My daughter’s school has an intrasquad meet every year to help determine the 7 varsity runners. They invite parents and faculty to join them. Since I was looking for a 5K to run in September, I was happy to do so. I didn’t get to run with my daughter since they ran separate races for men and women, but I did get to watch her. I was very proud of how well she did in her first race.
As for me, I just wanted to relax and test myself and an increased pace. Other than a few strides here and there, I haven’t really done any speedwork since April – even though I’ve been averaging about 40 miles per week…
The start is a grouping of about 40 people. I stroll all the way to the back since it’s really nto a big deal here. I know there won’t be any walkers and the high school runners are going to take off fast. A guy named Steve comes up and chats me up a bit. We’re still chatting when the gun goes off. In the confusion, I forget to start my watch. I hang at the very back of the pack (last overall, actually) for a lap around the track. Although my watch isn’t working, I can still see my pace and I see I’m covering a 6:30/mile pace even at the back of the pack. I know a good many of the 6th and 7th grade runners are going to poop out quickly.
After rounding the track, we exit the stadium. Away from the crown in the stadium, the pace settles a bit. I find a 6th grader named Nick who I heard averaged 7 minute miles in a 2 mile warmup earlier in the week, and I follow him hoping he’ll pace me through the first two miles. After about a hundred feet, I realize that he’s slowed his pace significantly and I have to shuffle to stay behind him. I decide to pass and set my sites on the only other two parents I’ve yet to leave behind.
One of them is Steve. I catch up to him and follow him around the campus. Once we reach the far side of campus, we have to watch for cars. There are signs that a race is in progress, but the road is open so people can pick their kids up from aftercare and the occasional car passes by. We cruise by the lower division and the kindergartners in aftercare are at the fence cheering us on. We pass them quickly and reach the baseball stadium. We round the fence surrounding the field and a pond that’s beyond the outfield, reaching the cross country coaches at the 1 mile mark. I pass it in 7:15. Basically right on pace.
We pass a few hedges, then make a quick hairpin turn through a hole in the hedgerow and emerge back on the track in the football stadium. Steve catches a glimpse of me as we make the turn.
“There you are,” he says.
“Are you talking to me?” I ask.
“Yeah, I was wondering where you went”.
“The start was a little fast for me, so I held back for a while”.
I’m feeling pretty good for the pace, but I’m not really in the mood to talk. That doesn’t stop him. We round the track and back out of the stadium for lap two of the campus. He asks me how often I run, how I liked the Disney marathon, etc. I manage to answer him and even joke a bit. I’m a little annoyed. Conversation is great during a slow training run, but this is a race. Of course, it’s not exactly the Olympics. It is just a fun run and we’re really here to support the kids and I’m making an effort to be more relaxed at races this year, yada yada yada. We round the corner to the far side of campus again just as a car pulls in. We follow it down the main campus road.
“Hey, we have a car to follow,” I joke.
“Yeah, we can draft off it,” says Steve.
We pass the baseball stadium and the pond again, then round the turn through the hedgerow and back onto the track. We pass the 2 mile mark here, but I don’t see the timer…and quite frankly I’m not really worried about it. I find that the track feels good compared to the grass that makes up a lot of the course. I guess I’m just used to running on harder surfaces. I feel like I need to pick my feet up higher in the grass, which slows my cadence a little. As we round the track, my daughter is holding two cups of water out. I figure I’ve got to learn to drink without stopping at some point so I might as well give it a try now. I grab a cup from her hand as I run past (I actually speed up for some reason) and I take one big gulp, nearly choke, but recover, then throw the rest of the cup to the ground.
My mid-water acceleration has put me a few feet ahead of Steve as we exit the stadium for lap three of the campus. I’m certainly feeling discomfort, but the acceleration didn’t actually feel so bad, so I stick with it. I look ahead at some faltering runners ahead and set my sites on them. I slowly reel them in as we approach the far side of campus. Then, I start to pick them off one by one. I wonder if I’ve left Steve far behind, but a quick glance at a turn shows me that he’s remained just a few feet behind, picking off the runners right there with me.
We round the baseball field and the pond one last time. I’m right on two runners as he make the turn through the hedgerow onto the track. I slow to avoid running into them. Steve takes an outside line and passes me. We quickly dispatch the two runners at the hedgerow and charge onto the track for the final lap. I’m tucked in right behind Steve as he pulls in two more runners. He takes the outside again, just as one of the runners pushes outside to pass his partner. This trips Steve up a little and I accelerate on the inside, pushing into my final kick.
I leave Steve and the two other runs behind as I speed around the last turn, then turn off the track and into the infield finishing shoot. I’m a little confused about where the actual finish line is and I stop about 5 feet short, but I still finish in 22:33 – a new personal record.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the run. It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever felt during a 5K race. I’ve got a few months worth of speedwork coming up and it doesn’t seem nearly as intimidating any more. Hopefully with the speedwork I do in the next month and the confidence gained from this race, I’ll be able to pull off a 45 mionute 10K in October.