How Harlem Run Shaped Me
Sports and physical activity have been a huge part of my life since I was a child. The first sport I ever played was baseball, as a left fielder. However, I always had a desire to be a pinch hitter so that I could sprint around the bases and show people my speed.
After a few years of playing baseball as a youth, my attention started to shift towards playing football. Throughout middle school and high school, I played wide receiver, a position that my coaches felt best suited me since I was able to run my routes rapidly. It was always fun eluding tackles and fighting off defensive players.
As crazy as it sounds, my favorite part of playing baseball was dashing towards home plate to score a run while my favorite part of playing football was surging towards the end zone to score a touchdown. This passion I had for sprinting lead to me taking a stab at running track and field in high school. I was inspired by sprinters like Maurice Green, Florence Griffith Joyner and Michael Johnson.
My favorite races to run were the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash. It was tough running at high velocity of speed but the thrill of racing against other sprinters in short amounts of time was a thrill unlike any other. Running track soon became my favorite sport to participate in during high school and college.
After graduating college, I continued doing sprint workouts on the track, but I began to notice the long distance runners jogging a slew of laps around the track. At the time, I thought to myself that those are a ridiculous number of laps they are running! I definitely respected how they were able to keep a consistent pace for such a long amount of time but I felt there was no way I would ever do that. It seemed like running long distance was way too lengthy and such a prolonged process since being a sprinter was in my blood.
Curiosity soon got the best of me, so I decided to get out of my comfort zone - sprinting - and took on the challenge of running a half marathon. Little did I know what was in store for me when it came to training! My training remained the same as what I did for short distant races: sprinting 200 meter and 400-meter dashes at a fast pace.
On the day of the race, I felt overwhelmed since I I was used to running against 8 people with a goal of getting first place. Once the horn was blown to start the race, I immediately starting running at an extremely fast pace and was passing by loads of runners. All I had on my mind was sprint past the person in front of you. At first it felt great since I was “winning” the race against the people behind me, but after only a mile of running, reality set in.
I hit the infamous 'wall'. My heart was beating a million miles an hour, my lungs were on fire, my legs were cramping up, and hundreds of runners were flying past me. At the time, all I could think was, 'How the heck am I going to be able to run 12 more miles and complete this race?'
For the next 12 miles, I lightly jogged and walked my way to the finish line was experiencing major pain throughout the race. After I completed the half marathon, I said to myself, I am not about this long distant life ... I ended up going back to sprinting and running distances under 400 meters.
After running that half marathon, I always had a thought lingering in my head of what it would take to run long distance properly. I felt a void since I did not perform, and knew I was capable of more. I wanted to redeem myself. In May 2016, I began to research running groups in Harlem with the goal of getting tips on long distance running. A friend of mine told me about Harlem Run, which was the icing on the cake for me.
The first day I ran with Harlem Run, I was amazed by how many different people were a part of the group. I came to realize that everyone runs with different goals in mind and that its not all about “winning” a race. Pacing is key! All I knew was sprinting.
The greatest thing about Harlem Run would have to be the pace groups. Running with the pacers has helped me build my stamina with distance running while providing me with methods on how to gradually increase my tempo.
After a few months of running with Harlem Run, I decided it was time to start taking the correct steps to run in another half marathon. Everyone at Harlem Run was more than happy to give me advice on getting through my next half marathon, which paid off. Ever since joining the group, I have felt both physically and mentally prepared to run in multiple long distance races, and I have done it in a healthy and appropriate way. I am so grateful that Harlem Run continues to assist me in bridging the gap from sprinting to long distant running.