This weekend we had the pleasure of keeping our 2-year-old grandson Jonas for two days. Linda and I were both excited to take him to his very first race. We had originally planned on running a 5k at McAlpine Park in Charlotte on Saturday morning but decided instead on the Friday night 5k in Waxhaw so we could sleep later on Saturday morning.
We left Gastonia just in time to hit the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic on I-485 heading towards Pineville, which is always a lovely experience. After an hour or so of stop-and-go driving we finally escaped the logjam on 485 and were headed down US 521 towards Waxhaw. We had brought Jonas some snacks but Linda and I were getting hungry. We thought we were leaving home in time to stop and eat but the slow traffic changed those plans. Race time was fast approaching so using my grandfatherly wisdom I decided our best move would be to find the race site and register to run, then find some food. Surely there’s somewhere to grab a quick bite to eat in all of downtown metropolitan Waxhaw. Uh… maybe not. The little cafe we spotted across the railroad tracks with the big red sign that said “OPEN” in bright neon letters was actually only open for breakfast and lunch. We walked down the main street and found an open restaurant that I thought looked a little too fancy for a quick snack (it was less than 30 minutes before the start of the race). Linda insisted on going in though, and we were met with all sorts of righteous indignation when we asked about something quick to eat. Note to self: When going to a small town at the last minute, either eat before you get there or pack a lunch. Luckily there was a small service station back up the street where we were able to buy 8 dollars worth of junk food to eat before the race. And I wonder why it wasn’t one of my better races.
I was happy to see Frank Golden, who I’ve come to know from the Charlotte races, just before the race and we went to the starting line together, positioning ourselves just behind the fast and mostly younger guys up front. Frank is one of the fastest guys in the 65-69 age group in the Charlotte area and was one of only two runners in that age group in this race. The other was Saied Eftekhari, who just happened to line up right next to us. Neither of us had met Saied before, but he is a long-time runner and is fast in the age group as well. After the race started, I went out ahead of both of them and didn’t see them again during the race, but from the final results it was quite a race between the two. Frank finished just 3 seconds ahead of Saied in what must have been a barn-burner for them. It made me think of why racing is so much fun for those of us who do it. In every race there is really just one overall winner, and that’s an enviable position that most of us will never be in. In my 84 races the closest I’ve come to the top was 5th place overall, and that was just a small race. To those of us who run though, there’s way more to it than being the overall winner or even winning an age group award. Every race has hundreds of little mini-races underlying the main race. I was fortunate to win the 55-59 age group today but I was unaware of the two fellas who finished 2nd and 3rd. They were only 11 seconds apart, which is pretty close over 3.1 miles. They might have been unaware of each other (it can get crowded out there) or maybe they had their radar on each other the whole way, but it was a race all the same. Even the 4th place finisher, who wasn’t too far behind, was in a race trying to catch the 3rd place, and it goes on and on. Neighbors and friends race against each other. People who work together run to see who’s fastest. To those who don’t run it may all seem too competitive and maybe too stressful, but to those of us who “get it” about running, it’s not nearly so much about trying to outrun all of the competition so much as it’s all of us together running a race, not so much AGAINST everybody else, but WITH everybody else. Sure we want to do our best, but for most of us trouncing the competition takes a back seat to enjoying the race and the people.
In the Law-of-Diminishing-Returns Department, I bought some new racing flats this week: Mizuno Wave Universe 3. In a sport where light shoes can make a world of difference, these are the lightest — 3.6 ounces! That’s a little like running in your socks, and that’s a little bit what it felt like. For an elite runner who’s running 5000 meters in 14 or 15 minutes, these could make a huge difference; for me, not so much. It’s not that they’re not great shoes. They’re actually kind of amazing for that weight, but for me the difference seemed to be minimal at best, and I managed to run exactly 1 minute slower than I did a week ago in my “heavy” 8-ounce shoes. It’s hard to compare races from week to week though, with changes in weather, different courses, and other variables all making small differences in your results. Several people warned me that the third mile of this race was tough, and my mile splits confirm that they were being honest. I ran the first mile in 6:32, the second mile in 6:47, and I crept along at a pace of 7:21 for the third mile.
We were glad to see that some of the Charlotte racing crowd trickled down to Waxhaw for the race and I especially appreciated three people coming up to me and telling me they enjoyed my blog: Frank Golden’s wife, Iris, who is also a runner and I was surprised she knew I had a blog; Steve Brown, who has been a Facebook friend for months and although we had done some races at the same time I had never met him until this race; and Joe Soehnlen, who is the head coach of Track & Field at Wingate University. Joe told me he had brought a couple of guys from his track team to run the race, but in all of his modesty he didn’t mention that one of them, 18-year-old Andrew Smith, was the overall winner of this tough race with a time of 16:59, a full 34-seconds ahead of second place.
7 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.) 4 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10) 4 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10) 4 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10) 4 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 4 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No) 0 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No) 6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No) 7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No) 7 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 5 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 7 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups) 0 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided) 6 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities 0 – 0-10 Other
TOTAL – 75
Time: 21:47 Pace: 7:01 Age Group: 1 of 13 Overall: 25 of 489