your blog. Something to consider! :-)

  3. Congrats!!! Love the shorts :)

  4. Congrats, way to execute a great race. Especially so soon after Boston! An age group win is always awesome as well :)