Treasure Chests Finish at the 50 5K

The company for which I now work offers an incentive program for charity events. By participating, I get points that I can use for paid time off. Dan and I were looking for a way to get back into racing, so we signed up. One of my co-workers had an extra bib, so Raffi came along to walk with her. In retrospect, we were all pretty nonchalant leading up to the race. We didn’t give ourselves a lot of time to get to the course and the road leading to the parking lot was closed by the time we arrived. This led to some creative navigation to get parked and we arrived at the starting line just minutes before the gun went off.

Queue present tense race report voice (it’s been so long)…

Dan and I walk along the crowded starting corral. There are metal barriers and no obvious way to enter. The horn blows and the first wave accelerates across the timing mat. We find a gap in the barrier, but realize that it’s behind another barrier, so we back out and move forward to where the first wave has vacated the starting corral. The race director announces that everyone with a pink bib should have already started. We look down, note that our bibs are pink and find another gap in the metal barrier just as they lower the rope to let the next wave through. We slide into the front of that wave and we’re off!

I realize that Dan is running right next to me and briefly consider just sticking with him for the whole race. I decide to test my fitness surge ahead. The initial portion of the course runs alongside Raymond James Stadium (home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). The course is crowded, but the pathway is very wide, so it’s not too difficult to move around the other runners without a whole lot of weaving. Without too much urgency, I methodically make my way through the pack, getting used to the pace of a race again.

Exiting the stadium grounds we make a right turn on to a major road, then another right. We approach the one mile mark surrounded by Buccaneers cheerleaders dressed in pink. The clock is approaching 9 minutes as I pass. It’s decent. Without a watch, I don’t really know the difference between the clock time and my chip time, but I’m estimating about 45 seconds.

I’m feeling good, so I go to work picking off runners in front of me. I accelerate, catch a runner or group of runners, hang with them for a while, then accelerate forward to the next group. The breeze feels nice and I’m breathing pretty well. We make another right turn, then a right onto a sidewalk and into a grass parking lot. As I pass the 2 mile mark, the clock is just under 17 minutes so I’ve run the second mile in under 8 minutes. With a goal of 25 minutes, I know I’m pretty close to the mark.

My breathing is still fairly steady, but my legs are starting to feel the pace. I haven’t even done a speed workout in over a year. Eventually, the loose sand of the parking lot yields to an asphalt path and this helps my legs. The pathway just makes a big loop through the parking lot, encompassing most of the third mile. As I round the loop, I see Dan entering the loop. He’s just a couple of minutes behind me.

“Go Brian,” he says.

“I’m tired,” I reply.

I’m in the home stretch, though. The pathway is heading back toward the stadium. I briefly consider going full bore, but decide to hold back a little. I’m not looking to break any personal records today. I just want to get the race feeling back. I surge past a few more runners and head into the tunnel entrance. I’ve always daydreamed about running through a tunnel into a crowd filled stadium, but today I’m just glad to be finishing. As I exit the tunnel, it is kind of cool to run out onto the field, make a right underneath the goal post and head straight to the finish line at the 50 yard line. The clock is under 26 minutes as I finish, so I know I’m pretty close to my goal time of 25 minutes.

After finishing, I grabbed some water and headed back to watch other runners exiting the tunnel. I expected to see Dan, but 10 minutes after my finish, I still hadn’t spotted him. I started to get worried. He was no more than 5 minutes behind me when we passed during the third mile. 20 minutes later, I knew he could have crawled the rest of the way on his belly and still made it in. After 30 minutes, I started to listen into other runners’ conversations, wondering if anyone was talking about some guy who collapsed on the course.

Dan trotted in about 10 minutes later. He thought we were running the 10K. Kudos for the extra distance and welcome to the blog. It’s an inauspicious debut, but better than the Restroom Relay, I suppose.

While Dan was letting the race directors know he ran a different race than he signed up for, I checkout my chip results. 24:50. Goal achieved. What’s next? I don’t know, but it felt nice to be out racing again. Dan and I have talked about a half marathon in the spring. If we can get our butts in gear, we’ve got time to make that happen.

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