A distance runner racing a mile is always going to be an interesting experience. On August 11th, I took on a different kind of running challenge by racing my shortest race to date, and possibly one of my biggest challenges.
The race was the Guardian Mile in downtown Cleveland. The race started near the West Side Market, ran across the Hope-Memorial Bridge, and ended in front of Progressive Field. Because the race ran up a bridge, it had a decent chunk of elevation gain from .25 to .5 miles. Then it finished with the last half mile down hill.
I made the decision to try an all out mile about 3 weeks prior to the race. My coach adjusted my training to key in my speed work to train for the mile. We started off with :30 hill repeats, then moved to 8x1:00 at the same pace on flat ground, then 8x1:30 repeats at that pace, and finally 8x2:00 repeats. during race week. My goal was to be in the low 6s because my training was indicating that I was capable of that time.
When the gun went off I went with the pack, but quickly noticed that people were going out WAY too fast when I glanced down at my watch and saw a number starting with a 4. I told myself to let them go. They all pulled away from me and I was kind of by myself I felt good and began powering up the hill. With probably .05 to the top, it was feeling like the last part of a hill repeat workout, but I was sure the downhill would be a cake walk so I told myself to just get to the top. I hit the top in 6:03 on my watch, just :02 faster than my coach had recommended.
When I started the descent I was ready to cruise through the second half of the race. But my legs would not turn over. I could not manage more than a 6:40. The .5 mile to the .75 mile was the hardest part of the race. It felt longer than the entire mile combined. Once I hit the .75 mile mark I was finally able to move my legs a little faster, but still not where they were in the first half. The last quarter mile I just stared at the finish line and told myself to hang on until I could get there. I crossed on my watch in 6:25, with an official time of 6:31 because the race had no timing mat at the start.
After the race I could not stop coughing and my lungs were on fire. I wandered back up the bridge to watch the Master's Division to watch the Cleveland West Roadrunners Members compete. Then I met up with then after to watch the Elite races which was a whole different world. The winning female elite ran a 4:31 and the male winner went sub-4 with a 3:59. It was truly crazy and amazing to watch them go screaming by into the finish line.
The Guardian Mile was a unique experience and a painful one. Long distance running is definitely my preference, but I think I would be interested in trying the mile again next year at this event or finding a flat mile somewhere to see what I can do with more training on a friendlier course. And as a result, I'm noticing that I gained some speed after training for the miler, which is a benefit with marathon training kicking up! I would recommend this race, especially because of the unique opportunity to be on the bridge in downtown CLE with the road closed and the sun setting.