Statue To Statue 15k – Not Making The Grade

I ran “The South’s Toughest 15k” for the 4th time last Saturday and I’m here to tell you it hasn’t gotten any easier. Even though I finished 3rd in the old man group I posted my worst time yet, nearly 4 minutes slower than my best time on this course. After the race someone told me “hey you’re just getting old”
I started running 6 years ago when I was in my mid 50’s, and before long I was consistently running 7:30 to 8:00 minute miles. Then about 3 years in I ran my last sub-8 minute month and within another year set my last PR. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand what’s gone wrong, trying various things to regain that speed, but the reality is slowly sinking in. I really am getting older and my times will continue to decline. It happens to everyone. So how do you stay motivated to run once improvement becomes a thing of the past?
I never paid much attention to the column labeled “Age Percentage” or “Age Graded Time” in past results, but age grading is a way to continue to improve even as your times decline because they compare your times relative to your age and sex. That means you can compare your times from prior years races on a level playing field not just on absolute terms. So I calculated my age graded time for the Statue to Statue 15k and you know what? I still ran my worst race on this course although it wasn’t as far from my best time on an age graded basis.
I did some further analysis by comparing this year’s splits to last years and I found that the key to making the grade on this course is making the grades. I’m specifically talking about the mostly uphill miles from about 5.7 to 8, featuring grades of 6-12% along the way. I was actually ahead of last year’s pace through mile 4 and just slightly ahead after 5 where I tried to save up some energy for the big hills. That’s where I added most of the extra 2 minutes to my time from last year probably because I walked a little more of the BIG hill than I did last year. Believe me, I was not the only person of any age walking part of that hill.
The final mile is the reason I love this race so much. It’s basically straight downhill and easier than running on a treadmill. Surprisingly I even managed to add some time to this stretch versus last year.
After the race I got a free hot dog and some cookies while waiting for my 3rd place prize, which was a pretty nice stainless insulated cup. I will use it to enjoy cold beverages while contemplating the intricacies of making the grade now that I’m not likely to get any faster.

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