The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

The ups and downs of my journey as a runner

Chapter 3: Discovering the Truth
This+photo+was+taken+after+my+finish+at+the+Foot+Traffic+Holiday+Half+10k+race+on+Dec.+10%2C+2023.+Although+it+was+a+dreary%2C+cold+day%2C+I+had+a+lot+of+fun+in+the+celebratory+atmosphere.
Eban Slate
This photo was taken after my finish at the Foot Traffic Holiday Half 10k race on Dec. 10, 2023. Although it was a dreary, cold day, I had a lot of fun in the celebratory atmosphere.

With my first cross country season having ended, I suddenly stopped running like I did after the track season. The difference this time was that in the second week of November, bored by the strike break, I decided to motivate myself to pick up training again by signing up for a 10k race in early December, a longer distance than I had ever run at once before, let alone raced. I got a Garmin running watch to track my runs without my phone and be able to see my progress with training.

I ran about five days a week and did actual long runs at race distance for the first time. I got sick with two weeks remaining, but that didn’t deter me. I was determined. On one of my 10k long runs, I got my time down to under one hour, two minutes. 

Race day was a wet Sunday morning. It was a holiday-themed race put on by the Foot Traffic store at Swan Island. At the beginning of the race, I saw some people I knew from track and cross country running the half marathon event. 

A unique part of the course was the big hill at the beginning. It reminded me of Pier Park. I had to slow down considerably and I got passed by a lot of people, but I conquered the hill and was rewarded with flat terrain for most of the rest of the race. My strategy for the race was to run fairly fast for a mile, then recover for around a minute by walking, repeated six times for the ten kilometer, or 6.2 mile, distance. 

Although it stopped raining soon after the race started, there were plenty of puddles, so my shoes got waterlogged, which slowed me down. I felt my legs and especially my achilles ache after the halfway mark. I had to slow down and walk more. My pace slipped, but I was enjoying myself. As I approached the big hill for the second time, I felt relaxed as it was now a steep downhill, perfect for picking up some speed. I made up a little bit of time on that downhill, but it wasn’t quite enough. I finished the race 45 seconds off of my PR set on the last long run. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t hit the sub-one hour goal, but I had a lot of fun with the crowds cheering me on and being among like-minded runnerfolk. 

The next week I rested, running once and only for a mile. Then, I went back to track practice for winter training. The first run back was an easy run up to Rocky Butte, with huge elevation gain going up. I kept with the varsity group for half a mile before the hill started. I had to walk a lot up the hill, but it was nice coming back down in the fading light. I ran pretty fast down the hill like I did during the race. I ran the notoriously challenging four-mile loop in 42 minutes and looked forward to running it again to improve my time as I got fitter. 

I came to about three practices a week for the next month and a half. I was enjoying the winter running feeling, but then suddenly in early February, I felt really weak on an easy run. My aerobic capacity felt like it had dropped off even compared to the week before. My achilles were really hurting, and I couldn’t get more than a kilometer before I had to walk. This run really discouraged me. 

The next day was a two-mile tempo workout that I, for the first time after running that workout over ten times over the past year, couldn’t fully complete. I had to walk even though I was running slow. I decided to stop going to practice on easy run days because even the easy runs didn’t feel easy anymore. After going to about five more workouts, the track season was close to starting, and I decided I would not sign up for the season. I just didn’t feel like I was in condition to compete or even to come to practice, with no one at my pace to run with. I was at an all-time low in my running journey, at my peak level of discouragement. 

Again, I took over a week off from running. During that time, I did some research to dig into my problems and how to fix them. I scrolled through running subs on Reddit and watched Instagram Reels on running tips and tricks, and from those I learned the importance of really taking easy runs slow and keeping the heart rate down. I also dialed in my running form efficiency, including increasing cadence—the number of footfalls per minute—and breathing techniques based on the cadence. 

When I started running more again in early March, my runs were two or more minutes slower per mile than before, but I was enjoying the runs so much more. I didn’t feel like I was fighting through the run or trying to go fast to get the run over with. It was how most running was supposed to feel: easy. I realized that was probably a key reason why my training during the track and cross country seasons was not improving my fitness. Unknowingly making all of my runs a workout wasn’t giving my body rest days, so my muscle freshness level was more on a seasonal cycle and not a daily cycle. I felt my achilles condition improve and my fitness come back. Although I was done with track for that season, I wasn’t done with running.

This seemed to surprise some of my friends, but it didn’t surprise me. Running non-competitively has traditionally seemed to be reserved for adults, but I want to prove that doesn’t have to be the case. I have still been able to enjoy running and even created a training routine without the structure or time commitment of joining the track or cross country team at school. Not having to go to practice everyday after school has left more time to hang out with friends or finish homework, meaning less stress in my daily life.

As for my next steps in my journey, I would like to keep running constantly, averaging 15-20 mile weeks with a long run and workout every week when time allows for it. If my fitness goes back to my all-time-high level by the end of summer, I may join the cross country team again in the fall. My biggest goal for the year is to complete a half-marathon, perhaps at the Holiday Half race where I ran the 10k last year, to come around full-circle and relive personal glory. 

Running has taught me to get out of my comfort zone, experience struggle alongside other people and work hard towards a goal. It has given me an opportunity for self-improvement and reflection—and an excuse to be out on my own wandering the streets and pondering life. 

Although running is not a person or tangible thing, I’m grateful for it.

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About the Contributor
Eban Slate, Feature Editor
Eban Slate (he/him) is a sophomore who enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, running, playing piano and shooting photos. He joined The Oracle to write and photograph interesting stories for readers to be inspired by.

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