On July 28, I ran my second Blessing of the Fleet 10 miler in Narragansett, RI. I had always wanted to run this race during high school and college, but could never work up the nerve to tackle 10 miles! So, when I moved back to RI last year, one of the first things I did was sign up for this race, and I loved it so much I decided to do it again.
One improvement on last year – THE WEATHER. While last year’s race was a humid hellscape, this year was slightly less humid, nice and cloudy, and 10 degrees cooler, which made for a much more pleasant race.
This year, I also had my own personal cheer team! Last year, I had only just moved back to the state, and though I ran with an older (mom aged!) friend, I didn’t have my own personal support system. Lucky for me, Mike’s good friend from DC who was also part of my Marine Corps Marathon cheer team was in town, so I had two handsome men high fiving me at 2-3 points during the race. I also had a former-coworker-turned-friend and his wife watching too – a couple whose outdoor shower I could not be MORE thankful for, not to mention they were even nice enough to feed me cheeseburgers, craft beer, and margaritas after the race.
Cheer squad and weather conditions aside, the Blessing of the Fleet has become one of my favorite nights of the year. For anyone not familiar with the tradition, the Blessing of the Fleet is actually a centuries-old tradition in Catholic Mediterranean fishing communities, blessing the local fishing boats to for a safe and bountiful season. In Rhode Island, it’s actually grown into a 3-day festival including a 10 mile road race, a decorated boat parade, and a seafood festival. It’s an absolute blast.
10 miles is a pretty long race, even during marathon training. The week before the race, I had to drop out of a 14 mile long run because my knees were hurting so badly, and went to a few PT sessions to build some strength in my quads. For that reason, I hadn’t planned on racing this race – simply trying it out as a long run and using it as a gear check run for my Team TAPS marathon jersey.
When I got there, however, my race brain took over, and I took this as a chance to complete the Grateful Nation Challenge that I had signed up for with Team TAPS. At the start line, I decided to run this race faster than my training runs – keeping the average pace under 10 minute miles.
At the starting gun, I was excited, but still feeling sluggish – and I continued to feel that way for approximately the next 4 miles. My pace was fast, but mentally, all I could do was will my knee to start hurting so I could drop out. In my brief moments of positivity, I kept telling myself to run the mile I was in and make it just a LITTLE farther to see if things started to look up.
Sure enough, they did – just as I reached the part of the race that I had been dreading for months. Miles 4 1/2 to 6 are along a straight, long highway with plenty of people cheering us runners on in the crowd but not a speck of shade or an interesting view in sight. Nevertheless, I slugged on, running through the fire hoses and sprinklers set up to cool us off along the way. When I reached 7, the most glorious part of the run, I hadn’t stopped yet!
Miles 7 to 8 are through a winding, shady, wooded neighborhood that brings the ultimate relief after 2 miles of sunny straightaway. What’s more, my knee hadn’t hurt yet, and I got a big boost of motivation by the time I reached this point. To my surprise, I also got to see Mike and our friends a second time, since the course passed the same spot again and they were still there watching the race.
It’s been a long time since I finished a race feeling so strong. As soon as I got to the final 800, I kicked into sprint mode, and though it felt hard, I actually felt happy.
This race was a great kick in the ass despite a long road to knee injury recovery and my lingering discouragement from my last marathon. Having run it, I feel more motivated and more mentally tough that I have in months – and I feel so lucky to have people supporting me along the way.
The best part? I reached my Grateful Nation goal! 9:44 minute miles. Even though this isn’t my best 10 mile time, I’m grateful my knees held out and I made it through this race so energized.
Here’s hoping I can keep this kick going for the next 13 weeks!