It’s mid-July, so it’s time for my third running of the Decatur DeKalb 4 Miler aka my summer stress reliever. As with the prior two summers, I came into this race stressed from work and a hilly four miles through Decatur has helped. This race is the longest running race in Atlanta still in its original course and is free as part of Atlanta Track Club membership. Needless to say when my email with pre-race instructions to arrive by 6:30am due to record participation, I was super excited about waking up early. I rolled into the race area right around 6:30 and had my easiest experience parking for this race. I headed over to the Decatur Family YMCA after getting parked as it’s a race day only pickup and the bathroom lines tend to be long. Bib pickup went super fast and the bathroom line was long, but not as long as normal. There actually is a good reason it’s a long line as we get to use the indoor restrooms! Another advantage to being so early was being able to find an indoor seat to wait in the AC.
With about 10 minutes to the start, I headed out to the start where it felt like 74 with 91% humidity. The good news was there was cloud cover and I had hopes that I could PR the course due to that. I learned there was the addition of an E corral and a walker corral. I ended up placing myself at the back of D because my run intervals actually are in the 10 minute mile pace range and I’ll run extra time if it’s crowded. I still felt nervous, hence being at the back. It turns out I had no reason to be nervous and I actually weaved around some walkers all before my first walk interval 1:15 in. Things were feeling really good, although I’ve noticed that higher temps and higher humidity tend to bring out higher heart rates, so I was tracking that as I ran. The first mile has some good downhills, but also some scary looking uphills that I felt weren’t as bad now that I run intervals. I was even just over a 12 minute mile pace which I knew wasn’t going to continue with some of the worse hills later.
As I worked through the second mile, more of the uphills took an effect on me, causing me to slow my run pace down some to bring my heart rate down. I was able to maintain a good pace down the really long stretch that got me through the second mile (halfway there!) and I was actually on PR pace despite that. The cloud cover was helping, but I knew some hills loomed. I did a fairly good job of running my full run intervals on some of the hills, but the last big hill on North Decatur Road before mile three was testing my heart rate. As I passed mile three, I was still close to PR pace, but I also knew it wasn’t worth risking my health to push for it, so I just did my intervals at a pace that could keep my heart rate reasonable. I was never so happy to climb the last shorter hill and see Clairmont Road come into view. It still makes me giggle that we cut through a combination of a McDonalds and a gas station. I guess being that close to finish would mean it’s a bad time to stop for an egg mcmuffin right? Once I hit another run interval passing McDonalds, I knew it was a slight downhill to the finish so I setttled in to run the rest of the way to the finish. There was a lot of support with runners who had already finished cheering us on and that support kept my legs moving. I finally got to a point where I felt like my tired legs could sprint and I kicked it up a notch to finish strong.
Finish strong I did beating my course PR by 2:32 and coming within 18 seconds of my 4 miler PR. A 4 miler PR that I set in January in 30 degree temperatures. Intervals are doing wonderful things if I can almost PR in July. While cooling down post race, another lady came up to me and told me I helped get her through the race. When running intervals, I often pass someone and then am passed by the same someone pretty continuously throughout the race. That’s what happened today with this lady and keeping up with me was the encouragement she needed. While I’m often out there running my own race and running against myself, you never know who you are encouraging along the way.