First, get yourself a small, comfortable group of running friends. If it’s during COVID times, like now, make sure they’re staying home as much as possible, wearing masks when they do go places, and are willing to put up with your early morning shenanigans.
Next, you’re going to want to have a training plan. Or, if your friends have a plan and you can insert yourself into their plan, better yet. That’s what I did.
We signed up for the Dirty German 25k virtual race. Our running group is know as the Turtles (I’ll give you exactly one guess why) so we called it the Dirty Turtle. The base rules are listed above; the 15 week plan was one that Keri set in place. Anyone who knows me know that I love a good plan that this one was solid and not overly aggressive.
The longest training run was 10 miles, which I did twice about a month apart. We floated the idea of making the second one a half marathon (13.1 miles) distance but landed on keeping with the 10 miles instead.
Which brings me to my next point: have a backup plan for training. I realized that I wouldn’t be available to run on our scheduled day with Keri and Amy so I invited my son, Lucas, along for the 10 miles. We ran on the same trail that Keri, Amy, and I planned to do the 25k and I was able to familiarize myself with every section of the path.
After conquering our 15 week training plan, it was finally go time! We landed on the date because it was Keri’s birthday. What better way to spend a birthday morning than waking up super early and running all the miles, right?
The weather forecast looked incredible – low 40s to start and ending in the low 60s. We went into the morning stocked with gels, hydration, hand sanitizer, Buffs for when we came across other people, and a solid plan of what we were going to do. Knowing exactly what to expect = comforting.
We parked at the trailhead, which always has a clean portapotty there – something we took into consideration when planning. Our cars served as aid stations so we made sure to throw things in there that we might potentially need.
Once upon a time, the trail we chose to run on was part of the Pennsylvania-Reading Railroad line, so it’s wide and flat. Some sections are a bit gravel-y, others are covered in leaves at this time of year, but generally speaking, it’s considered an easy trail.
The run was broken down into three sections. Two 3 mile out and backs (so that we could swing by our car/aid stations if necessary) and a final couple of loops in the park before returning to the trail for our last mile and change. While training we stuck with 1:1 intervals and we figured that’s what we’d do until someone said differently.
The first 6 miles were pretty amazing, as expected. Not expected was when I fell around 5.5 miles in, although perhaps I should have expected it, knowing my proclivity for such things. One moment we were talking about Dawson’s Creek and Pacey versus Dawson, the next moment, I was on the ground!
For a moment I thought my 15.5 mile journey might be reduced by 10 but thankfully after I made sure my ankles were okay, I was back in the “get it done” mindset. And, since we were close to the car 6 mile mark, I was able to stop and clean myself up before we set out again for miles 6-12.
Our dear friend, Emily, joined us for this portion and it really helped us mentally break up the run. We hit our halfway mark during this section, and as is our way, we did our halfway dance. To Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer.
But you know, copyright and all that. Just sing the chorus.
Once we reached 12 miles, we were all feeling the distance and needed a new game plan for the final 3.5 (which seemed longer than the first two parts, honestly). We decided to switch our intervals to 1 minute of running, 2 minutes walking and to get off the trail for awhile and swing through the paved park a few times.
We got a (very) brief second wind at the point we past the half marathon mark. Keri and Amy’s family members arrived to cheer for us so we said hello before making our way BACK to the trail for the final time. My family was at my son’s karate black belt test, but my husband did come out to cheer for us earlier in the morning and I was getting text messages throughout with updates.
After some quick mental math distance calculations which is usually NOT my forte, I figured out just how far we needed to go on the trail (and back) to hit the 15.5 mile mark.
The last two miles were rough. Wait, no, I take that back. The first 1.5 miles of the last two miles were rough. The final half mile we decided to listen to Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now and We Are the Champions. I think we might have been slightly delirious and I know we were singing very, very loudly in this beautiful, tranquil place (thankfully there weren’t too many people around).
Keri and Amy’s family were both there as we crossed the “finish” line. In our cars we had snacks, cake for Keri’s birthday, mimosa makings, the works.
And we celebrated because that’s what you do when you run a 25k for the very first time.
It’s been a few days since we ran and I’m still on a high from running this distance, still so happy with what we accomplished. I think that says a lot. For all the crap that 2020 has thrown our way, I’m a tiny bit surprised that I feel this happy about doing a virtual 25k. But I am, and it’s a great feeling.
Be well and stay healthy, friends.