In last week's entry in this space I somewhat confidently wrote about the 5k I had run and suggested I was capable of running it about a minute and a half faster than my time, which was in the neighborhood of 21:30. I hadn't been planning on putting that statement to the test, but late last week I was presented with the opportunity to run another 5k over the weekend. I agreed to do it, and immediately realized I had better run about 20 minutes for real this time.
So the gauntlet was laid down, even if I'm the one who laid it down.
Here's what happened. There is a great show on Comcast Sportsnet about the local running scene. It's called Runners Ultimate Net, and they follow local runners and races much better than any other area broadcast media. I have talked to them a few times about contributing in some way to what they do. It would be a lot of fun. That hasn't happened yet, but in the meantime, they suggested doing a story about me for their "My Race Day" feature.
Basically they meet up with the runner at home in the morning before leaving for the race, then they follow you through the race, and sum up your thoughts afterward. The only problem was that I didn't have any races on my calendar. So, naturally they had a few to suggest.
I chose the Park Ridge Charity Classic, mostly because of the location, which is not too far from where I live. What I didn't realize at the time, however, is this race has the reputation as being incredibly fast. It's on the CARA Runner's Choice series as well, so a lot of top runners in the area who are competing for the CARA points championship show up. In other words, there were a lot of good runners there.
It was a pretty small field, about 400 runners at the start. But one look around told me most were pretty serious runners, as opposed to some of the giant races that draw more casual runners and first-timers. There were a few of the faster runners from my Elmhurst Running Club, as well as some of folks I have done track workouts with from the CNA corporate team in past years. So I quickly gathered that I was going to have to give it some effort to avoid embarrassing myself!
Ok, I realize I work in television for a living, but it was also a little unnerving to have a camera following my every move that morning. I told the photographer that my prerace morning routine consists of rolling out of bed, throwing the shorts on, and getting in the car. But he still wanted to come!
Once we got to the race, I figured I'd better try to do it right. So I warmed up a little, stretched, and tried to get myself mentally prepared to run fast. Or at least fast for me. He asked me right before the start what I hoped to run. I'm not big on predictions, but I blurted out, "20 minutes". Like I wrote in the title, "Put up or...".
Then we were off, and heading slightly downhill for almost the first half mile. It felt good. I hit the one mile mark in about 6:25 and realized I was right on. Now I just needed to keep that pace. I felt myself running pretty fluidly, but the breathing was much harder than I am used to lately. I have done zero speed work lately, and have only been running about 25 miles a week for the last couple months.
As we neared the turnaround point, I saw leaders going by the other direction. It looked to be a pretty competitive race up front. And among the top five overall, was a woman, Tara Moody, who recently ran the marathon in the World Championships. She grew up in the area and ran for St. Charles High school, before running at the University of Colorado. She has a p.r. of 2:33 in the marathon. More on her race in a moment.
When I made the turn and headed back to the finish line, I saw some familiar faces ahead, and used them as targets. I hit the two mile mark at just under 13 minutes, and knew I was still on pace. I still felt fine and was running pretty easily.
As we started getting a little closer to the finish, however, I started wearing out a little. I glanced at my watch to gauge how long I had to the finish. Big mistake. The watch read 16:30, and I realized I still had at least three and a half minutes left. That caused a little mental setback, and I slowed down a bit, allowing a couple runners I had just passed to pass me again.
But I regrouped and tried to push it through the finish. A friend near the line encouraged me by yelling that I was close to 20 minutes. I crossed the line, and stopped my watch. There was no 'chip-timing' for this race. My watch read 20:02.
Darn! So close to breaking 20 minutes! I got some water, and ran over to get my camera and take a few shots of the other finishers for this space. That took a few minutes, and by the time I got back, there were very few left to finish. That's another indication of the fast field in this race. Normally, I have no problem taking my time and getting lots of pictures.
Still, another indication came when I picked up my results. I finished in 84th place, barely in the top 25% of the field with a time that would have placed much higher in most other races with much larger fields. And in my age group. (45-49), I was 13th! Guess I better think about hitting the track for some speed work before the next time.
But it was a really nice morning, and a fun race. Considering I wasn't planning on any more races a few days earlier, I'm pretty happy with the effort. And I can't wait to see the story they put together. It's supposed to air the day after the Chicago Marathon (10/!2) at 7pm on Comcast Sportsnet. The website is: https://www.runnersultimatenet.com/.
After the race, I also did an interview with Tara Moody for them. She was gracious, and excited. She says she actually ran her 5k p.r. during the race (about 16:13). After the Worlds, she says she felt pretty good, because the heat prevented her from running as fast as she had trained, so she is is really good shape right now, and looking to run a really good marathon in Chicago on October 11th. So this was a nice little tune-up race for her.
And if you are looking for a fast 5k next year, put the Park Ridge Charity Classic on your calendar.
See you on the roads....