The Winter Park Road Race has been a Central Florida runner’s favorite for 35 years, and it’s easy to see why. The race features a shaded, scenic course, three distance options and a fun location for post-race socializing. Back on March 24, I had a chance to run the 10K for the second time, and it was a great day and a new personal record (PR) for me. For more about the race and how I trained for my PR, read on.
The Winter Park Road Race is actually three races in one. The day features a two mile run, followed by a 10K run, and runners have the option to do the “distance dare” and complete both races back-to-back. I was torn between doing the distance dare and the 10K, but ultimately I decided to work on improving my speed, so I decided to do the 10K and try to beat my 2010 (pre-baby) PR.
The course for the 10K starts and ends at Winter Park’s upscale Park Avenue shopping district, and it winds through some of Central Florida’s loveliest neighborhoods. Runners travel down oak-shaded streets, passing two picturesque lakes, multi-million dollar homes and a golf course, before returning to Central Park. The shade and scenery make it a pleasant course, but the elevations in some sections of the course make it a challenging one too (at least to this admittedly hill-inexperienced native Floridian).
I completed my first 15K and half-marathon a few months ago, so after meeting two distance goals, I decided to shift gears in the new year and focus on speed instead. I’m not a naturally fast runner, so in the past, I shied away from setting time goals. But I decided now was the time to overcome my fears and learn what speed work was all about.
Since January, I’ve been running two to four days per week and cross-training two days per week. One weekly run was devoted to speed work (mostly intervals), one to a long run, and the other one or two to easy runs. After the heavy mileage of my half-marathon, training I enjoyed the variety in this spring’s plan a lot. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how much my dog and I enjoyed the intervals and how simple they were to do. I don’t have a track to practice on, so I used a timer on my iPod or sometimes just my watch to count down 2 1/2 minute intervals of fast and slow running.
I wasn’t sure how much my training would translate to a race setting, but it really did make a difference. I not only beat my previous PR at this distance, but I actually maintained a faster average pace than my 5K PR.
With 2,882 finishers, the 10K got off to a slow start with many runners bobbing along elbow to elbow for the first couple minutes. By the end of the first mile, there was room to spread out and get up to race pace. I started hitting my goal pace by mile two and three and by mile four I was really cooking! In the last couple miles of the course, I reflected on how much harder it felt when I ran this course as my first 10K two years ago. This time around I wasn’t worried about finishing, just focused on how fast I could go. When I caught sight of my husband, my mom and ‘Lil Buddy right next to the finish line, I was all smiles, knowing I was going to beat my goal.
My goal was to finish under one hour. The results? My final chip time was 59 minutes 27 seconds or a pace of 9 minutes 34 seconds per mile. I’ve never run this fast in a race before, so speed work has definitely made a believer out of me.
The race starts and finishes at Park Avenue, including post-race refreshments and activities in Central Park. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed in Central Park, so we had to take turns going into the park to pick up refreshments, my pretty, shiny medal and my souvenir glass. (Yes, this race also had great swag!) I picked up a banana and some terrible-tasting sports drink, but I didn’t linger long.
We did, however, decide to make a morning of it, but having brunch at a charming French bakery on Park Avenue and swinging by the Winter Park Farmer’s Market. I’ll save my brunch review for another day, but I’ll say that there’s nothing like a hot breakfast after a hard run and we all had fun celebrating.
I would definitely love to run the Winter Park Road Race again. Maybe next time I’ll try the Distance Dare!
Have you run the Winter Park Road Race? Have you ever tried speed work? Tell me about it in the comments!