Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reunion Thoughts, part 2, in which I ran a 5K race

 After a late Friday night, I got up early in the morning to head out to Converse, Indiana, for a 5K race.  I had decided it would be fun to run a local race and invite fellow classmates to join me.  Three of them actually took me up on the offer, and it was great to see Matt and Holly and Nancy (and to meet Nancy's husband, John).

The race itself was the most disorganized race I've ever run in.  To be fair, it was also the cheapest race, so perhaps some of the disorganization came from the fact that "you get what you pay for." I had preregistered, but they didn't have my race packet.  They were nice about it and gave me a bib and found me a t-shirt (though they'd run out of the blue ones that they were giving out and gave me a choice of a left-over white or orange one).  The race was sponsored by an insurance company, and they have four races yearly, so I think they save cost by just printing up one (generic) shirt for all of them.  No big deal.

I got a chance to talk to my friends and also saw my old cross country coach.  Now, to appreciate this, you have to know that we had a "falling out" at the beginning of my sophomore year.  I was playing soccer (had been named captain of the team) and was running cross country.  Having earned my varsity letter as a freshman, I had committed to the cross country team as my first priority (even over soccer, which was only a club sport at the time), but because I missed practices to go to church camp, I wasn't eligible for the first meet, and so I went to a soccer game instead and the coach didn't like that and called my house and shouted at my sister.  So I quit the team.  Anyway, I found him and talked to him, and it was really good.  I had long since forgiven him, but it was great to talk as peers.  I remembered when I was in 8th grade and he came to me and encouraged me to run in high school, telling me I'd make a good high school cross country runner - I told him that was important to me.  He still remembered and remarked, "yeah, you were a good runner. You were really fast in middle school." I was impressed that he didn't remember me as the trouble-maker who quit the team but as the really fast middle school runner.  It was a good conversation, and I was glad to connect with him in that way.

So just before 8:00, the scheduled start time we all moved up the street to the start area and found my place just behind those really fast guys who you can tell right away by their 0% body fat and racing flats and sprint-out warm-ups.  I waited and stretched a little and waited some more. 

... and waited... and waited...

Then I went back and talked to my friends for a while.  Then some race organizers came and told us to move back behind the line (I guess we were in front of it; there wasn't really a "line" - just the idea of one, I guess). So we moved back and as we were milling around, there was a whistle and the runners in front started.

There was no introduction or thank you.  There was no "runners set",  and no race directions.  There was just a whistle. And I found myself behind some slow people. So after dodging between several and almost stepping on another, I jumped out onto the grass and sprinted around to get a better start.

I didn't have any complaints about the race course; though I didn't know exactly where it was going, it was a simple course.  There was one surprise - that we went through the fairgrounds and around alongside the track, where some horses were practicing (I remembered the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon, where we went through Churchill Downs - just a slightly bigger scale).  I didn't mind the smell (I run through farms all the time), but the dust cloud was a little less than ideal.

The course was minimally marked, but that's no complaint; it was marked as well as it needed to be.  There were signs marking every turn and the mile markers were clear (and they had someone at each marker calling out times).  My first mile was a little fast: 5:56(!), but my second mile was more where I wanted to run (6:27), and my third mile was 6:35 (with a last .1 in :38).

At times it felt hard to maintain competitveness, as the elite runners were all out ahead and there was a huge gap (in which I found myself) between them and the next group. But I finished in 19:38, 3 seconds off my PR (set this week last year). I was happy with that, and with 4th place in my age group (18th overall).

It is always fun to run local 5K races, and it was nice to see some old friends there.

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