Feels Like Home – Conquering all 6.2 miles of the Market Square Day 10k

Market Square Day has always been one of my favorite races. There’s something so freeing and exciting about running on your home turf and giving it all you’ve got. Now, I wasn’t born here in NH. I guess technically speaking, this isn’t actually my home town. But for me, Portsmouth is home. I moved a few times growing up and took a chance on myself after college to move north to New Hampshire. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know anything about New Hampshire, but for some reason, this decision felt so right.

Over the years, I have come to love all that is New Hampshire and Portsmouth. The warm summer nights. The laughter of people at the decks enjoying lobster rolls and local craft beers. The excitement of the annual Halloween Parade, which all are welcome to jump right in with a costume. The way the leaves turn to share their beauty in the fall foliage. The way the annual Christmas tree lighting in the town square always brings a smile to my face. Even in the cold New England winter months, I love strapping on my yak traks and waving at the other runners who dare to take the streets.

Portsmouth is home. It’s where I ran my first half marathon and made me realize I had barely scratched the surface of what I thought I was capable of doing. It’s where I discovered my passion for distance running. And in this love that has grown for this beautiful town, I have come to love the Market Square Day 10k. The day itself is full of food, entertainment and vendors filling the streets as everyone comes out to celebrate the warm summer months to come.

But before all of the celebrations can begin, the day starts with the 10k road race. It’s one of those races where you can’t help but be excited by the streets lined with cheering spectators. As exciting as this race is, I am usually always nervous before the race (let’s be honest, I’m always nervous before races). This year, I made sure to have some pasta for my pre-race dinner and got to bed early. I foam rolled, stretched and tried to calm my nerves. I looked up past race times and tried to not get too fixated on any specific time goal. Since I am in Chicago Marathon training, I needed to get my long run mileage in the next day. That meant a 2 mile warm-up, the 6.2 mile race, and close it out with a 4 mile cool down.

The morning of the race, I popped right out of bed, ready for my oatmeal, banana and peanut butter breakfast, and felt ready. I thought back to last year, when I was only a few months back into running after recovering from achilles tendinitis. I was just thankful to be out there and able to run. This year, I had many months of running under my belt and was excited to see what I could do. I went out for my 2-mile warm-up and tried to fight the nerves. I normally would do a few light strides down and back down the street, but today, it was 2 miles. It felt good to loosen up and to focus on the race ahead. Ultimately, I knew my time didn’t matter. Nobody cared about it but me. But I was excited to push myself and see what I could do.

I met up with one of my friends at the starting line, and we reminisced on past Market Square Day 10ks and shook off our nerves together. It wasn’t long until the race director called all runners to the starting line and we were just moment away from the start. We stood underneath the arch made of multi-colored balloons that always hung over the start line, and just like that, we were off.

Sure, the 10k distance wasn’t as intimidating as a half marathon or full marathon, but I knew I need to come out “fast” and stick to my pace. It was already starting to get hot, and I tried to maintain focus on not going out too fast and picking off runners ahead of me as I was able and closing gaps, which brought me back to my old cross country days. I kept an eye on my pace on my watch but also did not let it take over and overwhelm me. I kept my pace quicker than I had planned, but allowed myself to slow it down between miles 3 and 4 as I felt myself getting too fatigued. I think at one point, even through the pain and the heat, I thought to myself “I am actually having fun!”. I’m pushing past what I thought was possible and I can tell my training has been paying off!

If you should ever find yourself contemplating signing up for this 10k race. Don’t think too hard. Just do it. If nothing else for the joy and excitement of that finish line. The race announcer shouts your name and hometown and you cruise your way past the crowd in Prescott Park. A beautiful and picturesque community park right by the water. You can’t help but feel accomplished, excited and let’s be honest, relieved to be done as you pass through the finish line at that park.

There it was…a PR! 46:06 and an age division win! It’s okay to get pre-race jitters. It’s okay to be nervous. Use those nerves as fuel to push yourself. At the end of the day, as a recreational runner, the only person I’m racing against is me, but man does it feel good to push past your my perceived limits. Excited to see what I can do this Chicago Marathon training cycle and excited for what I am about to learn about myself along the way this year. Every training cycle brings its own ups, downs, and lessons along the way.

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