The Power of a Negative Split

Saturday evening, the night before the race, I set out to run an easy, slow paced 6 miles. But after two miles, I felt a sharp sensation in my calf. I can only describe it as a charley horse or the sting of a sore muscle, and I started to panic. After these 2 miles, I stopped to stretch and thought this would help me to keep going. At the end of my third mile, I had to make my way back to my apartment building. 

The next morning I arrived for the race, and made a point to go directly to the Medical tent. I met the staff and described the situation. In my mind, I thought they'd have some "magic potion" to eliminate the pain I was feeling (literally I asked him for Bengay), at least so I could get through the 10 miles. The doctor on site informed me it could possibly be a torn muscle, but the only thing they could do was offer ice to put on it. He told me it may not be the best idea to complete the race. I quickly responded, "I have to finish this race. Even if I walk across the line." 

And with that, I set out to finish the race, even if I had to crawl to the end. 

I made my way over to the start line and some miracle happened. On my way, I saw a man with three friends all applying Bengay to various limbs, speaking their native language. Somehow, I tucked away every ounce of pride I had and just asked for help.

"Excuse me, I'm so sorry to ask you this, but is there any way I can have some of your Bengay to put on my calf?.." 

Before I could even finish my explanation, the kindest man in the world had taken my hand and put a dollop of Bengay in my palm. I thanked him and added this to my calf, making my way to the start line.

Now I have to mention, I could definitely still feel the soreness even after this application and warming up, but mentally, I told myself, this should get me through so that I can finish. I was prepared to run a slow 10 miles and had no expectations for a strong race here. And so it began...

The gun fired, I slowly jogged up to the start line and prepped for a 9:40 first mile. As the first mile turned into the second, and then the third, I became aware that my stiffness in my calf had completely disappeared. Also, each mile, I was going faster! How was I feeling so good?

In short, my miles looked like this:

Mile 1: 9:47.25
Mile 2: 9:33.00
Mile 3: 9:14.36
Mile 4: 9:01.80
Mile 5: 8:43.54
Mile 6: 8:57.72
Mile 7: 8:19.04
Mile 8: 8:18.73
Mile 9: 8:26.83
Mile 10: 8:01.46

Now you'll notice here that Mile 6 is a bit slower and not on that gradual decline (as the other miles). This was the one mile I stopped for water at a station and took a couple Clif Bloks Energy Chews. Finally, my 9 mile was a bit slower than the two previously, but this was intentional, as I was hoping to make my last mile the fastest of the entire race! In the running world, negative splits are proven to be the strongest and the type of race that holds world records! Check out Strava talking about this here.

Finish line.

Finish line.

As I work on future goals and PRs, I will always look back at this race as one of my absolute favorites. I learned so much about my own body and the ability I have to increase my time if starting a race at a slower pace. This experience reminded me of what we are capable of mentally and physically when we believe in ourselves and keep our eyes on the prize.