running the pace race 10k with a legend

Yesterday, I went over to Everyday Athlete, my local running store because I wanted to get a chance to meet marathoning legend Bill Rodgers.  He’d become a legend by winning the Boston and New York City Marathons four times apiece.  Along the way, he broke the American marathon record twice.  Bill is known to be a great competitor and a really nice guy.

Meeting him the day before the race was a lot of fun.  He’s very affable, and loves encouraging others to run well.  He talked a bit about some of the folks he’d competed with over the years, including Jeff Galloway and Dick Beardsley – two very inspirational marathoners who I’ve had the opportunity to meet.  He also talked a bit about the infamous situation with Rosie Ruiz at the 1980 Boston Marathon.  But rather than talk about what Rosie did, Bill talked about the grace Jacqueline Gareau, the real female winner demonstrated.  She quietly let the BAA folks determine the real results, and then accepted her medal at a press conference one week later.  If you’re curious, you can read an archived article written in 2000 about the 1980 race and about the people involved.  It’s a good story to know, and in thinking about the way Bill, Jacqueline, and WIll Cloney (the race director in Boston that day) handled things, it’s emblematic of the sorts of qualities I wish to demonstrate as a competitor and a person.

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I’d intended to simply get his autograph and then head out for a 12-15 mile run.  But after speaking with Bill, and learning that he’s currently recovering from Prostate Cancer.  In fact, he is just three weeks removed from radiation therapy.  I felt honor bound to run in the PACE Race 10k in support of finding a cure for Prostate Cancer.

So on race morning I found myself out shivering with the other competitors, as we waited for the race to start.  The temperature had dipped down into the thirties, but it was dry.  In other words, a good morning for running.  The horn blew, and we were off.  The first bit of the race was a simple out and back that started uphill.  I was running at the rear of the front pack for the first quarter to half mile, and couldn’t figure out why my breathing was so labored.  The reason became clear as we hit the first mile marker in downtown Kirkland.  I had run a 6:33 mile to start the race. 

I told myself I needed to throttle it back a bit.  This turned out to be mandatory anyway, as there was a good climb up Kirkland Avenue and 6th Street for a good part of the second mile.  Still, I kept a pace of about 7:27 for the second mile.  By now, I’d become a bit too fixated on the time, and began pushing myself a bit harder than I should have.  The basic problem was that I’d never run this distance in a race before, and came into it with a vague race goal of keeping it under 8 minutes per mile.  With a goal like that, I’m prone to get into some trouble.

Mostly it was a good kind of trouble though.  I knew I was overdoing it, but also knew that one way or another, it would all be over in just a few miles.  We did the up and down stretches of 108th, and then started downhill for mile 5.

I was aghast when I saw the split at the 5 mile marker – it was 6:03.  Now as much as I’d like to have done that, I’m just not believing it.  The reason I’m skeptical is that I simply hadn’t picked up my downhill/flat pace to the tune of 25 seconds.  Adding to this is that the fastest mile (singular) I’ve recorded myself running is about 5:51.  Most likely, this split was a bit short.  In looking at my split times, I’d guess that however short miles 4-5 were, an equivalent extra amount of distance ended up in the 6-6.2 split.  According to my watch, I did this last stretch at over 12 minutes per mile.  Also not true.  More likely I’d run about 7:25 there, which might have evened things out a bit.

In any case, I pushed hard over the final mile or so, to catch the guy directly in front of me.  It didn’t happen – he ended up two seconds in front of me.  I crossed the finish in just 43:14, which was a good bit faster than I could have expected.  This was good for a second place finish in the 40-49 male age division.  That’s my best placement in a race of any size (77 men ran the 10k, 15 of them in my age division).  Not a bad morning.

My race splits and cumulative average splits are shown below.  I simply don’t believe the 12:27 pace for the final 0.2, so I’ve allowed that portion of the chart to be clipped out to show more detail for the other splits.  It’s not a textbook race.  While the two longer miles both had some good uphill stretches, I’m wondering whether I might not have come in the same or faster by taking mile 4-6 a bit more easy.  The race results are posted here.

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I braved the very chilly weather and waited around for the age group awards for two reasons.  First, this doesn’t happen to me very often.  And second, I wanted to experience receiving the award from Bill himself.  Definitely a thrill.

All in all, I’d have to call this race an unexpected treat.  In some ways, running the shorter distance is more difficult, because you can put more time pressure on yourself.  Still – sometimes you can surprise yourself and have a good race.  It’s not what the clock tells you – rather, it’s what your heart tells you.

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