I'm not a runner.
Seriously, for the most part I really don't care for pounding the pavement on a regular basis. I don't really like sports that I have to worry about proper hydration and nutrition schedules during the race, or whether I need to replace my shoes because I've run 500 miles in them, or anything like that. I enjoy trail-type running at times but don't really live in an area where it's a regular option. So for the most part, I really don't do it very much. I ran cross country the fall of my freshman year in high school and screwed up my knees, which negatively affected my swimming season that following winter (and swimming was my primary sport in high school). I never ran it again after that.
So running and I have a live and let live relationship. I recognize that some people do really well with it, and are able to turn their lives around with it. For a great example, go and read a bit about Operation Jack. And my wife is turning into a really fine runner and improving her health greatly. And I do appreciate the pureness of just running with nothing tied to it but your own legs and wind.
But for the most part, it's not my cup of tea.
However, every once in a while, I get the bug to go out and gauge my fitness with a run. Nothing heavy, just a 5K or so. And so I stepped out Saturday morning to run the Columbus Commit to be Fit 5K (which was run in combination with the Capital City Half Marathon that morning). I had no expectations, and my only goal was to finish around what I got last year when I ran this thing, which was a 24:49.
My preparation? Well, as I said, I don't run, but I practice clean, active living. I work out two-three times a week with a pretty high-intensity bodyweight exercise program. I bike to work most of the time (though I didn't do it much over the winter this year), and when I don't I take the bus so I'm getting some walking in daily as well. I do a set of sprints on a somewhat regular basis. I don't own a car for my personal use so I walk or bike most places. I try to stay away from eating grains and I eat a lot of meats and veggies (organic or free-range when I can get them), nuts and seeds, and some fruits. And for the past month I've been drinking 8 oz. of Life Force Body Balance daily.
Body Balance is a sea vegetable/aloe vera drink that is chock full of nutrients in a whole food form - meaning that they're about as close to the original source as they can be without being actual kelp/dulse/nori/etc. It's an energizing drink that I have grown to love.
And that was all I had to eat or drink the morning of the run - my 8 oz. of Body Balance. Well, and some water, naturally, but mostly I'd hydrated the previous day so I didn't take in too much that morning. I drink a lot of water anyway. I rode my bike down from Clintonville, where I live in Columbus, to the Arena District, where the run began - about 4.5 miles. I took it nice and easy to warm up my muscles a bit but not tire them out.
My pre-race stretching consisted of some ankle rotations, knee rotations, and then a couple of sun salutations that I learned when I was into Ashtanga Yoga. I followed that up with a back/neck bridge which really stretched out my core and quads. Felt great. Then I went through some groin and leg stretching that I'd picked up in Tae Kwon Do in college - splits and the like (and no, I can't do a full split, but I did some of the training stretches for it). I just wanted to stretch out the whole body and not concern myself with any one part too much.
Last year, when I ran this run, it was a cooler day, and while standing in the corral waiting for the race to begin, I tightened up without really realizing it. It made for a very painful race and I really didn't enjoy it at all. This time, I kept loose in the corral much more - partially because of the better weather (about 65 degrees and just a little bit humid with occasional sprinkles) and partially because of the better stretching. We were in the corral for about 25 minutes (as they were exhorting us to get lined up for organization's sake). I took my place in the 8:00 milers section (as that's the pace I ran last year) and kept loose.
Finally, at 8:00, we were given the start. I turned on my iPod to the "African Rundown" music from Casino Royale (if you've seen the movie, this is the music they played during the parkour scene in Madagascar) and I was off. I started off slowly and built my way up. I didn't want to start too fast and tighten up, so I loosely let myself get up to a pace where I felt good. I looked around a bit for some of the folks I'd seen standing near me in the corral to help pace me, found a couple, and set my pace.
After the one mile mark, where the half-marathon broke off from the 5K, we had a bit of a downhill as the course went downhill from near the State Capitol building to the river, and I let my stride open up a bit to take advantage of the slope (a tactic I remembered from my one year of cross country in high school). I was feeling good. In fact, I was feeling darned good. I started to pass a lot of people, which was always the way I personally preferred to run when I was younger - start slower and pass folks as you pick up speed. It was just a motivational thing that made me run faster.
We headed down a ramp near the river to the Scioto River walk and headed around to North Bank Park. I was feeling REALLY good at this point. Sure, I had some run soreness from simply not being a runner and being used to the pounding, but it wasn't the cramping soreness I had last year. This was expected. I continued to pick up speed.
Then, as we came back uphill past North Bank Park and were suddenly approaching Spring Street again, running into the corrals where we'd started the race, I began to get worried - was I going too fast? This couldn't be the end already!? I sort of hesitantly rounded the corner onto Spring Street as we headed toward what was, indeed, the finish line, and I strained my eyes a bit to see the clock. It looked like it said 28:00 something. I moaned a bit, and picked up my pace.
Suddenly I realized - that was not an 8. It was a zero.
I turned on my sprint even harder and ended up crossing the line at 20:15. With the chip timing and my delayed start based on my location in the corral, I figured I had to be just under 20 minutes - which had been my goal time last year when I'd actually done some training for the race. I was pretty ecstatic and a bit flabbergasted!
Later in the day, I checked out the race website to see if the official results were up and they were - I'd finished at 19:02 and with a 6:09 mile pace. I'd placed 77th overall in a field of 1868, and was fifth in the men's 40-44 age group. It was far and away the best finish I'd ever had in a road race of any size, and I've run a few in my day (more when I was younger). It was near my best time when I was running regularly in high school as a freshman.
So I had a great race. And I'm trying to figure out what the difference was between last year and this. And aside from the weather, which was cooler last year but not so much that it should mean a six-minute time difference, the only thing I can come up with was my nutrition - it's been MUCH better this year and especially since I've been drinking Body Balance to get all those nutrients that we miss with our diluted food supply in the US nowadays. That could explain the lack of cramping, too - as cramping can be from bad nutrition and lack of things like potassium.
So I'm sold on Body Balance. It's helped me a lot with a regular healthy lifestyle And I think it can help you, too, no matter who you are. If you're interested, let me know.