The weather cooperated well, though as the evening neared, it got warmer and more humid. But I think the race got off in time before it got really unpleasant.
The small neighborhood where the race took place had an international feel all day, filled runners from all over the world.
During warm up, the announcer kept repeating that a Kenyan (forget his name) who had just turned 40, had run an 18:30 (!) in a recent race was going for the course masters record. Didn’t want to hear this, but kept on hearing it.
Felt a little tight around the quads, went for a 6 mile warm up on my usual route (I really need this much time to warm up at my age now), loosened up a bit, did some dynamic stretches and sprints, still a little tight at the start, but relaxed. The slight breeze felt good.
The gun goes off, everyone seems to sprint off, starting with the Kenyans and Ethiopians, followed by too many runners with ear buds who didn’t seem to know what they were getting into with this blistering pace.
I’m relaxed, staying in my own head, not looking around too much, not too much jostling around me. I know that many people around me have gone out too fast and will pay dearly for it in a couple of miles.
Mile 1 and, feeling relaxed and smooth, feeling like I might be going too slow as there still seem to be about a 100 runners ahead of me, a couple of elite females next to me, I hear 5:15 (!) and know I’m indeed going fast…but feels fine so keep chugging ahead.
In the next mile, I reel in (or they fall back) dozens of runners in front now suffering. I’m still relaxed, even go ahead of a few elite women. Mile 2, I hear 10:40. Still damn fast, still feeling relaxed.
Now my bad habit of falling asleep and getting in a lull in the 3rd quarter of any race (mile 3 of a 4 miler, lap 3 of a 4 lap mile, miles 17 to 23 in the marathon…) come into play. I get lost in the comfortable pace and lose the mental engagement – this is fine in a nice long fun run, but in a race this will take you off your pace. So this is what happens. Then a few familiar masters faces catch up to me and pass me near the end of mile 3. I wake back up and have to regroup now…but I’m starting to hurt, really hurt, as I see the long final mile stretch down Elmwood Ave, my neighborhood’s main strip.
I manage to catch back up to the small pack of elite masters, an Ethiopian elite woman, a Russian elite woman (I know this because her coach is screaming encouragements and splits to her in Russian) and some local college runners. I’m really suffering and at a moment where I’m not sure I can run another step, now at about 3.4 miles. So what do you then? It’s counter-intuitive, but you pick up the pace. I pick it up, my lungs and legs screaming ‘you f*&$ing a$$hole!’
I pass the group, then they pass me, pass back and so on for the next ½ mile. A fellow local master and another runner start their kick, I have almost nothing left, I stay where I am. I can’t go with them. The Ethiopian woman starts her kick, I go with her, the Russian drops back. Now we are all sprinting (or what goes for sprinting at this point) towards the finish line in view, thank God. I get encouragement from friends and neighbors from the sidewalk.
I see the carpet, clock ticking 21:20, 21:30, 21:40…I make it over the line 33rd, 21:51, missing my masters PR by 12 secs, not bad. Exchange high fives and fist pumps with the runners in that last pack. Hurting so bad, that water never tasted so good.
Go for a 4 mile cool down run with some local college kids, 1 more to my house and back for the best running party in Buffalo, and get some spending money for hanging in there with the top 8 masters, 2nd 45-49 (this I’m really psyched about).
By the way, the course masters record did not get broken, it’s still held by the world masters legend John Campbell of New Zealand, 18:31, set back in 1990. Quite a record, it may never get broken.