If you do call yourself a runner, can you handle the truth?



From the Rage Archives

Truth is found through devotion,
and intensity is the only true measure of devotion.

Subject: Dream On
Date: 14 May 00 16

As I warmed up for the 2000 Corporate Challenge (5k), I noticed this year's field looked a little thin. Not only were there fewer local companies participating, last year's men's and woman's winners, Rick and Jill Mestler, who finished first and fourth last year were not there. In 1999's race, Jill pulled away from me in the last half mile as I faded badly. Thing is, what was probably a so-so run for her was my PR. While she does not even know who I am, she taught me a lot about how to run a 5k. I was disappointed she was not there to show her what she taught me last year. While I joked that he was probably ducking me, Rick might have shown up if it was not for the fact he was running the steeplechase at the Twilight Meet at Hayward Field later the same day.

I remembered I placed fifth overall last year, and thought that with less competition, I might be able to do better today. However, there were a few other runners I'd never seen before who looked strong. There always is. Nevertheless, I thought T-Bone and I maybe could snag a couple of top five spots for our team and pull down some major team hardware. When you run like I do, top tens are hard to come by and it usually means a lot of good runners don't show up. I planned on running a "fast" first mile (for me, anyway) and see what happened. When the race started, T-Bone darted out with his usual, patented "jack rabbit start." He tucked in right behind the strong runners I suspected might be in the lead pack. As usual, I let them all go and focused on getting into my own groove, while T-Bone pulled away with the leaders. Gradually I moved up as I settled into a pace that felt on my anaerobic threshold, and slowly crept by T-Bone into fourth place. The leaders were running in tight group, already about 20 seconds ahead of me three quarters of a mile into the race. They looked like they were not even working at it. I glanced at my watch when they went by the first mile check point in about five flat. I reached it 26 seconds later. I knew it was fast for me, but it felt good and I tried to convince myself I could handle the pace.

I celebrated the fact that I still had the lead pack within my view, which was rare for me. However, it was not too far into mile two before I had to face up to the reality that I could not hang on to a 5:26 pace and the lead group continued to pull away. In fact, while I knew I was slowing down, as I passed mile two, I was disappointed in how much I had slowed down: 5:53. I tried to shake myself out of my denial that my stride had broken down into a short, choppy survival mode. "Enough of this," I thought to myself. I am going to finish strong. I caught a nice gentle downslope and used it to get my stride going again. Absent an official mile marker, I estimated mile three at about 5:28 and picked it up the last tenth mile to match my PR at 17:27, but still a distant fourth place, with third at 16:11. T-Bone finished just behind me for fifth. The winner ran 15:21.

Reality is harsh sometimes. While we did what I thought we might be able to do team wise, I was privately embarrassed for even thinking that I might be able to run with those guys. They were very good and there is no way I could run with them. Speaking of good...I mean, great: That night, I took my nephew and son to the Twilight Meet. Marla Runyon ran the second fastest time in the world for the year at 15:07 for the 5,000 meters. The last place finisher in the field was at 16:45, which would have been finished before I got into the final turn with my time earlier that day. I also watched Rick Mestler run a solo steeplechase in a gutsy 8:58, after the two other competitors scratched. To further remind me of where I stood, the middle school girls winning time for the mile was 5:15. My son was trying to impress my nephew about his dad's fourth place finish earlier in the day. As I tried to explain how big of difference it is to run 73 second laps versus 84 second laps, he still kept coming back to "but Dad, you got fourth place." I love that kid.


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