Run For All Ages 5K
Saturday, October 22, 2011
5K (3.1 miles)
17:57 / pace 5:47
7th place overall of 300+
2nd place AG M40-49
1 – 5:42
2 – 5:51
3 – 5:46
With a few Turkey Trots on the horizon, my lovely wife Heather wanted to get in a race or two to get the legs firing. Neither of us had run fast in a long time, and so a choice race here and there would hopefully kick-start our speed — or remind us how much we lost. It didn’t take much convincing to agree on the Run For All Ages 5K in the nearby town of Wakefield.
The course, at 3.1 miles long, circles Lake Quinnapowitt. It is flat, and it is fast. In fact, I had done this very race several times over the past years. It attracts talented Masters and Seniors runners for the prize money handed out on an age-graded basis.
Upon arriving at race site, Heather and I hooked up with Shawn, our dear friend, before the three of us walked over to registration. After signing up and collecting t-shirts, I went back to the car to change and then promptly spun-up the wheels on the opening mile of the course. Back and forth I ran, working from strides to sprints, I got the legs pumping so that when the race started I could hit the first mile at pace. A 5K is too short to lose even a second in the opening mile.
Before long I found myself in the starting gate along with over 300 other runners. I was legit, I figured, to toe the official starting line because, in year’s past, I always came in Top-10 overall. Had that not been the case, I would have stepped back a row. My goal for the day was another Top 10 finish in under 18 minutes.
Bang! The race was started. Off the line I went, accelerating smoothly to pace.
I used to be a slow starter off the line in races, always watching the field leave me behind in the first 50 yards, only to spend the remaining miles catching and passing, something that feels good and motivates but also something that gives back time. After working on starts for the last few years, I’m now pretty good at getting to pace quickly.
And that’s what I did. 50 yards into the race, I was sitting in 7th place overall. I knew that one or two slow starters would eventually pass me, and I hoped that one or two fast starters would come back. I’ve learned that I am now neither fast nor slow to start. I was, however, a little surprised to be so far up in the field; I had thought there were several more faster guys. Thankfully I was wrong.
Running hard and breathing even harder at a quarter of a mile in, I was at pace, fully striding out, and feeling good even though I could not run any faster. It was at this point when, much to my chagrin, one guy, and then another, came by me. I was now in 9th place. I liked being in 7th better. Good news was that although I could hear breathing behind me, I could sense that I had clearance on the rest of the field — that is, as long as I maintained pace.
Mile 1 came in 5:42. I could not have run faster. I was tapped out, my breathing was on edge, but I was otherwise feeling smooth in the body. I had a few ragged paces, where my form flailed, but I focused on running as fast as I could. Stay compact, I coached myself.
At this point I could see the leaders, including eventual race winner, not far up. My friend Dave, sitting in second place, made a run at the leader. I was pleased that I was able to keep them so close. Before the race, I had joked with Heather that if I could hit the first mile cleanly, and if I was still near my friend Reno, I would spend the rest of the race staying as close to him as I could. That strategy, I knew, would put me well under 18 minutes finishing time and likely closer to 17.
But that would not happen today. Reno, sitting in 3rd place, where he would finish the race, was a little too far ahead. However, square in front of me was 8th place. With all of my focus on staying compact and running strong, I pulled even and then made the pass. I could hear footsteps and breathing behind me for a few paces. And then there were none. I had a gap.
Having moved into 8th place, next in front of me was 7th. Staying steady and running hard, I was able to get by him on a mild rise in the road a short distance before Mile 2 (5:51). I was disappointed to see a split so slow, but I had no time to waste energy thinking about it, because, in reality, it was as fast as I could run.
Now in 7th place, I could see within striking distance 6th, 5th, and 4th, with 1 through 3 in sight but too far for the distance remaining. At this point I had hoped to stay steady, not slow down, and perhaps one of them would come back to me.
There was no such luck. Over the remaining mile, with the top runners all strung out by roughly 10 seconds each, none of us gained on another nor lost. We stayed even. Nobody was slowing.
As I rounded the final corner, the finish line came immediately into sight a quarter mile down the road. I maintained what I had past Mile Marker #3 (5:46) and through the finish in just under 18 minutes good for 7th place overall, exactly 60 seconds behind the winner.
Not long after I finished, Heather came hammering down the stretch and crossed the line with an overall speedy performance that will no doubt set her up to rock those Turkey Trots.
As for me, I hope to stay under 18 minutes in those upcoming Gobblers. This was a fast course; the next few will not be as accommodating. My top speed is slighly off, but it’s not bad, so I’ll take it. Most gratifying was that I was able to run hard and stay mostly smooth throughout the race.