Carlsbad 5000, Blood Clots, and What We Often Miss

I ran the Carlsbad 5000 today, as well as a few other thousand meters after the race. It was my first appearance at a race since the race on the track in early January that was immediately followed by being hospitalized with blood clots in my calf veins and lungs.

I registered for this race in December, before all of the clotting happened, so I figured that, even though I’m not nearly ready to race yet, I’ll at least go to Carlsbad and be part of the atmosphere. If you’ve never been to the Carlsbad 5000, it’s a pretty cool atmosphere to be in, with a number of age-group 5K races run throughout the morning, followed at noon by the elite men’s and women’s races. Many road 5K world records have been set on this course, which is why they call it the World’s Fastest 5K. If you’re a runner, it’s also the place to be. Anyone who is anyone in the running world in southern California runs the Carlsbad 5000.

Being 42 years old now, my race is the first race of the day, at the bright and early time of 7:00 a.m.—the men’s masters race. Why do the old farts have to run so early? I’ve been around enough seniors in my life to know that they tend to get up early, but yours truly has never been a morning person. Anyway, my alarm was set for 5:30 a.m. I was out of bed by 5:31.

It’s been a while since I’ve been part of the running atmosphere. Truth is, I’ve been hiding out, running my relatively slow miles alone, waiting to get back in shape. No tempo runs or interval workouts yet. Just easy aerobic miles.

My plan today was to run the 3.1 miles of the race, easy and comfortable, and then continue running another 45 to 50 minutes so that I would run for 70 minutes.

I ran the race a little above 7-minute pace, which gave me a chance to run in the middle of the pack and take in the whole atmosphere. But this story isn’t about me running a 5K; I’m sure you don’t care about that. It’s about the difference between running and racing and what that means.

As I was running, I looked around, saw what I was a part of, and thanked God that He got me past the blood clots and gave me the opportunity to run. Although I would have loved to race today, just being out there on the course, with all those people and spectators, was victory enough. Strangely, I felt at peace with not racing. It felt good to be among all these people who do the same thing that I do. Although sometimes I like to believe that I own running, the truth is that running is much bigger than me. It’s bigger than all of us.

A race goes by fast when you’re just running easy in a big pack rather than racing as fast as you can. I am reminded of what George Sheehan said a long time ago: “The faster you run, the longer it takes.” Before I knew it, I was running through the finish chute of the 5K, and then I continued the rest of my run by myself, running along the Carlsbad coastline to complete my longest run of nearly 9 miles since before the blood clots in January. And my body felt good. It’s a victory I’ll take.

Who knew that I might actually succeed at being patient. Sometimes, we just need to appreciate the moment and where we are in our lives right now, instead of worrying about what we’re missing out on. Because sometimes, what we’re missing out on is right in front of us all along.


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