I had no real plan as the congregation of anxious runners were led into the intersection moments before the race was to begin. The starting line shifted and ebbed as we gathered behind the man with the bullhorn. Just as I found my place on the right side, we were off.
Most times I enjoy the feeling of toeing the line of a race waiting for its story to unravel. With meager training volume and a few quality workouts, I had shallow expectations for the outcome of the race. The only thing I planned to do was to run under control and finish strong.
The Boulder Road Runners’ Turkey Trot has been an annual tradition almost as long as I have lived out in Colorado. When you’ve done enough local races you get to know the other runners how the pack will unfold. A few will always go out way too fast and inevitably slow down once the 1 mile maker is passed. But I was in my hometown at sea level (I have never run a race shorter than a half marathon at sea level before.) And in this new race, with new faces, all you can go on is your own instincts.
As we passed the first mile marker, a few in front had already established a solid lead. I heard over my shoulder, “That first mile seemed long.” – I thought it was just me; It’s been since May since I have done any racing. As I didn’t wear a watch, I was almost tempted to ask the guys in my pack what the split was, but thought better of it as I felt completely comfortable. As the oxygen-laden air filled my altitude-tuned lungs I was able to surge at will and played a bit with the pace easily finding myself at the front of the chase pack.
Now onto a bike path along an overgrown creek, sometimes shaded by the eucalyptus one runner finally came around me just before the 2mile and again I surged to latch on to his shoulder. A few strides later, regained control of the pace. Through the next mile, with several others behind us, we eventually pulled in another runner who was now feeling the pain going out just a bit too fast.
Through the next mile I stayed focused on my form, staying relaxed I though third place overall was in reach. (I didn’t count too well, after the race found I out the winner was way out front.) We pulled off the path and into neighborhood streets. I knew we were getting close as I ran the tail end of the course during warm up, a good habit I’ve picked up.
Biding my time knowing the next corner would leave about 400m to the finish. I heard no other footsteps behind and although tempted to look, focused on out kicking the man on my right. I took the corner a little wide, and he got a few steps on me as we both jumped on the final stretch. His younger legs able to carry him a few steps in front of me and now it was a fight to get to the end. With my family waiting at the final corner I dug with what I had that day, the legs refusing to move any faster.
Entering the shoot, I glanced over to look at the clock and was pleasantly surprised to see a time well beyond any expectations I had for the day. In my mind, I was trying to calculate the splits and was excited and almost confused as I realized I ran about 20 seconds faster per mile than I thought I could on that day.
While collecting the tag from my bib, a woman volunteer congratulated me and quipped “Nice job keeping up with the young guys” – I thought, ‘Wait, do I look that old?’ but it put a big smile on my face realizing I put together a good race and a few of them a good run for their money.