Jake’s Journal: How Lehigh Valley lifted me out of my rut


JakeChris The home of Runner’s World, Bicycling, Men’s Health and Women’s Health – where I can meet with their editors and enjoy their thousands of fitness-loving devotees – Lehigh Valley hosts what is quickly becoming one of my favorite races. And better yet, we sponsor the Garmin Pace Team, giving me a chance each spring to meet selfless athletes who put their own goals on hold to help groups of their peers achieve the times they want, all while showcasing the Forerunner’s best features. In addition to catching up with Amby Burfoot – Runner’s World legend, Boston winner (without taking any water) and inventor of the pace team – I also had a chance to meet a few more sources of inspiration. Last year’s winner in the women’s half, Megan Duerring was back this year doing race commentary, during which she could draw on years of experience as a high school star, college standout and now successful coach (which happened only after she was able to see running for its motivation and not as an obligation). And finally, at the popular pasta dinner, I had a front-row seat to hear “Born to Run” author Chris McDougall (left), whose best-selling book was equal parts entertainment and enlightenment. As a runner and writer, I could relate to every word … and yet would never be clever enough to find the right ways to say them. He is as approachable as a person as he is in writing, and a quick conversation afterward made me realize that after such a productive and enjoyable few days in the valley, the race would just be a bonus.

So facing no pressure, my only decision was which pace leader to latch onto for the race. If I were to go for a PR, Adam Bean, a veteran of 34 marathons and 21 half-marathons would have been shown me the way to 1:30. But today wasn’t about time. So I had two finalists to put up with my raceday rambling – Chris Garges (1:40) and Jeff Dimmig (1:45). I had met them both here last year, when they each nailed their finish times with just a two-second cushion. With a smile stretching as far as his beard, Jeff must have built his impressive lung capacity through laughter. Anyone nervous about maintaining 8-minute miles was immediately put at ease. As for Chris, his resume speaks for itself (which is good because he’s too modest to talk it up). You see, he ran Boston’s 26.2 miles in 2 hours and 47 minutes. That’s 6 minutes, 22 seconds per mile – and that was six days ago. So our 7:38 pace was simply a good recovery run for him. And even though both of these guys are capable of going much faster, they had Forerunner 310XT to monitor their lap pace, average pace, distance and time to keep them on task. I was sporting Forerunner 110, and several people were wowed enough with its sleek simplicity that they’ve already planned shopping trips this week.

I opted to run with Chris, figuring that if things didn’t go well, I could always finish with Jeff as a safety net. We had a good group of about a dozen people, and I found myself running with Pete, who described himself as an older newer runner, which reminded me of my Olathe running partner: Joe, a fellow Iowan who was a year into running at age 50 but already had a 3:20 marathon under his belt. Pete and I talked with our 1:40 peers throughout the first two-thirds of the race, but by mile 9 found ourselves pulling away from the pack. (At one point, my buddy Brian from RW said I was showboating, but I was just waving/pointing/shouting at him … and everyone cheering around him.)

Though Pete and I suggested to each other that slowing down would be the smart thing to do – we didn’t. But unlike my marathon with Joe, when my wheels fell off and he disappeared in the distance, Pete and I were able to maintain pace through the final miles. With the final couple miles set up as an out-and-back on the same road, I had the chance to see and cheer the people ahead of me – and then turn around and applaud those behind me. And before I knew it, I had started my kick more than a mile out. Here’s where Lehigh Valley rocks. The final 250 meters are inside the local sports stadium. At that point, I felt like I was back in high school track, capping off a mile run in front of the home crowd. Feeding off their energy, I passed a dozen people in those closing meters and crossed the line with 1:37 on my watch and a smile on my face. Just like that, running had become fun again.

The post Jake’s Journal: How Lehigh Valley lifted me out of my rut appeared first on Garmin Blog.

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