The time I almost DNF’d the mile

Mountain Avenue Mile

Every bit of training I’ve done since December has been geared toward the Never Summer 100K, the longest, most difficult race I’ve ever attempted. It was mostly successful. I’m not quite sure what part of me thought it might be a good idea to follow up that 16 hour event with a 1 mile race.

I knew I didn’t have a shot at the time I ran in my most recent mile race two years prior, which was downhill and at nearly sea level. I trained, which is to say I did one track workout (in Illinois) a week before the race where I ran 400s in 77, 76, 75, 74, 74. Maybe, just maybe I could squeak in under 5:00. Realistically, I knew 5:05-5:10 was more probable.

I did a relatively long warmup of 5-6 miles. The older I get the longer it takes me to get up to speed. I toed the line with about 30 other grown ass men (the fun run, youth, masters, and women’s races had already taken place).

The race began.

I was so unaccustomed to racing such a short, fast distance I apparently completely forgot how to run. Literally the very first step I took from the starting line I pushed off with so much power that I completely wrenched my right hip flexor. It had to have been in just the completely wrong place. Whatever happened, it was the most excruciating pain I’ve experienced in a very long time.

I kept running because, well, it was a race. After 100 meters I started to pull off to the side so I could drop out of the race. But I kept running because, well, it was a race. After 200 meters I felt a huge snap/pop in my hip, and almost instantly the pain disappeared. Now the only pain I felt was the normal pain of running as fast as you can for a very short (but not quite short enough) distance.

My first quarter was the fastest. I slowed down a bit the second quarter, reaching the half mile in 2:28. My second quarter was already slower than I hoped to average for the whole distance. This didn’t bode well. The third quarter was slower still. I picked up the pace in the fourth quarter, but not enough. I finished in 5:05 by my watch and the finish line clock, but that somehow turned into 5:07 in the official results. So it was right where I expected, but not where I wanted to be.

Most sensible people would take away from this experience that the mile wasn’t the event for them and never try it again. I immediately wanted to try again (like a half hour later). The problem wasn’t my fitness, I’d just completely forgotten how to race that kind of distance. With even just a tiny bit of practice I could do quite a bit better.

Or at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself could happen.