PC: Benjamin Johnson

Scheduled to visit my best friend at Penn State University from July 27 to August 1, 2016, I suggested we run a half marathon to recreate the memory of our first 13.1-miler together in Korea just over three years ago. Nonetheless, due to his busy academic schedule, he told me he had jogged only twice in the past year, so I instead registered for the shorter Boot Scootin’ 10K for me and the Country Kicker 5K for him at the second annual Run Country Style in Mercer, Pennsylvania, on July 30. Set on participating in the Nebraska State Fair Marathon on August 27, I reasoned running a short race in advance would prepare me both mentally and physically for the former. Furthermore, with my consistent speed progress in mind, I longed to test how fast I could run 6.2 miles specifically rather than relying on splits from longer races; as I am accustomed to conserving energy early on and covering far-longer distances, I wanted to pour every ounce of endurance in the tank from start to finish in the 10K. I told the friend the day before the event I would be content with sub-53:00 but, lacking details on the course, did not know what to expect.

The overwhelming rainstorm on our drive to the event location concerned me initially, but I trusted God would hold off this natural burden solely during the run and told the friend not to worry; the city rained significantly before and after but not during the race. Based on the results from the Run Country Style last year, I believed I had a shot at winning my age group of 25-29 but did not plan to turn the run into a bitter competition and add unnecessary pressure. I ran my own race at the pace I knew my body could manage and refused to be influenced by runners ahead of me to overpace and risk an injury. After all, my purpose of running has always been to challenge and compete with myself. At the beginning, fifteen or so runners stormed past me, to which I reacted in amusement, “Let’s see for how much longer they can keep up that pace”; many of them slowed down and even walked a few miles in, allowing me to pass. I was pleasantly surprised I could maintain my pace at a 7:00-per-mile range for the first several miles on a relatively hilly course. At times, I became distracted by adorable cows and donkeys and wanted to snap pictures but could not throw away what seemed to be an inevitable personal record in the 10K.

I gradually but barely slowed down as the race proceeded and crossed the finish line in 51:44.82, personal best and first place in my age group like I had quietly hoped and prayed. I had never cared for my time as long as I finished in long-distance events, but taking home this title encouraged me to consider focusing on enhancing time as well as distance.