About a month ago one of the lifters at Kilo Barbell Club asked if anyone wanted to run a 5K with her to benefit the Concerns of Police Survivors, Arizona (C.O.P.S. AZ) Organization. Always being one who is up for a run I quickly accepted this invite and signed up for the Fallen Officer Memorial 5K.
C.O.P.S. is a national organization dedicated to helping the family and co-workers of fallen officers in Rebuilding shattered lives of survivors and co-workers affected by line of duty deaths. Which to me is a fantastic and very worthy cause.
As soon as I parked and went to the day of packet pickup I knew this race felt a little different. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of uniformed officers I saw. The packet pickup was staffed by police cadets who where extremely polite. There were a couple of the cadets walking around passing out bottles of water BEFORE the race. When we gathered in the start corrals I saw at least three large groups of runners all dressed the same and one in each who was carrying a banner for the officer training school that they were from. There were also several officers in full gear and running shoes.
I’ve never been worried about my safety at any race I’ve ever done. That being said I’ve never felt safer than during this race. I’m fairly certain that at least half the field was in law enforcement and several were in uniform.
It was an interesting out and back course through downtown Phoenix. I always find it fun when I get to run on the roads that I commute on a daily basis. The only criticism I have is that according to my watch the course was a little long. I clocked it at 3.4 instead of 3.1. I’m also not the biggest fan of out and back courses but thats a fairly minor personal preference.
About half way through I fell in with one of the training schools, basic training academy 148. I’ve tried to find information on them but the internet has failed me.
Anyway, they were a great group to run with and were very welcoming. Even encouraging me to stay with them when I started falling back. I very much appreciated them helping to pull me along.
It brought to mind a phrase that was used a lot in a book that I finished listening to recently, Running to the Edge by Matthew Futterman. The book chronicles the coaching career of Bob Larsen and his theories on how to train and run “on the edge”. Its a great read or listen on Audible. The phrase that I keep coming back to in my runs now is; “The group is faster than the individual”. And its surprising to me that I had forgotten this. That is how my cross country team ran in high school. We were a pack. While we did have some outstanding runners come through our strength wasn’t that we always had the top runner in the race but that we had 5 to 7 guys that ran together and would chase people down. So, when they passed someone that guy didn’t drop 1 place but 5 or 6 places. It made us very hard to beat as a team. Along with some specialists for certain occasions we were a force to be reckoned with in our little corner of Indiana. In practices we pushed each other always demanding more from ourselves than even our coach did.
Its also generally what my training has been missing recently. Since moving to Surprise I’ve been doing more and more runs by myself. Granted sometimes its nice to run by myself especially when I have a problem I’m trying to work out or just need to decompress. But its when I’m with a group of like minded runners that I push and get better.
That brings me to the Marshmallow Mile. I know weird segue but stay with me. The Marshmallow mile was sponsored by Tortoise and Hare Sports and is similar to a beer mile. You eat 6 large marshmallows then run a lap around a track and repeat until you’ve run 4 laps.
I discovered a couple of things at this event. Firstly, I’m terrible at eating marshmallows quickly. it would take me twice as long to eat as I did to get around the track. Coach V participated with me and was able to keep up despite my lap times being twice as fast if not more. She would come in after I was half way through my bag of marshmallows and leave enough before me to get about 100 m head start. I’d catch and pass her but couldn’t get enough of a lead that she wouldn’t catch and pass in the “eating area”.
I also rediscovered why I loved to sprint especially the 400. When I’m running distance I’m aware of everything going on around me. Wind, sounds, smells and sights. Which sometimes is cool if your in a place that is scenic or with friends and talking about things. But I’m also very aware of my breathing and my stride and that pain developing in my side and every other manner of thing that can distract me and scream at me to stop.
They had Olympic medalist Jenny Simpson who, along with helping to hand out marshmallows, did a Q&A session after the event. Which was very fun and informative. One question that stuck out for me was when she was asked if she had a magic wand and could grant everyone on thing in running what would that be. She talked about wishing that everyone could find that euphoric place while running where everything feels good and you feel like you could just go forever. She also talked about it being a prefect state where your aware of everything and have clarity.
For me that moment comes when I’m going fast. When I’m sprinting the world falls away. My mind goes blank and the only thing that exists is the track in front of me. And when I’m really going not even the whole track just my lane. And it feels like it can go on forever and I don’t want to stop. They were playing music loud enough that the whole track could hear and I only noticed when I stopped to eat. For me its a purely zen moment where nothing exists or matters except the track and going fast. Its that on the edge euphoria that Coach Larson is getting his runners to find in the book. And I missed it. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it until that night.
I also bumped into a guy wearing a Surprise Running Club shirt. I introduced myself and asked what is the Surprise Running Club and where do they meet. His response was priceless, “Surprise”. He then told me a little about the group that meeting in a couple different places in Surprise and what the workout are like along with the website that details the locations and types of workouts. The group is lead by coach Keith Rieger who is an accomplished runner who has qualified and ran in the Western States 100 Ultra, numerous Iron-man Triathlons and the Kona 5. He also is a knowledgeable, humble, and great guy. The rest of the SRC mirrors this friendliness and is very welcoming and encouraging. They describe themselves as a support group that is disguised as a running club. I felt completely at home with them from the start.
Between my current goal of a sub 24 minute 5K by the end of April, the reaffirmation that I need a group to push me and my rekindled love of speed I joined them for the circuit workout on Wednesday. It was amazing and completely kicked my butt. they organize into several groups woggers, runners and speedsters. For reasons I don’t fully understand I decided to try and keep up with the speedsters. There are some quick people in this group and I loved the workout of various speed\strength drills. I’m not sure I’ve worked that hard running since high school track.
On Monday they meet for interval runs, Wednesday is the circuit training and Friday is a trail run. I haven’t made a Friday yet since trails aren’t my focus right now but the Monday and Wednesday runs are fantastic, as tough as you make them on yourself and inspiring. Before each workout is the club cheer of “We not me, SRC” which I believe embodies the philosophy of the group is faster\stronger that the individual.
Not to worry, I’m still running with the Embrace Your Pace group and they will forever be a big part of my running family. Now that soccer is over for the year I’m back at the Thursday Arrowhead loop runs.
Up next is the 1K Kilt Run on Friday and the Kiss me I’m Irish 4K on Saturday.