Metro Run & Walk have recently started a series of casual, low-key events with unusual distances and unofficial timing. Today was the “sweatfest 6k” – three laps around the old Lorton prison. One runner really got in the spirit of the race:
The good thing about these races, from the point of view of a duffer like me, is that the more serious runners tend to skip them. No prize money, no official finish times (although they do have a race clock running at the finish), no big deal. So I can generally get up closer to the front than I do in a bigger race.
“Ready, set, go!” Mark called, and we lit out down the road. I was the first runner off the line, and I stayed out front for a hundred yards or so. I was hearing a chorus of heavy breathing behind me, but only one guy passed me, a skinny, youngish dude whom I’d chatted with briefly in the registration line.
I was bracing to get passed again, as usually happens to me repeatedly over the first mile or so. But we rounded a curve and came to a large downhill followed by a foreboding up. I know that I am decent on climbs, so I bombed down the slope, leaned into the up, and cranked up it in high gear.
When I was about halfway through the loop with no change in position I started composing my race report to The Boss (who had chosen to sleep in rather than race): “I was in second place through the first loop, but then people started passing me.” I had the leader in sight for most of that first lap, but he found another gear near the end of it, and I didn’t see him again until the finish.
The second time up that first big hill was the worst – the first time my legs were still fresh, and the third time I was done with it, but on the second ascent there was still one more dispiriting iteration looming. On the other hand, I still had not lost my 2nd place position, so I powered up it as best I could.
“Boss, I was doing well,” I mentally revised my race report, as I pointedly refrained from looking back behind me. “I was in second place through two laps, but then people started passing me.”
I lapped quite a few walkers on the end of their first lap as I was finishing my second. I came back to the start and gratefully accepted a cup of water from the volunteer there.
Then it was back to the big hill. I saw a small knot of kids walking up it and caught them near the top. “That hill was bad enough the first time,” I said, “three times is just torture.” They expressed emphatic agreement.
I kept thinking I heard breathing or footsteps behind me, but I still didn’t want to look back. Around halfway through this loop I started to lap some of the faster walkers and slower runners on their second time through. The dude in the convict outfit said something encouraging as I huffed by him. “I’m about done in, dude!” was all I could manage as a reply, but I was starting to think I might make it.
I wheezed up the last climb, passed a couple people rounding the last corner, and powered down a short hill to the finish. The clock read 31:xx, I don’t remember exactly. Not a blistering pace, but fast enough on this day. I shook the winner’s hand, “Good race, man.” He’d actually improved his pace in the later loops and beaten me by some four minutes.
I shook the hands of more finishers as they came in. “I kept seeing you up around the next bend, but I just couldn’t catch you, man!” I was glad to finally get to experience some of the camaraderie among the top finishers. I hung around and enjoyed cheering some of the other runners in.
After partaking of the decent post-race spread I made my way back through the uncrowded parking lot to my car. “I was,” I texted The Boss, “the 2nd finisher.”